C. B. Fisk, Inc.,
First Presbyterian Church,
Santa Fe, New Mexico
From the organbuilder
Since its incorporation in 1961, the Fisk workshop has been in Gloucester, Massachusetts, home of the oldest art colony in the United States. Just as artists have been drawn to the light and ocean-
scapes of Gloucester for decades, so have they been drawn to the desert light of Santa Fe. Thus, when C. B. Fisk received a letter in 1999 requesting a proposal for a pipe organ in the sanctuary of the First Presbyterian Church, we were especially excited by the opportunity to work in the Southwest, with its own quality of light and architectural styles so different from those surrounding us in our New England home.
From our first visits to John Gaw Meem’s serenely beautiful 1930s sanctuary, it was evident that there were wonderful opportunities and challenges inherent in the project. When plans were made to restructure the chancel as part of a larger building project, the church wisely included us along with acousticians Kirkegaard & Associates, and architects Lloyd & Associates. The excellent result literally speaks for itself. While maintaining the simple beauty of the space, a modern approach to acoustics was applied. The walls at the chancel sides are now hard-plastered and subtly angled, allowing choir and organ to speak boldly into the sanctuary. Other changes were made invisibly above the ceiling in the sanctuary, leaving the latillas undisturbed, but improving the acoustical response so important to congregational singing. This commitment to the excellence of both sound and silence will pay dividends for generations to come.
Our first step was to take careful measurements and photos of the new chancel in order to construct a scale model of the front of the sanctuary. Much research was done on the vernacular church architecture of the Santa Fe area, with special attention to the surrounding historic missions. Charles Nazarian then developed the visual design within the model in consultation with the Fisk design team and the organ committee, whose members visited Gloucester several times throughout the process. Designing in the model also gave us the opportunity to communicate with the organ committee and the congregation through digital photography sent via e-mail.
The organ façade serves as a liturgical reredos and is divided in three—the detailed central case flanked on each side by the Douglas fir pipes of the 16′ Contrebasse. The painted casework is constructed of solid poplar, and the console of cherry. Both feature joinery designed for a dry climate. The casework and the wooden front pipes were hand-planed, providing a texture consistent with the hammered lead pipes in the central tower and the hand-carved spiral posts that support it. Great care was taken to choose materials, decorative elements, shaping and colors to create an organ design unlike any other, yet appearing to have always been there.
The mechanical design of a tracker organ must be as simple and as direct as possible in order to increase an organ’s utility and reliability, and to allow an unfettered transmission of musical expression. The active musical life in Santa Fe all but guarantees that the organ will be played often, calling for the highest levels of care and attention to detail in its design and construction. Our experience with creating light, responsive actions and our increasing use of modern materials such as carbon fiber have made Opus 133 a new standard of key action touch.
Rooted firmly in historic principles, the tonal design is a unique blending of elements chosen specifically to meet the musical needs of the church. Dr. Larry Palmer of Southern Methodist University and Dr. Linda Raney, music director, consulted closely with us over a period of several years. The final stoplist is the result of careful research and thoughtful discussion in many areas of importance—the musical requirements of the Presbyterian liturgy, including leadership and accompaniment, the acoustics of the church, and the breadth and flexibility needed in a recital instrument.
The Great division is largely Germanic in nature, with most of its stops based upon our research trips to study the best 18th-century examples of organbuilding. The Great chorus, among its other duties, is designed to support congregational singing. The Swell division, by contrast, takes its character from 19th-century French examples, and is perfectly designed and balanced to accompany the choir and instrumentalists. The Solo division on the third manual can be used to enhance a hymn melody and creates the greater flexibility needed to play a wide selection of the entire organ literature.
The organ’s 2,065 pipes were pre-voiced at our Gloucester workshop and then each pipe was meticulously adjusted on site in Santa Fe. This tonal finishing process took place over the course of five months beginning in the spring of 2008, as the voicers refined the individual voices of the organ and balanced the overall sonority with the acoustics of the sanctuary. Because of the altitude and thinner air of Santa Fe, special voicing techniques and a larger blower were required to help the pipes speak with a full tone. The temperament is the mildly unequal Fisk II, which, while favoring the common keys, allows for music of all styles to be performed. Wind pressures are 3 inches water column for the manual divisions and 4¾ inches for the Pedal.
C. B. Fisk wishes to thank the staff and congregation of First Presbyterian Church for the opportunity and privilege of building an organ in their remarkable and inspiring church. Without the constant support and hospitality of Dr. Raney, the members of the choir, and the organ committee, the pursuit of our art and our sojourn in Santa Fe would not have been half so rewarding and enjoyable.
C. B. Fisk, Inc., Opus 133
First Presbyterian Church,
Santa Fe, New Mexico
29 voices, 31 stops, 41 ranks,
GREAT (Manual I)
SWELL (Manual II, enclosed)
8′ Violin Diapason
8′ Voix céleste (from C0)
8′ Stopped Diapason
4′ Flûte octaviante
Plein jeu IV
SOLO (Manual III)
8′ Harmonic Flute
Cornet V (from c1)
8′ Trumpet (from Great)
8′ Bourdon (from 16′)
Swell to Great
Solo to Great
Great to Pedal
Swell to Pedal
Swell Super to Pedal
Solo to Pedal
Solo Super to Pedal
Balanced Swell Pedal
Key action: direct mechanical (tracker), except for certain large bass pipes
Stop action: electric with a modern multi-level combination action
Keydesk: 61 keys CC–c4, grenadilla naturals, rosewood sharps capped with cowbone; pedalboard: 32 keys CC–g1
Casework: a single case with façade pipes of wood and metal, standing in the front of the sanctuary, designed to harmonize with and adorn the historic Mission church interior