In June 2014, we were honored by the commissioning of our Op. 93 for Saint Thomas Church, New York City. With its storied history of musicians, including T. Tertius Noble, T. Frederick H. Candlyn, William Self, Gerre Hancock and John Scott, Saint Thomas has for a century been renowned for choral music in the Anglican tradition. The famous Gothic building, the final collaboration between Ralph Adams Cram and Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, was opened in October 1913; in June 2014 the church completed a yearlong centennial celebration marked by lectures and festivities.
Saint Thomas Church has an involved organ history. The Ernest M. Skinner Company installed the first instrument here, that firm’s Op. 205, a four manual organ of 67 stops. That instrument was revised slightly in the mid-1920s by The Skinner Organ Company, and again in the late 1940s by Ernest M. Skinner & Son and M.P. Möller. In 1955-56 , during the tenure of Dr. William Self, the Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company conducted a far-reaching rebuild, increasing the organ to 109 stops, 98 of which were in the chancel. G. Donald Harrison passed away during the tonal finishing. Gilbert Adams’ reconstruction of 1964-69 included new slider windchests in the Swell, Positif, Vorwerk and Grand-Choeur, reducing the number of expressive divisions from two to one, replacing some of the pipework while revoicing much of the rest, and eliminating the gallery sections in preparation for a separate instrument there. This effort resulted in the present 112-stop organ. From 1980 to 1982, Lawrence Trupiano undertook rebuilding work, particularly to the slider windchests and associated actions, and installed new Swell chorus reeds. In spite of these good efforts, carried out now more than thirty years ago, the present organ is neither mechanically reliable nor is it musically supportive of a great amount of choral literature.
Our 102-stop instrument, to be named “Miller-Scott Organ,” has been designed to support choir, congregation and repertoire in fair balance. Across the chancel from Goodhue’s famous 1913 case will be introduced a second case of complementary design, enriched with significant carvings from Dennis Collier Sr. and Jr. and housing the Great and Positive divisions. The remaining departments will be sited within the present case and chambers. The elaborately carved 1913 console cabinet will remain in its present location, its exterior conserved, and its interior fitted with new components. Fifteen select registers from the existing organ will be retained, re-fashioned to suit the new scheme.
The commissioning of Op. 93 culminates an effort that began with an invitation from the parish in Spring 2008. Following our selection as builder later that year, a design process commenced that has required many hundreds of hours both in New York and Lake City, as designs were developed and refined. Crucial to this has been the wisdom and counsel of the Rev. Andrew Mead, Rector Emeritus, Warden William H.A. Wright II, and the late Dr. John Scott, together with the Organ Committee chairs, the late John Neiswanger, and now Kenneth Koen and Karl Saunders. Jonathan Ambrosino serves the parish as organ consultant; Dawn Schuette of Threshold Acoustics has advised on architectural acoustics. We look forward to working with the The Rev’d Canon Carl Turner, present Rector of Saint Thomas Church, who in his previous capacity at Exeter Cathedral was very involved in an organ project there.
The removal of the Arents organ took place in June 2016, handled by Foley-Baker Inc. with the assistance of Lawrence Trupiano and Dobson. Subsequently, the organ chambers have been thoroughly cleaned and repaired, all surfaces renewed, and new, lower ceilings installed in the Swell, Choir and Solo spaces, to aid in the projection of sound. In the southeast chamber, directly above the console, imposing structural steel has been installed to carry the new organ case.
The Miller-Scott Organ will begin to arrive in New York City in the first week of May 2017, with regular shipments and installation continuing through the summer months, after which the voicing will commence. Completion is expected in Summer 2018.