Big Plans to Replace the All Saints Organ

It was recently announced that the Vestry had accepted the recommendation of the All Saints Organ Committee to contract with the C.B. Fisk Company to build a new pipe organ for our Sanctuary.  The recommendation and selection were based on the company’s ability to creatively and flexibly overcome space and design issues, as well as their reputation as one of the world’s most prominent builders of pipe organs.

 History of All Saints’ Organs

A brief history of our organ music ministry:

  • As noted in the history of our Church written in 2000 by parishioner Marni McGee, All Saints has had four organs since its founding: installations took place in 1898, 1909, 1914 (enlarged in the late 1930s) and the current electro-pneumatic instrument installed in 1988.
  • By about 2005 it was obvious that the current instrument had such significant deterioration that it could not be repaired.  Moisture damage, mold, failed electrical parts due to the Church’s corrosive environment near the sea, as well as poorly constructed/poorly insulated chambers, which leached moisture into the organ all contributed to its failure.
  • In 2007 a committee was convened by the Vestry to make recommendations to replace the organ and identify an instrument that would properly serve the congregation. A main key: it would need to function for generations under the climactic and use conditions of All Saints.
  • As the All Saints’ current capital campaign began, a key aspect was ensuring a new instrument was part of the overall plan.

 Organ Committee: The Selection Process

  • Work began in earnest in 2014 when Organ Committee members Tom Mack, Bitsy Bacon, Mary Collier, Craig Moore and Steve O’Connor (Richard Kahler later replaced Craig Moore) got to work.
  • The Committee researched and ultimately interviewed two tracker type organ builders and two electro-pneumatic organ builders.  The builder/candidates included:  Electro Pneumatic – Patrick Murphy and Assoc. and Goulding and Wood.  Tracker: Casavant Freres and C.B. Fisk
  • Each candidate was asked to visit All Saints to present their company and a formal design recommendation / bid for a new instrument.
  • All candidates presented bids within a budget of $1.25 million; this was the amount anticipated to be required to purchase a suitable instrument for our space and music program needs.  Each were able to build an instrument within the time frame of the Church’s capital project.

 Capital Campaign Quiet Phase Began: Anonymous Parish Family Steps Forward

Early in the “quiet phase” of the capital campaign when gifts were solicited from Vestry, staff, clergy, and key leaders, a parish family came forward to make an incredible offer: the funding of the entire cost of the actual instrument in the amount of $1.25 million – paid over the five years of the capital campaign.

This incredibly generous gesture allowed the Organ Committee to finalize their research, recommend a tracker type of organ, recommend Fisk as the builder and move forward to the next chapter of this amazing journey.

The Next Chapter: All About Fisk

C.B. Fisk has been called the “gold standard” of North American organ builders and has built notable instruments for Harvard University, Rice University, Indiana University, Wellesley College and scores of churches and concert venues all across the world.  Committee member and senior warden Tom Mack describes his experience as part of the selection process:

“The committee discussed a range of organ configuration options and suppliers and concluded that an entirely mechanical, so called tracker organ, would be best for our salty environment and musical needs.  We chose Fisk because their reputation is that of the premier builder of tracker organs; they could meet our budget; they have a unique capability that greatly expands the options for organ configuration and pipe placement; and we were able to visit a functionally equivalent Fisk organ at St. Matthews Pacific Palisades and were very impressed with the instrument and the excellent 30-year relationship between Fisk and that church.”

Next Steps

The new instrument will be of the Baroque European type, which, according to then Music Director Steve O’Connor is most appropriate for the Church’s long term needs, including congregational singing, choral and special event programs.

Additional Information

On behalf of the committee, a detailed report to the vestry outlined the evaluation and search process, which is available at this link. Of importance is the comment that each organ builder, consultant and evaluator have each recommended that the Church’s poor acoustics be improved to the extent possible before installing a new musical instrument.