The organ at St. Paul’s was built and installed in 1927 by the Skinner Organ Company of Boston as its Op. 655. It has 4 manuals, 55 stops, 68 ranks, and 4,596 pipes. Among other notable features, this instrument has Manual sub- and super-coupler “ventils,” “Pedal Divide,” a 27-note set of Chimes (as opposed to Skinner’s usual 20 or 25 notes), a late example of a “Doppel Flute” in the Great division (by 1927, a metal Harmonic Flute on the Great was the norm), and a “Musette” – an exceedingly rare stop that imitates a shepherd’s pipe.
The St. Paul’s organ also possesses one of the first “Flauto Mirabilis” stops produced by the Skinner Company. This is a very penetrating flute stop, reminiscent of an orchestral flute. In the parish archives there is a copy of the letter from Mr. Skinner to the church’s then-organist, Warren Gehrken, describing this stop and his desire to include it in the specifications. It is also thought that Op. 655 has the first example of the “pneumatic starters” to help both the onset and offset of the lowest notes of the 32’ Bombarde.
During its first few decades of service the organ received usual and customary maintenance, but under the careful and loving supervision of Dr. David Craighead, Organist of St. Paul’s from 1955 to 2003, the organ enjoyed especially conscientious care as well as some important restorative work. However, by the late 1990’s the instrument had begun to show its age in ways that routine maintenance was no longer able to accommodate.
In 2005 the parish invited Jonathan Ambrosino, an acknowledged expert on the instruments of Ernest M. Skinner, to evaluate the organ and make recommendations for its renovation or restoration. Three years later the Rev. Frederic Reynolds, Rector of St. Paul’s, called on Music Director Robert Poovey to lead a committee in surveying possibilities for the organ’s future, using Mr. Ambrosino’s report as a guide. After several months of hard work and careful consideration, the committee recommended that the organ receive a faithful, conscientious restoration.
The Vestry accepted this recommendation in the fall of 2008, and at its February meeting in 2009 voted unanimously to proceed with the restoration. In May of that year a contract was signed for the work. Parsons Pipe Organ Builders of Canandaigua, New York served as the primary contractor and performed all mechanical restoration and restoration of the flue pipes; Broome & Company of Hartford, Connecticut restored the sixteen sets of reed pipes, and the A. Thompson-Allen Company of New Haven restored the elegant console and the Harp/Celesta unit.
The project commenced the last week of April, 2010, and was completed in January of 2012. A series of four concerts in 2012 formally re-inaugurated this landmark instrument.
View the Organ Stoplist