The Cathedral of Saint Paul

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Cathedral Organ

Installed as Opus 11682 of the M.P. Möller Organ Company of Hagerstown, MD, in 1986, the Cathedral’s pipe organ is the result of the generosity of many donors from the parish and across the Diocese of Birmingham. Consisting of four manuals and 55 ranks of pipes, its design, featuring Möller’s largest free-standing case, is enhanced by the Cathedral’s wonderful acoustics. One of Möller’s later works, it is unique in that even though it is clearly of 20th Century design, it incorporates some characteristics of Baroque organs (the organ is fully encased and divisions are discrete therein, each division has a complete principal chorus, wind pressures are low) that are rare in Möller’s oeuvre. A product of collaboration by music director Stephan Calvert, consultant Joe Schreiber, and voiced by Donald Gillett, the former principal and tonal director of the Aeolian-Skinner firm, it plays most of the organ repertoire with authority. As is typical of the “American Classic” style, a French accent (present in the chorus reed stops as well as the Great Harmonic Flute and “fonds d’orgue”) is balanced by more German elements (an incisive Positif, most flute stops, and complete choruses in clear contrast to each other). A chancel division in a portable, free-standing case was installed at the same time (playable from the gallery console or its own keyboards), but was sold in the late 1990’s or early 2000’s during the tenure of the late Calvert Shenk. Otherwise, the organ is unchanged since its installation. Visit its entry in the OHS Database for more information.

After the passing of its 30th birthday, the Möller organ is in near-decrepit condition. While (thanks to the Cathedral’s glorious acoustic), this is not always readily discerned by the listener, recent years have manifested a number of serious flaws. These include: the pipework (weak zinc alloys that effect nearly 1/2 of the pipes in the organ, causing speech problems and failure); control system (1930’s technology which relies on pneumatic pouches, for which leather is rapidly failing, or already has); layout (the original design does not even permit tuning access to a sizable part of the instrument); and tonal design (Möller’s on-site voicing was insufficient and is further compromised by the failing zinc languids, so that many pipes do not speak on time). None of these flaws could be predicted at the time of installation. We hope you were able to attend the information sessions on 9/30 and 10/1 about the instrument, but if not, please contact the the Director of Music, Mr. Bruce Ludwick, Jr., at Ludwick@stpaulsbhm.org or (205) 251-1279 ×107 for more information and copies of a presentation and PowerPoint with representative photos. Diocesan finance policy requires that an organ contract may not be signed until pledges are obtained for the entire amount. While we have a vast majority of the funding on hand for the organ, generous gifts are urgently needed. A donation to a project such as this is a perfect way to give glory to God and memorialize or pay tribute to a loved one, helping their memory “sing on” for years to come.