St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral San Diego, California Quimby Pipe Organs Inc. Warrensburg, Missouri

By Quimby, Michael | The American Organist, February 2014 | Go to article overview

St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral San Diego, California Quimby Pipe Organs Inc. Warrensburg, Missouri


Quimby, Michael, The American Organist


IN 2007, Eric Johnson and I were invited to St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral, San Diego, California, by Robert Wilkins, chair of the organ committee, and Martin Green, canon musician of the cathedral, at the recommendation of William "Pat" Partridge, canon musician, Christ Church Episcopal Cathedral, St. Louis, Missouri.

After our initial examination of the existing pipe organ with Martin Green, we found an instrument that was merely a collection of ranks, where there were only disjointed ensembles and mechanical components that were becoming of questionable reliability. The existing instrument included ranks from their previous instruments and rebuilds, including an 1887 Hook & Hastings (Opus 1345), a 1915 Johnston, a 1950 M.P. Möller, a 1967 Aeolian-Skinner, and the 1986 Wicks Organ Company rebuilding and enlargement, resulting in an instrument of 81 ranks. The most significant number of ranks to be considered for retaining were from the four-manual, 61-rank Aeolian-Skinner (Opus 1495).

Following our initial examination of the existing ranks, and determining which were of excellent construction with possibilities for revoicing and rescaling, Green, Johnson, and I created a new specification, using as many of the existing ranks as possible, that would result in an integrated tonal ensemble. No effort was made to use pipes from the divisions found at the time of the last rebuilding; instead, we would place them in the division where they would best fit into the new tonal concept. Green's goal was to achieve a wide variety of tonal and dynamic possibilities for creative and sensitive service playing of the Episcopal liturgy, which possesses inherent majesty and grandeur capable of heroic effects with the primary goal of providing a strong foundation for the support of choral and congregational singing. In addition, the pipe organ would also be an outstanding instrument for the performance of organ concert literature in a variety of community events as found in the best instruments by American and English organbuilders of the late 19th century and early 20th century.

A particular source of interest are the reed ranks built and revoiced in our shop that have become legendary for their consistent timbre and excellent tuning stability. The reeds, as we found them, were of typical late 20th-century voicing. In other words, very little foundation tone. The goal was to revoice and build new reeds that would be reminiscent of Harrison & Harrison and Willis's work. To accomplish this, the pressures were raised, and much thicker tongues were used in the original ranks. The color reeds are reminiscent of E.M. Skinner's work. As mentioned earlier, the flue work was figuratively thrown in the air and landed in new homes. The overall original scaling of the pipework was not bad, but it was in the wrong division. Once again, wind pressures were raised and the flue work revoiced for the new wind pressures. …

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