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Saint Thomas Church
New York, New York

Opus 93, 2018


Wood Carving

Saint Thomas Church is home to some of the most celebrated liturgical wood carving in the United States. It was understood from the outset that our new organ case would incorporate a substantial amount of carving, and that it would have to meet the lofty standard set by Irving and Casson in their work for Saint Thomas.

After a lengthy search, Dennis O. Collier was chosen to carry out this task. The 2014 recipient of the Arthur Ross Award for Artisanship, Dennis has garnered prestigious commissions, including creating, in association with architect Allan Greenberg, carvings and architectural details for the renovation of the United States Department of State Treaty Room and Secretary of State’s Suite in Washington, D.C. Joined by his son, Denny, Dennis works from a studio in Bangor, Pennsylvania.

Lynn Dobson and Dennis Collier have collaborated closely, Lynn preparing drawings of carved features, Dennis interpreting them in models for the approval of the organ committee. The final pieces are then carved by the Colliers and their team of artists.

Lynn Dobson and Dennis Collier confer about the details of carved cresting as organ committee co-chair Karl Saunders looks on.

Sing, the Colliers’ shop cat, keeps a watchful eye on the proceedings.

Portraits in the carved panels above the Positive façade honor Father John Andrew, XI Rector, Father Andrew Mead, XII Rector, and Gerre Hancock, Director of Music.

For each of these portraits, a model is made of basswood, a species that is soft and easily carved. The paper design is glued to the wood.

Dennis saws away excess wood.

Drills of various sizes help to remove unneeded wood.

A bas-relief portrait of Fr. Mead is made in clay as a study for the final carving.

A resin cast of the study of Fr. Mead’s crest was stained and finished, then presented to him at his retirement celebration.

Beloved former director of music Gerre Hancock is similarly memorialized in the organ case. This is his study.

The completed carving in white oak, with a revised portrait.

A portrait of William “Billy” Wright, long-time Warden of Saint Thomas Church, also appears in the case.

There are many running feet of cresting that delineate various parts of the case.

From a sample drawing like the one made by Lynn Dobson shown above, Denny carves a section of cresting.

Each of the points of the cresting bears a rosette that is carved separately, then glued on.

In additional to figural carvings, there are also other carved elements, like these spiral columns.

Similarly, there are elements of the mouldings that are carved.

A number of case columns are visually terminated by pendants. In some cases, they are stylized grapes and leaves, elsewhere acorns and leaves.

Six major posts have pendant angels bearing escutcheons that will be embazoned with the coat of arms of Saint Thomas Church and other institutions of the Church.

Carved grilles have ribs of differing heights to give a three-dimensional quality that emphasizes certain lines.


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