The New Organ

February 2014: Presentation to the Parish on the New Organ

On February 2 and February 12, 2014, John Scott, Karl Saunders, Kenneth Koen and project consultant Jonathan Ambrosino presented the parish with an overview of many exciting developments in the Chancel Organ Project. The gentlemen informed that parish that the Vestry has felt confident to move the project forward in three critical directions:

The first is signing a design contract with Dobson, to cover all the case design drawings and engineering of the organ. The images you’ve seen thus far in brochures and in the narthex were concept drawings, which enabled us to see how the organ would fit into the chancel, what it would look like in basic terms, and how many pipes would comfortably fit inside. But the actual construction drawings require hundreds of additional hours. Getting this work done now, which started last summer and is still ongoing, means that when we finally sign the contract for the organ itself, all of the engineering and design work will be finished, and construction can commence immediately. This will save many months of work at a critical juncture.

A second contract with Dobson is a schedule retainer, which guarantees Saint Thomas a spot in the Dobson production schedule. With a revival in the economy, business has picked up for Dobson, and they are now committed to three other projects before ours. We were concerned that when it came time to sign the actual construction contract, they might have signed more work, and we would have to wait even longer to get our organ. Given our confidence with recent fundraising success, and our optimism that there will be yet greater success on the fundraising front, the Vestry felt it was prudent to engage in the schedule retainer.

The third contract signed is with master woodcarvers Dennis Collier Sr and Jr. From the beginning, Lynn Dobson told us that a new organ case, placed alongside the artistic mastery of everything at Saint Thomas, would require carving of the finest available talent. We have been researching carvers for several years now, and when we met the Colliers and saw their work, we knew we’d found the right team. Since Lynn’s design work needed to unfold hand-in-hand with the people who would be doing the actual carving, having the Colliers on board early became a critical piece of completing the organ’s design and figuring a carving budget. Their initial contract covers design, tooling and the fabrication of several initial pieces that have also acted as studies.

Mr. Ambrosino then shared some images regarding the design process. The slides (accessible via the button below) show refinement in the case design and how elements derive from the building itself.

Photo Gallery: Proposed Design of the South Organ Case

When the Colliers first came to Saint Thomas, they spent hours in silence, simply looking and touching the chancel woodwork, overcome with admiration for both the design and the craftsmanship. Lynn Dobson has spent now weeks studying, photographing and absorbing the art of Cram and Goodhue and their designers. These men understand that to build this new organ case is a once-in-a-lifetime artistic opportunity, in an atmosphere unmatched in the United States. Their awe and reverence is inspiring.

Additional Funds Needed: Buy a Pipe

You may have heard about the possibility that some of our air rights will be sold for a development down 53rd Street. We are optimistic this development will move forward. However, by law, any funds from the sale of the air rights must be added to the endowment to maintain the building. Thus, the air rights proceeds cannot be used to fund the organ. So it remains critical that we get your help and that of others to make this project a reality.

Raising the funds for this instrument has been the top capital priority at Saint Thomas over the last two years. Thanks to hundreds of gifts from parishioners, music lovers, foundations and friends, we have secured over $6 million in support of this project. We are deeply grateful to those who have believed in this project and given so generously. Such success has empowered the Vestry to contract with Dobson Pipe Organ Builders of Lake City, Iowa for final design work for the new south case and all the internal workings.

It is an unhelpful paradox that an organ in such perilous state continues to give an illusion of health Sunday by Sunday. Such is the talent of our musicians and the attentive assistance of our organ curators who work around the instrument’s shortcomings and mechanical problems. But the fear that the organ could fail at any moment (as it has done for a few weddings and services) has been my biggest concern these last several years. It gladdens me enormously to know that Saint Thomas is finally moving ahead with this crucial project. We still face financial challenges and need an additional $3 million to cover all the costs the church itself must spend in connection with the new organ — renovations to the building, removal of the present organ, creating an elegant new case on the south side of the church, refurbishing and cleaning the existing casework on the north side, to name a few. And, we need to raise those funds now.

This is a very special time in the life of Saint Thomas and for me. The centennial celebrations of our beautiful building began last fall and will continue through May 2014. Also, I am serving my final year as Rector, after eighteen glorious years here. It is my hope that the Saint Thomas community— those who worship with us weekly, attend our concerts, or follow the webcasts and recordings — will pull together during this year and support the Church as generously as possible in this final phase of our campaign. If you have not yet contributed to the Chancel Organ Fund, now is the time. If you have previously supported the Fund, please know of our sincere gratitude. And, if possible, I hope you will consider a second gift. We have designed this final campaign to accommodate gifts of all sizes, so that all generous donors can give in a manner appropriate to their circumstances.

— The Reverend Andrew C. Mead, Rector of Saint Thomas Church

To this end, we encourage everyone who is willing and able to buy a virtual pipe. Please download the brochure and pledge card, or donate online. Donations of the following amounts would buy pipes of the sizes indicated:

32 Foot Pipe = $25,000
Examples: Great Bass & Contra Bombarde

16 Foot Pipe = $15,000
Examples: Trombone, Contra Viole, Double Trumpet & Double Diapason

8 Foot Pipe = $10,000
Examples: Trumpet, French Horn, Harmonic Flute & Clarinet

4 Foot Pipe = $5,000
Examples: Recorder, Clarion, Flute & Orchestral Flute

2 Foot Pipe = $1,000
Examples: Fifteenth & Super Octave

1 Foot Pipe = $500
Example: Piccolo

Pencil Pipes = $100
Examples: Pencil Mixture, Pencil Cymbal, Pencil Sesquialtera, Pencil Cornet, & Pencil Plein Jeu

Thank you to everyone who has already pledged, and to all who are considering making a new pledge or additional pledge.

Download the Buy a Pipe Brochure & Pledge Card (PDF)

Pledge Online

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