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The St. Therese Organ Project


The "new" organ for St. Therese Catholic Church in Alhambra, California originated with discussions first initiated in the summer of 2001. The original plan was to simply enlarge the existing Wicks organ (opus 5096, 1970). Proposed specifications were drawn up for a 43 rank instrument disposed over 3 manuals and pedal. Initially all of the original pipes were to be retained as was the open-toe, un-nicked voicing characteristic of many instruments built around that time. This plan was soon to change.

While I was away on vacation in the Florida Keys in October, 2001 I received an E-Mail from John Janosik Esq., Liturgy Director for St. Therese Church, wondering if I could take some time away from my vacation to look at an instrument for sale in St. Petersburg. Since an approaching hurricane had forced the evacuation of the lower Keys I had gone up to Ft. Lauderdale to visit friends and had time for the drive. I contacted the good people at the First Baptist Church of St. Petersburg and made arrangements to drive up. I arrived just after noon the following day and was shown around their large facility.

First Baptist had just completed a new Sanctuary far larger than their old one. Since the organ was scaled for a much more intimate space they had purchased a large electronic substitute and put the old organ on the market. The instrument was built by the Schantz Organ Company, Inc. of Orrville, Ohio, as opus 1242 in 1973 and had 51 ranks played from a 3 manual drawknob console. It was designed along American Classic lines. In1992 it was moved to the church's temporary Sanctuary by another firm. In the move the original expression enclosure for the Choir had been discarded and wind pressures were raised making the organ disagreeably harsh. The Choir, Great and part of the Pedal were crowded into a single, cramped chamber. After a brief trial of the instrument I went outside and called John and told him to write the check as the organ, after re-voicing, would be perfect for the musical needs at St. Therese.

Arrangements were made for the purchase of the organ and contracts were drawn up for a 65 rank instrument incorporating as many of the original Wicks ranks as artistically feasible. I returned to St. Petersburg in February, 2002 to take detailed measurements of the pipe scalings, cut-ups, main & offset windchests as well as getting note counts for the new relay system. Detailed plans were drawn of the proposed installation and submitted for approval.

The first two weeks of April were spent in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida building the many pipe trays and crates that would be needed with the generous help of Walter Guzowski, John Steppe and Christopher B Kane of Guzowski & Steppe, Organ Builders Inc. The following two weeks were spent in St. Petersburg packing the pipes and tearing down the instrument. The organ was carefully packed in 45 crates and loaded on a moving van for the trip to California by way of Highland, Illinois.

New windchests were constructed out of poplar for the Façade, Rohrbordun, Festival Trumpet, Menschenstimme, Swell Krummhorn, Pedal Bourdon, Pedal Untersatz(Quint), Pedal Trumpet, Pedal Blockflöte, and Swell & Choir offsets. New building frames, chest legs and bearers were also built out of poplar. Schantz Organ Company, Inc. provided 8 new floating-top reservoirs for the main windchests. Wicks Organ Company, Inc. of Highland, Illinois provided 4 regulators used for offset chests and the high pressure Festival Trumpet. The 7-1/2 H.P. Zephyr Blower is located directly under the main pedal chamber and feeds a static reservoir set to 11-1/2 inches W.C. The main wind trunk in the Gallery organ is of wood and runs most of the width of the 3 Manual divisions.

The 16' Prinzipal from the Schantz along with two of the retained Wicks ranks, the 8' Pedal Prestant and 8' Flötenbass (the revoiced Great Principal 8'), would become façade ranks. There is only one manual stop in the gallery organ that is an extension (the Swell 8' Basson) all other ranks are independent. The Pedal division occupies the former Swell chamber/ blower room. The Positiv division is located high up on the west wall of the Chancel and has 5 ranks including the former Great II Mixture.

Due to time constraints, the Wicks Organ Company was given the contract to overhaul the organ console, re-voice the existing Krummhorn and un-miter the lowest 6 notes of the 16' Prinzipal. They also provided new un-voiced pipes for the Positiv 8' Gedackt. The console overhaul included stripping and refinishing the old bright red pomegranate finish, a new optical keying system for the manuals, new drawstop units by Syndyne with turned wood drawknobs. Harris Precision Products provided new expression shoes, coupler tablet assembly, thumb pistons and toe studs. Peterson Electro-Music, Inc. was chosen to provide the relay, combination action systems and expression operators.

All of the retained Schantz windchests were rebuilt to original factory specifications. Special care was taken in leathering the pouch boards to avoid having excessive bag in the pneumatics which can cause sluggish response. All of the primary actions received new valve wires and faces. These were then regulated for 2.5mm of travel. The resultant action is extremely quick and responsive. The Great upper-work chest was slightly modified to enable it to sit directly on the bearing rails (it had originally had legs screwed to the side walls.)

Installation was started at the church in September of 2002 with the hoisting of the main chests taking place in early October. The console and the un-mitered pipes of the 16' Prinzipal were picked up in Highland in the middle of October with the console being hoisted into position the last week of the month. The installation was substantially completed by July, 2003.

While the windchests were being winded and wired all of the pipe-work was revoiced. Since the organ was being installed in a larger room with very favorable acoustics, great attention was given to each rank in the voicing room and again during tonal finishing. Cut-ups were raised as required for added warmth in the foundation tones of the organ.

Mixtures and mutations were carefully regulated and balanced to the stops in their respective divisions. The Choir Erzahler was revoiced along the lines of E.M. Skinner's Flute Célestes getting slightly softer towards the treble end of the scale. All of the flute stops were voiced to accentuate their individual character. All retained Wicks open-toe pipe work was converted to closed-toe and voiced to blend with the Schantz pipe work at our shop. A nearly new, half-length 32' Bombarde was acquired from a Church in San Diego when they installed a large digital pedal package. The 32' Bombarde was renamed a Kontra Posaune, had the schallots leathered, tongues re-curved and voiced on 6" wind. It speaks quite promptly and blends into the Schantz 16' Posaune exceptionally well.

The wind pressures used are: Great and Choir 3-1/2", Swell 4-1/2", Positiv 2-1/2", Pedal 3-1/2", 4" & 6" W.C.

The on-site tonal finishing was completed on October 14 almost exactly one year from the date that the windchests were hoisted into position. No single stop (with the exception of the Festival Trumpet on 10" wind) is overly loud. The Great principal chorus is dynamic, colorful and clear. The Choir principal chorus is rather more delicate being based on a tapered 8'. The re-voiced Positiv, nearly a full block away, helps provide the cantor with pitch and when the full chorus is drawn ably balances the main organ for congregational singing. The large, mostly independent Pedal provides a sure foundation yet has great beauty in its softer registers (the 8' Flötenbass & 2' Blockflöte were voiced with Bach's Trio Sonatas in mind.) The build up from the softest Erzahler to the thundering full organ is smooth and never harsh or screaming.

I would like to thank Mr. John Janosik, Esq. and the staff at St. Therese Church, particularly Fr. Matthew Williams, OCD, Pastor, and Robert Prichard, Music Director, for their patience and assistance during the installation. Thanks are also due to Mr. David Buckell who oversaw the alterations to the Choir Loft and blower room. A special note of gratitude to Steve Janosik, assistant organist, for his nightly cleaning forays.

The following people were involved in the organ project:

· Douglas H. Cable- design, windchest layout & construction, casework, installation, voicing & tonal finishing.
· Lee W. Paré- windchest rebuilding, windchest construction, casework, on site installation supervisor.
· Kyle B. Irwin- windchest rebuilding, releathering, casework finishing, installation, tonal finishing assistant.
· Gordon Anderson- releathering, installation.
· William F. Joiner- installation, tuning assistant.

Douglas H. Cable, Owner
D. H. Cable & Associates


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