Glück New York Organbuilders, New York, New York
Union Church of Pocantico Hills, Tarrytown, New York
From the pastor: Our latest chapter When Marc Chagall and Henri Matisse never miss a service, and a church is blessed with a warm, close, and giving congregation, special events in the life of a church somehow become even more special. The commissioning of the Laurance Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Pipe Organ was a remarkable milestone in our history, and a finishing touch to our beautiful sanctuary, 85 years after its cornerstone was laid. The instrument was funded by Mr. Rockefeller’s brother, David, his daughter, Dr. Lucy Rockefeller Waletzky, and other members of the family, supplemented by the generosity of their fellow congregants and friends.
Planning for the organ began several years ago and proceeded at a careful pace. Several organbuilders were consulted before selecting Sebastian M. Glück of New York City. An organist, organbuilder, and preservation architect, he was sensitive to all of our concerns, knowing that his creation could neither upstage our worship nor compete with the peerless stained glass that adorns our landmark church. The long process of on-site voicing and tonal finishing resulted in the “perfect fit” of this outstanding pipe organ. The congregation’s sense of the holy is lifted as the clear tones of the organ fill the space. Praising God in the sanctuary soars here to new heights!
—Rev. Dr. F. Paul DeHoff
From the consultant: Looking forward through the rear view mirror
Building an organ for a small space is a challenge for both design and execution, and these challenges have been creatively met in this installation. The builders have carefully engineered the instrument to fit the space, providing good tonal egress and ample accessibility for ease of tuning and maintenance. The instrument possesses character and a distinctive personality, and the magnificent windows by Matisse and Chagall made it seem fitting to emulate the orgue de chœur of the French tradition. Choral and congregational accompaniments are the important functions of this organ, and it contains surprising resources for playing a considerable variety of organ literature.
Essentially a two-manual instrument, a third manual division has been derived from the tonal scheme through studied extension and duplexing. This “found” Positif adds to the versatility of the organ in which each stop must pull its weight, individually and in ensemble. The success of this master plan is in its careful scaling and meticulous tonal finishing.
All of the ranks embody individual character, yet blend effectively in the total ensemble. Some of the ranks deserve special mention because of their creativity and success in this installation. The 16' Contrebasse gives clarity and definition to the pedal, and in combination with the stopped 16' Sous Basse provides a firm foundation. The Contrebasse can also be used beneath the Récit strings, which have a delightful, sizzling, French edge as well. This is a welcome relief from the ubiquitous 16' Gedeckt extensions found on most organs. As the bass to the principal chorus, the 16' Contrebasse undergirds with clarity. An interesting historical aspect of this stop is that it was typical of French Baroque churches to have a double bass playing with the orgue de chœur for additional sonority. On the manuals, this same rank (playing as the 8' Violoncelle) has a desirable incisive quality that is important for color and contrast in the family of foundation stops.
Another stop that serves multiple functions is the Clarinette. It provides gravity and weight as the 16' manual stop for the Récit reed chorus without competing with the Pédale 16' Bombarde. As an 8' solo stop it is more refined than a Cromorne, but has more color and personality that most other Clarinet stops. This is an effective solution for a small instrument.
The removal of the carpet from the chancel revealed an attractive hardwood floor that adds warmth to the music of the organ and the Union Church Choir.
This project was the outcome of a happy collaboration among organist, organbuilder, and consultant. The congregation and its pastor have been most helpful in making this a successful project with rewarding musical results. I am happy to be associated with this organ installation, from the initial discussions, through the building phase, to the dedication and inaugural recital.
—Dr. Gordon Turk
From the director of music: An about-face in the right direction
My service at Union Church began in 1999 when our last organ had aged precisely 30 years. Replacing Wurlitzer’s 1922 Opus 548, it had been assembled by a local organ man utilizing pipes imported from Holland. Unfortunately, the electric valve action of this heavily unified instrument had not withstood the test of time, and Union Church faced the pressing need to replace its console, relays, and playing mechanisms, as well as address the obvious tonal imbalances. After much discussion, the church decided that a new instrument would be a better investment.
The thin, prismatic sound of the old organ, truly a product of its time, actually required amplification to reach our small sanctuary, and from the outset Sebastian Glück had suggested a completely different approach, based upon his ongoing fascination with the orgues de chœur and orgues de salon of fin-de-siècle France. I had the opportunity to play his Opus 10 at Our Lady of Loretto in Cold Spring, New York, a small new organ in this French Romantic style, and I became convinced of both the concept and the builder.
Our consultant agreed with my stipulation that the instrument should be a worthy vehicle for choral accompaniment. He also concurred that Mr. Glück’s focus on a French symphonic character would serve our worship better than yet another neoclassical design, as it could more effectively support our choir with its abundance of properly scaled unison ranks. We were hopeful that the sound generated in the right chancel chamber would somehow fill the entire room, a feat dependent upon Sebastian’s scaling and voicing, as no changes could be made to the historic building. Ironically, all of these ideals represented the opposite of the situation with which we started!
Mr. Glück and I pored over the smaller documented Cavaillé-Coll designs, and I shared his excitement when he returned from his close examination of the famous Merklin/Mutin organ at l’Église Réformée du Saint-Esprit on Paris’s Rue Roquépine as he prepared for his tonal work at Union Church. Although the prototype instruments by Cavaillé-Coll and Mutin usually found their way into highly reverberant rooms, he was correct in asserting that an organ of this character would bloom with a greater presence in our intimate setting than another neo-Baroque organ.
I am elated that the entire church family and the local organ community have expressed nothing but admiration and enthusiasm for this new musical instrument. Its frank sound and rich color activate every corner of the room without ever sounding “loud.” It is thrilling to launch a virile grand chœur in the context of our worship, and satisfying to employ the fonds d’huit without apology. These marvelous attributes do not preclude the performance of music from other schools of literature, as this organ embraces the components of a respectable plein jeu as well as solo stops and ensembles of great clarity.
I often ponder the fact that our new pipe organ continues to be a gift each and every time it is engaged in its sacred function. I wish to express my sincere gratitude to Dr. David Rockefeller, Dr. Lucy Waletzky, Dr. Paul DeHoff, Dr. Gordon Turk, Mr. Sebastian M. Glück, Mr. Albert Jensen-Moulton and the entire Glück staff, as well as all of the donors at the Union Church of Pocantico Hills who made this amazing instrument a reality.
From the organbuilder: A French recipe from an American chef
The Laurance Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Pipe Organ is a 21st-century instrument inspired by the school of organbuilding that flourished late in the reign of Napoléon III and during the first 30 years of the Third Republic. The French Romantic organ is characterized by bold, warm, and rich colors. Despite their strong individuality, these organs’ diverse voices form a cooperative community akin to a superb ensemble of celebrated actors, in which the sum of the distinctive parts is exceeded by the exhilarating effect of the whole.
French pipe organs and music of the period exhibit the same passion and spiritual freedom as the painting, sculpture, architecture, and dance of the era, a phenomenon that has captivated the Rockefellers for generations. The family had commissioned the Aeolian company to build large organs for their homes, so in addition to growing up with historically pivotal visual arts, they appreciated the pipe organ in a secular, purely musical context, in addition to what they heard in church.
I made it clear from the start that this would not be an historical copy. The copyist develops solid technique, but does not always make artistic progress as he reproduces the flaws and limitations of his models along with their glories.
The Rockefeller family and Union Church have consistently managed to balance strong tradition with a keen eye for the new. Since my own mindset has always been on “the cutting edge of the passé,” I felt immediately comfortable with them. I could create something new that still took its cues from the past, and they would understand what I was doing. As Dr. Turk said at his dedicatory recital, the organ comes with its own character, but “it has a definite French accent.”
Historical antecedents of the design
The structural blueprint of the Grand-Orgue was influenced by Cavaillé-Coll’s 1879 design for the same division in the II/18 instrument in Le Château du Compte de Liminghe, Gesves, Belgium, an orgue de salon for which Lemmens served as consultant. It struck me as a sensible and still-modern concept for the main division for nearly any school of composition. Such compact specifications usually bore either a 2' chorus member or a mixture, but rarely both. The inclusion of both, to the exclusion of yet another 4' flute, seemed to afford more options for the interpretation of a broader range of repertoire. The Fourniture II–IV begins as a Progression Harmonique, adding lower pitches without breaking, then moves to classical plagal breaks in the treble. With slightly smaller scales and higher cutups, the mixture is one that melds smoothly, adding brilliance and line without the harsh separation one might encounter from a “neo-classical” mixture.
Supplying the fonds d’huit would prove more difficult, simply because of space. While the 16' Bourdon was most often “duplexed” to the Pédale in such instruments, I reversed the procedure, extending the substantial 16' Sous Basse upward, making it available at 16' and 8' pitch. The 8' proved a bit too large for proper balance, so I provided a new treble with narrower scales and higher mouths. The 8' Violoncelle is large, warm, vibrant, and nearly reedy, furnishing the third member of the 8' quartet, but we had run out of room.' The 8' Flûte Harmonique was almost pulled out of thin air. I opted to transmit the Récit 4' Flûte Octaviante an octave lower, with one personal quirk. While traditionally one would build an open wood 8' octave (as opposed to the American practice of switching to non-matching stopped pipes), the compromise was to use the stopped poplar pipes of the Récit 8' Cor de Nuit for the first eleven notes, and then build a single low BB pipe of open spotted pewter to complete the octave. My reasoning? I cannot bear to hear the final left-hand note in Franck’s Prélude, Fugue, et Variation land on a stopped pipe, and I was determined that it not happen here. It is a smaller, less soaring sound than normal, being based upon the Récit scale, but provides an essential component that otherwise would be omitted.
The Récit had to be an economically designed powerhouse, faithful to its French spirit without locking out other schools of music. Since the French Romantic tradition is one that specifies a string and its undulant under expression, the effect had to be authentic. There would be no washed out, noncommittal, characterless Violas here. Cutting, pungent, keen, energized strings of narrow scale and high tin content were the order of the day, emitting the tone color known and expected by composers and organists of the era.
Cavaillé-Coll would modify his choir of 8', 4', and 2' harmonic flutes in his small organs, and I did so as well. Still stylistically appropriate, the chimneyed 8' Cor de Nuit is a fine stop for continuo use and vocal accompaniment, and it combines beautifully with the Viole de Gambe and Voix Humaine. The 2' Flûte Conique adapts to all music, from Baroque trios to modern choir accompaniments. While unidiomatic to the size and genre of this organ, the 4' Prestant has proven itself to be indispensable, a tonal anchor for the secondary manual in northern literature, and a binding element for anthem accompaniment.
A shortage of space placed the burden of all reed tone upon the Récit. The “usual suspects” (Trompette, Basson et Hautbois, and Voix Humaine) had to be included, tailored to the intimate church and its non-reverberant acoustic. The first step was to acknowledge that a full-throttle blaze of French reeds would work against our goals, so a bright English trumpet with harmonic resonators fit the bill. Despite its modest scale this voice speaks with remarkable authority.
The 8' Basson et Hautbois is a variation of what I had observed in France. French practice called for single-taper resonators and closed, tapered shallots for the bass and tenor octaves, and stem-and-bell resonators and open, domed, parallel shallots for the remainder of the stop. Such a break would have been abrupt and evident in Union Church’s acoustic, so a structural compromise was struck: Bertounêche shallots throughout, with traditional, coned-in Hautbois resonators for the treble, and stem-and-bell resonators with lifting lids for the 8' and 4' Basson octaves.
The huge, woody 16' Clarinette-Basse is a rarity of great impact if properly scaled, built, and voiced. The inspiration for this stop was Cavaillé-Coll’s 1894 design for the III/46 instrument in the salle de concert in the hôtel particulier of the erudite Baron de l’Espée at 55 Avenue des Champs-Élysées. It was the only 16' manual reed in the organ, residing in one of two powerful Récits.
Half-length cylindrical reeds such as this effectively resonate the fundamental, whereas half-length inverted conical ones do not. It is for this reason that the half-length 16' Bassoon extensions so often built sound weak and thin. I opted for an enormous scale, a world away from the anæmic 16' Dulzians that plagued this nation’s Swell divisions in decades past. Its sound latches on to the 8' Trompette and gives the impression of a 16' Double Trumpet when accompanying English anthems and adds complex color to the ensemble.
Le Positif (perdu et trouvé)
When Union Church embarked on this journey, I maintained the position that I would build a smaller, finer instrument than the one they were using, and that a three-manual organ was not possible; I have seen grand dreams push organ projects to unsatisfactory results, and was ethically bound to protect the clients. As the two-manual design was in the process of refinement, Dr. Turk, Mr. Zachacz, and I collectively admitted that despite the sumptuousness of our little banquet, we still felt pangs of hunger. Could we have a third manual for dessert, even though our stomach was full?
While I could not add a third manual division, I could extract one from the material at hand. Cavaillé-Coll’s designs revealed that there were many ‘givens’, trends, and features within his œuvre, but there were no “standard” specifications, beyond the marketed stock models, which were so often customized for the client. A creative license had been granted.
The 8' extension of the 16' Clarinette-Basse, speaking from the Grand-Orgue in the two-manual design, was the first resident of the new Positif. The mezzo-forte fluework was duplexed to this manual, and two 4' extensions, exclusively in this department, provided it a distinctive timbre and center of gravity. Having lived with this organ since its completion, no one involved can imagine it as a two-manual instrument in light of the returns on this small investment.
Two-manual organs of this style often had pedal divisions borrowed entirely from the manuals. As I had no desire to fall back upon historic precedent as an excuse for absent majesty, I asked organbuilder and consultant Randall Wagner, a longtime friend, to help our firm engineer my desires into the available space.
In addition to the aforementioned 16' Sous Basse unit, there is a 16' Contrebasse, an extension of the 8' Violoncelle. It is built with Haskell re-entrant tubes to save space, and maintains bowing string tone all the way to 16' CCC. The 16' string extension is something I had used in Opus 5, Opus 8, and Opus 9, lending variety, pitch definition, and clarity in lieu of the dull “Echo Lieblich” so often found over the past century.
The 4' Quinzième is an independent principal stop essential to the pedal line. Experience confirms that a 4' pedal voice borrowed from a manual unit interferes with the inner voices of polyphony, contributing to “missing note syndrome” and never quite balancing correctly. When funds and space are rationed, such a measure saves the pedal line.
The 16' Bombarde, with full-length resonators, is an extension of the 8' Trompette. The combined result of all of these ideas results in a more effective pedal division.
The nuts and bolts
The organ’s playing action is electro-pneumatic, combining pitman windchests with individual-pouch unit chests for extensions and duplexed voices. The pipe ranks are planted in major third formation, a centuries-old arrangement that assures both easy access and stable tuning. A turbine located beneath the organ delivers wind at a pressure of four inches water column through single-rise reservoirs, providing a stable, unfailing wind supply, even when the tout ensemble is unleashed. The intake is routed from the church itself for added temperature stability, and the entire organ is built on the same level, with the exception of the 16' octaves.
The console is constructed of mahogany and white oak, bearing manual keyboards of cow bone and walnut. The drawknobs and toe studs are turned from pao ferro, and the pedal clavier is constructed of maple and rosewood. I carved the music desk with a medallion that adheres to this firm’s ideals of “opulent restraint.” It acknowledges 19th-century French harmonium grilles as well as the Art Nouveau botanical forms in Matisse’s rose window, his final work, the design for which he completed two days before his death.
While the console is patterned after the work of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, there are some concessions to make the contemporary American organist feel more at home, such as the inter-manual couplers front and center, controlled by Skinner-style dominos. The Grand-Orgue is normally played from the second manual keyboard, but the order of the two lowest manuals can be switched to conform to standard 19th-century French layouts. A 256-level combination action provides the freedom of kaleidoscopic registrational changes, so the ventils for the jeux de combinaisons have been foregone.
Where thanks is due
As I said at the service of dedication, my staff does everything, and I do the rest. They are all degreed musicians (oddly, all professional singers) with high standards and amazing work ethics. Albert Jensen-Moulton has kept every single project (and me) on track, and his uncanny attention to detail has enhanced each achievement this company has made since he joined the firm. Dominic Inferrera and Joseph DiSalle were the two principal organbuilding pillars supporting the success of this instrument, and their loyalty is deeply appreciated.
Thomas Zachacz maintains a modest front for somebody who knows as much as he does, and his love for this school of organbuilding and composition surfaces with every discussion. From the start, Tom “got it,” and the process of working for him was not just rewarding, it was fun.
The experience was enhanced by the guidance of a knowledgeable, worldly, and supportive consultant, Dr. Gordon Turk, and when he played the dedicatory recital, it was obvious to all that he understood the nuances of instrument he helped to create.
Pastor DeHoff, the Board of Trustees, and the congregation of Union Church form a rare group of cultured, inquisitive, progressive minds, and their willingness to embrace this project will always remain a notable feature of this period in our lives.
Without the donors, this road would not have been traveled. Without their trust and insight, the results might have been different. Buying a great painting is one thing. Commissioning one from an artist you admire is another. But trusting an unknown to build you a mysterious machine that some time in the future will produce sounds you have never heard takes a good deal of courage. Some of the donors I have met, others I have not, but it is for their trust and courage that I shall always be grateful.
—Sebastian M. Glück
The Laurance Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Pipe Organ
Union Church of Pocantico Hills,
Tarrytown, New York
Glück New York, Opus 11
16' Bourdon (from Pédale)
8' Montre (58 pipes, 50% tin)
8' Violoncelle (58 pipes, 50% tin)
8' Flûte Harmonique (1 pipe, 50% tin) (a)
8' Bourdon (38 pipes, pine, mahogany, & 50% tin) (b)
4' Prestant (58 pipes, 50% tin)
2' Doublette (58 pipes, 50% tin)
II–IV Fourniture (196 pipes, 50% tin)
8' Trompette (from Récit Expressif)
8' Viole de Gambe (58 pipes, 90% tin)
8' Voix Céleste (46 pipes, 90% tin)
8' Cor de Nuit (58 pipes, poplar, walnut, & 50% tin)
4' Prestant (58 pipes, 50% tin)
4' Flûte Octaviante (58 pipes, 50% tin)
2' Flûte Conique (58 pipes, 50% tin)
16' Clarinette-Basse (12 pipes, 50% tin) (c)
8' Trompette (58 pipes, 50% tin)
8' Basson et Hautbois (58 pipes, 50% tin)
8' Voix Humaine (58 pipes, 30% tin)
Tremblant (I et III)
8' Violoncelle (Grand Orgue)
8' Flûte Harmonique (Grand Orgue)
8' Cor de Nuit (Récit-Expressif)
4' Viole d’Amour (12 pipes, 50% tin) (d)
4' Flûte Douce (12 pipes, 50% tin) (e)
8' Clarinette (58 pipes, 30% tin)
16' Sous Basse (32 pipes, poplar & walnut)
102/3' Gros Nasard (from Sous Basse) (g)
8' Octave Basse (Grand-Orgue)
8' Violoncelle (Grand-Orgue)
8' Flûte (Grand-Orgue Bourdon)
4' Quinzième (32 pipes, 50% tin)
4' Flûte Ouverte (Récit-Expressif)
4' Flûte Bouchée (Grand-Orgue Bourdon)
16' Bombarde (12 pipes, zinc) (h)
16' Clarinette-Basse (Récit-Expressif)
8' Trompette (Récit-Expressif)
4' Clarinette (Récit-Expressif)
(a) C1–A#11 from Récit Cor de Nuit;
C13–A58 from Récit Flûte Octaviante
(b) Extension of Pédale 16¢ Sous Basse
(c) Extension of Positif 8¢ Clarinette
(d) Extension of Grand Orgue 8¢ Violoncelle
(e) Extension of Récit 8¢ Cor de Nuit
(f) Extension of Grand Orgue 8¢ Violoncelle
(g) Becomes a 32¢ Contre Bourdon at C13
(h) Extension of Récit 8¢ Trompette
Tirasses, Accouplements et Échanges (dominos basculants)
* 8' Tirasse Grand Orgue
* 8' Tirasse Positif
* 8' Tirasse Récit
4' Tirasse Récit
16' Récit au Grand Orgue
* 8' Récit au Grand Orgue
4' Récit au Grand Orgue
16' Positif au Grand Orgue
* 8' Positif au Grand Orgue
4' Positif au Grand Orgue
8' Grand Orgue au Positif
16' Récit au Positif
* 8' Récit au Positif
4' Récit au Positif
Grand Orgue au lieu du Positif
* Piston et Cuillère
Combinaisons (256 levels)
6 adjustable thumb pistons acting upon each manual division
6 adjustable thumb pistons and toe studs acting upon the Pédale division
8 adjustable thumb pistons and toe studs acting upon the entire organ
Tutti thumb piston and cuillère