As work on our sanctuary has now finished except for some punch-list items, and the installation of the Schoenstein organ nears completion, I realize that I have not added a new post in a few weeks. Here are some updates:
- We moved back into our sanctuary last Sunday (September 13). It was a glorious day with our Chancel Choir, brass quartet and timpani. Everyone was thrilled to be back “home.”
- The installation of the organ is nearly complete. Tonal finishing of the flues began on Monday and will last through this coming week. After a break of two weeks, the reeds will be finished and then the organ should be ready to use.
- Our commissioned organ work, Partita on “Nun Danket Alle Gott” by Craig Phillips has arrived and has been forwarded to Scott Dettra, who will play the dedicatory recital on March 6, 2016.
- The St. Louis Chapter of the American Guild of Organists will meet at Ladue Chapel on Monday, October 19 at 7:30 p.m. Jack Bethards, President of Schoenstein & Co., and Louis Patterson, Plant Superintendent and Vice President will present the program discussing the Schoenstein tonal philosophy and the evolution of the Ladue Chapel project. The public is invited to attend.
A sad note to these festivities is that a beloved member of our Organ Committee, Virginia Trent, died unexpectedly last month. Her memorial service was held yesterday at Ladue Chapel. Enough of the organ was playable that Schoenstein & Co. gave their permission for me to play one piece on the organ. This was a fitting tribute to Virginia, who was herself an organist, and I am grateful to Schoenstein for making this possible.
I played the Brahms “O Welt ich muss dich lassen,” (“O World, I Now Must Leave Thee”), the setting with the echoes. Not only was this appropriate, but since I had played it on the last Sunday we heard the old organ, I liked the symmetry of it being the first piece heard on the new organ.
Just what is “Tonal Finishing?”
People keep asking why it takes so long to tune the new organ. My answer is that they are not tuning the organ, but are doing the tonal finishing. Here is an attempt at a brief explanation of tonal finishing:
During tonal finishing, each pipe (all 2,716 of them) is made to be comfortable in its new home. Minute adjustments are made by hand so that each pipe projects optimally, and so that each pipe matches perfectly with the others in its rank (set of pipes), creating a homogenous sound. This is accomplished—deliberately and carefully—by manipulating various parts of the pipe: the toe, the windway, the languid, the upper lip. Some pipes are naturally comfortable, and some are finicky and require a bit of cajoling to produce their optimal sound. This process requires two people and is quite labor intensive. One person works up in the chamber at the pipes, and the other person sits at the console to hold keys and to listen to how the pipes sound in the sanctuary. So that every nuance of each pipe’s speech can be heard, it is essential that there is absolute silence in the sanctuary. During these two weeks, Jack Bethards (president of Schoenstein & Co.), and Mark Hotsenpiller (Head Voicer) are here working on the flue pipes. Later in October they will be back to do this same process with the reed pipes and to put the finishing touches on the organ. And then the organ will be ready for us to use and enjoy!
Finally, for a before-and-after comparison, a photo of the sanctuary on Easter Day, 2015: