Cover Feature St. Mark's Episcopal Church St. Louis, Missouri Juget-Sinclair Organbuilders Montreal, Quebec
The opportunity to help design and install a new organ is a unique and wonderful experience for an organist. Such was the opportunity when the decision was made to replace the small, aging, and incomplete 1938 Aeolian-Skinner organ, Opus 979, at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in St. Louis, Missouri. In 2005, when the parish received a substantial legacy from the estate of a parishioner, the late Ruth Proehl, the vestry decided to either rebuild the existing organ or replace it with a new instrument.
An organ committee consisting of Amanda Cashen, Ellen Jeffery, Kim Jungermann, Robert Mullgardt, organist-choirmaster, Barbara Raedeke, Ken Shuler, Joleen Shelton, the Rev. Dr. Lydia Agnew Speller, rector, and John Speller was appointed by the church vestry in 2005, and Deborah Carter was added to that committee in 2007. Barbara Owen was chosen to serve as a consultant to the committee. Her research into the history of the organ and a detailed examination of the instrument made it apparent that restoration or repair of the Aeolian-Skinner would both be costly and not address the limitations of the organ, which had no solo stops, reeds, or strings and only one pedal stop. Replacement was the only reasonable course of action. The committee developed the criteria for a new eclectic instrument, one capable of supporting the Anglican liturgy and playing a wide range of organ literature as a recital instrument. Barbara Owen's experience and insights were of incalculable value to the committee during initial discussions, visits to numerous churches and organbuilders, and final acceptance of the new organ. Her contribution to this process is deeply appreciated.
Early in the process, the committee determined that it was interested in a tracker organ, and then focused on identifying potential builders. An exhaustive search for an organbuilder began in fall 2005, lasted for more than two and a half years, and involved visits to organs in the Midwest and eastern United States. The committee was particularly impressed by the Juget-Sinclair organs at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and Second Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Each organ visit followed a standard approach in evaluating the desired characteristics of the new organ for St. Mark's. Members of the organ committee played a standard repertoire of organ literature, anthem accompaniments, and hymns on each organ, and committee members recorded their impressions of the visual, tonal, mechanical, and overall workmanship of the organs. Based on the committee's impressions from their visits, three organbuilders were asked to prepare designs for the new organ. After careful analysis, the committee unanimously chose Juget-Sinclair, Facteur d'Orgues, Montreal, Quebec, to build the new organ for St. Mark's Church. This recommendation was presented to the church vestry on November 8, 2007, and the contract for a new 20-stop Juget-Sinclair organ was signed in December 2007. The organ was under construction in Quebec during 2008 and the first half of 2009. It was installed at St. Mark's Church, September 13-24, 2009, and tonal finishing was completed between October 15 and November 5, 2009. The members of the Juget-Sinclair firm responsible for building Opus 32 were Robin Côté, François Couture, Dean Eckmann, JeanDominique FeIx, Denis Juget, Céline Richard, Stephen Sinclair, and Jerome Veenendaal.
A major consideration for the design of the new organ was St. Mark's unique acoustical environment. Designed by architects Charles Nagel and Frederick Dunn and constructed in 1938, the building is a designated architectural landmark of the Moderne style of architecture. The relatively small building, which seats about 200 people, is rather like an Oxford or Cambridge college chapel, rectangular and considerably taller than it is wide. It has excellent acoustics of three to four seconds of reverberation without any of the distortion, echo, or "harsh slap" sometimes encountered in a room of hard surfaces. …