My Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
It is with great excitement that I dedicate our new tracker organ tonight. I am very grateful and honored that you have joined us here.
The organ, built so lovingly by Paul Fritts, is an important addition not only to the Cathedral, but our larger community, home to the Eastman School of Music and its well-regarded organ program and with which we have worked closely. As well, we hope it is a clear sign, along with other improvements here, of our investment in a city neighborhood we believe in, one that we hope the newly renovated Cathedral will help flourish.
The Cathedral is the Mother Church of our Diocese, seat of the bishop, a place where some 25,000 or more people annually come for worship, for priest and deacon ordinations, confirmations, weddings and funerals and so many other important events. We truly believe this organ is an addition worthy of its importance in our life as a Christian community. Made possible only through generous gifts, this instrument, we pray, will not only enhance our worship, but be a powerful and inspiring instrument of prayer through which we can truly honor God and ask God’s help for the whole world.
†Matthew H. Clark
Bishop of Rochester
This is a collection of essays published on Sept. 12, 2008, the evening our new Halloran-All Saints Organ was dedicated.
On Sunday, June 8 2008, many parishioners of the Cathedral Community generously donated their time to carry in the thousands of pieces of the new organ that were transported here from Tacoma, Washington. This particular instrument was hand crafted and designed by Paul Fritts, who has constructed an organ that is in the tradition of the great musical instruments that dominate the European cathedrals. He has carefully and methodically supervised the re-construction and tuning of the 25,000 pound instrument which gracefully completes the recent Cathedral renovation. Many who have come to visit the Cathedral have remarked that not only is the sound magnificent, but they appreciate its stunning appearance.
In July, Pope Benedict XVI, in an audience at his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, made reference to a previous visit to Regensburg, Germany where he blessed the organ of the “Alte Kapell” [Old Chapel] where his brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger was once music director. The Pope, a talented musician himself, speaking with some members of a choral group from Regensburg said: “I have an indelible memory of how—in the harmony of that wonderful organ, of the choir…and the luminous beauty of the church—we experienced the joy that comes from God.” The Pope added how pleased he was that this organ “continues to play and to help people perceive something of the splendor of our faith—a splendor kindled by the Holy Spirit himself. With it, the organ carries out an evangelizing function, proclaims the Gospel in its own way.”
It is our hope at the Cathedral that the new organ will in the same way, assist us in our evangelization efforts and proclamation of the gospel, drawing many to the Cathedral to hear its music and to help all who come to raise their hearts and minds and voice with song to give praise to our Creator.
Rev. Kevin E. McKenna
Pastor, Cathedral Community
The Diocese of Rochester has given a great gift to the entire community with the commissioning of this monumental musical instrument for Sacred Heart Cathedral. In our current “disposable” world, it is a joy to witness the creation of a work of lasting quality, which represents the highest level of craft and art that we can achieve. This instrument becomes a voice for all that is good in our world.
The Eastman School of Music and Sacred Heart Cathedral are partners in educating organ students from around the world to become leaders in the field of sacred music. It is a collaboration that will bear fruit for future generations, whose musical values will be cultivated and formed here in Rochester, and who will go out into the world to share the love of great music that they experienced here. This organ gives those musicians a tool to communicate the wonders of great music, and because of its “singing” quality, it teaches musicians and parishioners to sing with greater involvement and commitment. It is a modern organ with definite historical roots, able to give instruction and inspiration to those who play it, while inviting those who listen to blend their own voices with its four thousand pipes. It joins with the vision of the Eastman Rochester Organ Initiative (EROI) and becomes one of the most important instruments in the “Pipe Organ Capital of North America”. It represents a commitment to furthering the art of sacred music and provides our community with a symbol of hope and beauty.
Chair, Organ Department
Eastman School of Music
The Halloran-All Saints Organ takes its name from those generous individuals who provided the funds to bring this instrument into existence.
Rev. Emmett J. Halloran, pastor, professor and founding rector of King’s Preparatory School, was a life-long lover of music. A priest of the Diocese of Rochester for almost 54 years, Emmett lived simply. His bequest surprised his brother priests, not with his generosity (which was legendary), but with the size of his gift, which was sufficient to provide one-half the cost of a new world-class organ.
The remaining funds come from two anonymous gifts. The first, from the Rochester area, comes from a donor who, on several previous occasions, has made substantial gifts to Bishop Clark to benefit the ongoing ministry of the Diocese of Rochester. This particular gift was made to honor those buried at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Rochester. In like fashion, an anonymous donor from the Auburn area has contributed funds sufficient to complete this cathedral organ project in honor of those buried at St. Joseph’s Cemetery, near Owasco Lake.
Rev, Joseph A Hart, Vicar General
Moderator of the Pastoral Center
With great trepidation, I agreed to build an organ for Sacred Heart Cathedral. Once I had attended a concert there given by Harald Vogel on the John Brombaugh Opus 9 organ, an extraordinary instrument on temporary loan to Sacred Heart. This was the very instrument that influenced me to become an organ builder more than thirty years ago and now I was commissioned to build an organ to take its place. Added to this pressure were the expectations of the congregation at the Cathedral, plus those of the greater musical community of Rochester, including the prestigious Eastman school. All this weighed heavily on me as I began the two-year design process, followed by the eighteen months of exacting construction, in order to complete the organ to be dedicated tonight. I hope you find it a worthy instrument.
While not an exact copy, the Cathedral’s organ case is inspired by the famous organ in St. John’s Cathedral, Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands. Begun in 1617, this instrument is a masterpiece of design and beauty. While our organ case is about half the size of its inspiration, it is roomy enough to accommodate four divisions and almost four thousand pipes. The case consists of white oak frames, moldings and panels, which have been fumed with ammonia to darken them, accelerating the natural aging of this fine wood.
The oak carvings of St. Cecilia (left) and Miriam (right) are in the style of the original Dutch carvings on the Hertogenbosch organ. They were done by Robert Voit of Germany. Also modeled after the Dutch original are the baroque cherubs and swirls carved by Andreas Rink of Dresden, Germany.
The façade pipes are arranged in towers and flats in complex ways, fulfilling two design goals: defining the divisions of the organ; and keeping the eye busy finding the many relationships between the placement of the large and small pipes and the positions of the pipe mouths and corresponding feet lengths and carving boarders. The carvings cover the spaces above the pipes but also contribute to the composition by forming lines of sight between the sections. Lastly, some of the façade pipes are embossed following old Dutch traditions. The design is scribed inside before the metal sheets are formed round and when formed the metal tends to bend along these lines. After the pipes are soldered together the facets are burnished in.
The actual construction of the organ took place in my Tacoma, Washington, workshop. There, ten of us worked for a year and a half making virtually every part of this organ—from pipes thirty feet long to those the size of a pencil. We followed processes perfected hundreds of years ago. Molten metal is cast into sheets on a table, measured for thickness, planed or hammered smooth depending upon the alloy (either 95% tin or 98% lead), cut into pieces, hand formed over mandrels and soldered together.
When completed, the organ case and pipes were disassembled, packed into a large moving van and shipped to Rochester, where more than one hundred volunteers unloaded the thousands of parts six days later. Over the next two and a half months, six of us from the Tacoma workshop re-assembled the case, windchests, and wind system and installed four thousand pipes. These were then voiced for this space and tuned to perfection.
Like all the great period organs, the new Cathedral organ has totally mechanical key and stop action. The keys are actually hinged levers that hang from small strips of wood called trackers. These extend up to the valves of the windchests. When the player presses the keys, these valves immediately open and pressurized air flows into the pipes depending upon which stops are drawn. This simple system is both sensitive and extremely durable. It also enables subtleties of touch to influence the way the pipes sound.
Four large hinged bellows situated in the hallway behind the organ supply wind to the instrument. A turbine blower fills them with wind and, as they rise, a valve begins to close off the wind supply. The bellows find equilibrium and regulate the wind demands of the organ to a high degree of accuracy. Weights on the bellows determine the pressure—for this organ it measures 80 mm, water column.
It has been a honor to be entrusted with the opportunity to create something beautiful for Sacred Heart Cathedral. I extend my appreciation to all who worked so hard to make it possible, especially my fine crew: Greg Bahnsen, Robyn Ellis, Ricky Frith, John Hamilton, Erik McLeod, Michael Phelan, Jakob Rechenberg, Andreas Schonger, and Bruce Shull.
When Bishop Clark and the Cathedral Renovation Committee first met with our renovation architect, James Williamson from Memphis, TN, Jim reminded us that cathedrals are usually renovated over time in a series of stages. And as our renovation project began to take shape, we quickly came to realize that this would certainly be true of the renovation of Sacred Heart Cathedral.
As we approached the demolition phase of the renovation, it was clear that the Wicks Organ in the choir loft, which partially blocked the large, complex gothic stained glass window, would have to be removed for the renovation. We quickly came to consensus that it would not return to the Cathedral, as we wanted the renovated Cathedral to make a significant contribution to the rich musical life of our community. This organ was sold to a church in New Hope, Pennsylvania which has it refurbished and installed. The removal or the organ was the first stage of the renovation when the church was closed in June 2003.
When Stage One was completed and the Cathedral dedicated in January 2005, one of the most frequent observations was “the back wall of the Cathedral looks barren, what are you going to do about that wall?” We were quick to point out that both the architect and our audio consultant agreed that the wall and the arched shell in front of it made it the perfect place from which to support our Cathedral liturgies with music. Thus, at the dedication liturgy the choir was positioned on risers in front of the wall and was accompanied by our new Steinway piano and what we hoped was a very temporary electronic organ. Following the dedication that wall and that question still loomed.
Stage Two of our Cathedral renovation began shortly after the dedication when funding was secured to commission Paul Fritts to build an organ that would indeed enrich our community’s musical life. Very shortly thereafter with the assistance of the Eastman School, we were loaned the 1979 Brombaugh organ which was beginning its multi-year journey from Toledo, Ohio to Sonoma, California. When this historic instrument was installed in the Cathedral in November 2005, worshippers no longer asked about the wall; it was now clear that the Brombaugh organ delineated the space our new organ would occupy sometime in 2008 and excitement about the completion of Stage Two began to mount.
Rev. John M Mulligan, Vicar General
Former Pastor, The Cathedral Community
For the most part, I had no idea what I was carrying. Only that it was heavy, as heavy as the air, and that we were lucky the thunderstorms kept their distance.
My teenage son and I were among the 100-plus volunteers who helped unload the new organ for Sacred Heart Cathedral. It was one of those experiences none of us will forget, and chances are, none of us will have again.
Aside from the pipes, it was hard to imagine anything I carried as part of the exquisite instrument that the parts would soon become. But when it’s assembled, it will stand more than 40 feet high and fill the Cathedral with the music that connects worshippers \across the world and over centuries. It is the organ’s power to lead us in song and lift hearts and spirits to another plane that made me want to be a part of the unpacking.
This organ will likely serve the Cathedral until today’s teens are old men and women and perhaps until their children are themselves old. I welcomed the chance to play a tiny role for a couple of hours, in making it so.
It was a hot and dirty job, but a happy occasion. Imagine the weddings that will be celebrated in front of its majestic façade. Perhaps even my own boys’ weddings or their children’s weddings. How many families will be wrapped in its music as their babies are baptized?
How many times will these pipes summon people to Easter or Christmas worship, or call the community together to pray in times of tragedy? How many extraordinary musicians will sit at its keyboard to perform concerts of sacred music on Sunday afternoons?
Those were my thoughts as I lifted and lugged and laughed at how old I felt. It was too good an opportunity to miss out on. The organ's sounds will comfort, challenge and uplift for decades to come. All of us present will feel connected to its power the rest of our lives.
Cathedral Renovation Committee
In 2001, Dr. Ricardo Ramirez and I accepted Bishop Clark’s invitation to co-chair the Music and Instruments Sub-Committee of the Sacred Heart Cathedral Renovation Committee. Charged with studying the Cathedral’s musical needs for both parish and diocesan liturgies, we made multiple recommendations regarding space, acoustics, sound re-enforcement and, most importantly, instruments.
We boldly asked the Renovation Committee to consider commissioning a new organ “of superior quality, design and workmanship” which would “facilitate the formation of leadership in the tradition of liturgical music both locally and in the wider Church.” We hoped that such an instrument would draw in the local artistic community, establishing the Cathedral as “a center for the arts”. With the permission of the Renovation Committee, we contacted eleven organ builders, asking them to submit preliminary proposals. After sifting through the submissions and visiting several organ builders in person, our group narrowed down the list to one builder: Paul Fritts and Company.
Finally, representatives of Bishop Clark met with David Dahl, Professor of Music at Pacific Lutheran University and David Higgs, Chair of the Organ Department at the Eastman School of Music, who jointly served as instrument consultants to this project. After an extensive review of the current organ builders in both Europe and the United States, they also recommended that the Bishop consider a new organ fabricated by Paul Fritts and Company of Tacoma, Washington. The choice from that moment on was clear.
Co-Chair, Music and Instruments Sub-Committee