Quimby Pipe Organs,
Opus 67: 3 manuals, 38 ranks
First Congregational Church,
Quimby Pipe Organs’ new Opus 67, completed in the summer of 2011, at the First Congregational Church in Greeley, Colorado, is an exceptional instrument in every way. There is more to this instrument than first meets the eye—a three-manual instrument of thirty-eight ranks—which, with great utility and refinement, seems to provide the resources of a much larger instrument.
The primary inspirations for Opus 67 are from British and American 19th-century traditions, and from 20th-century American influences such as Ernest M. Skinner and Aeolian-Skinner. Opus 67 is particularly remarkable because it blends these traditions within the confines of a relatively modest three-manual organ. The conceptualization of this instrument takes to heart seriously the simile that 20th-century organbuilder James Jamison marked as a requirement for a well-rounded smaller organ: like “an athlete trained down to hard muscle, without a superfluous ounce of flesh.” “Everything has to play its role and do multiple jobs,” Michael Quimby agrees; “No stop can be an individualist.”
Opus 67 covers all the essential bases and provides much we might ordinarily consider to be lavish. Moreover, everything contributes to the musical excellence of a diverse but coherent whole. There are many surprises, given its relatively modest size of thirty-eight ranks, such as three reeds at 16′ pitch in the Pedal (two of which are also available on the manuals), three different 8′ trumpets, color and solo reeds, contrasting but complete choruses in every division, an open 16′ in the Pedal, two sets of strings and celestes, a Cornet, and contrasting flutes at 8′ and 4′ on every manual. Many of these could be considered luxuries, were the essentials not present, but nothing crucial is omitted where something special or surprising is provided.
Each of the manual and pedal divisions has a complete principal chorus. The scaling and voicing of the Great principal chorus is in the style of T. C. Lewis, which grandly fills the room and is the backbone of the organ. The Swell principal chorus, by comparison, is of Geigen quality with slotted pipes, and draws influence from 19th-century American practice, most notably from the Hook tradition. Both are based upon 8′ principals. Although there is no open manual double, the Swell Gedeckt is available at 16′ pitch in both the Great and Swell for flexibility and utility. The Choir principal chorus is based on a tapered 4′ Principal, which works admirably well with either the 8′ Gemshorn (also tapered) or 8′ Rohrflute, or both. The Pedal principal chorus is derived from a single Principal rank, available at 16′, 8′, and 4′, and is scaled suitably for its role at multiple pitches. Each of the manual choruses has a mixture, and the manner in which the individual stops blend together to form a rich ensemble is further clarified by Michael Quimby: “The diapason choruses have sufficient foundational tone plus emphasis on all other partials to lock the entire chorus together, which prohibits any voice from standing out as an individualist.” Although the choruses of the Great and Swell divisions are of contrasting character, the two divisions are very close to one another in dynamic level, with the Great asserting the more prominent aural position because it is unenclosed. Likewise, the Choir is slightly diminutive to the Swell, but all of the divisions are closely related in terms of volume, resulting in a coherent instrument from one division to another. Both the Choir and Swell, enclosed in separate chambers with Quimby standard two-inch-thick expression shades, present a surprising and effective range of dynamic contrast.
Three contrasting unison manual flutes are provided: the Great Hohlflute, the Swell Gedeckt, and the Choir Rohr Flute. All three are of similar dynamic levels, with the Hohlflute dominating. The Great open Hohlflute is contrasted with a stopped 4′ Gedeckt as its octave. The stopped Swell Gedeckt, the only rank retained from the church’s previous organ, is contrasted by the open 4′ Harmonic Flute at octave pitch. The Choir Rohr Flute, stopped with chimneys, has for its octave an open 4′ Nachthorn, also well-suited for its role in the cornet harmonic series, which is completed by the 22⁄3′ Nazard, 2′ Flageolet, and 13⁄5′ Tierce. The Pedal Bourdon, available at 16′ and 8′, provides a solid foundation for the Pedal, the volume of which is in between the Principal and Gedeckt, the latter of which is borrowed from the Swell. The timbre of every stopped or open flute is different than any other, and the variety in flutes of all pitches provides many opportunities for authentic, convincing, and creative registration.
There are two pairs of strings in the organ. The Swell Viole and Viole Celeste are influenced by typical practices of both Ernest M. Skinner and Aeolian-Skinner, and are full of harmonics and richness. The Choir Gemshorn and Gemshorn Celeste are really Skinneresque Klein Erzählers, hybrid ranks that prove to be versatile chameleons; with the shutters open, the characteristic Erzähler octave partial adds richness, which contrasts the Swell strings, though always remaining subordinate to them. With the shutters closed, they lose enough of the octave presence and edge so that the possibility of a gentler Flute Dolce Celeste is suggested.
Each manual has its own trumpet, all broadly influenced by the work of Henry Willis. The Swell Trumpet is a synthesis of French and English schools. From 16′ C to 4′ g, English open shallots are used, but from 4′ g up, French dome shallots are used, resulting in a versatile rank that works well in each of its designated pitch levels, with more fundamental lower in its range, and more “fire” moving upward. At 16′ “Contra” pitch, it serves as the primary pedal reed; the rank also does triple duty at 4′ pitch as the Swell Clarion. The Great Trumpet has English open shallots and is voiced for roundness, but also with brilliance. The Choir Solo Harmonic Trumpet provides a commanding voice in the organ, tuba-like, which is loud enough to stand up in solo dialogue to the Great principal chorus, but not so overpowering that its use in the ensemble climax of a big piece is offensive or unmusical. In fact, its placement behind the effective Choir expression shutters allows it to be brought on imperceptibly with shutters closed underneath full Great and Swell ensembles, and then gradually opened, as Michael Quimby suggests, “for a final surge of unexpected sound.” This rank is on 15 inches of wind pressure, but not “for generating excessive dynamic effects.” Rather, the high wind pressure allows the greatest “refinement of tone,” something which is surely desirable in so prominent a stop. Adding the reeds to full ensemble, while dramatically changing the ensemble’s character, never obscures the flues. The three contrasting trumpets immediately present possibilities for use in dialogue with the different choruses.
The Swell Oboe is inspired by American practice as typified by Aeolian-Skinner from the 1930s until after World War II. Like the Swell Trumpet, it is also extended, from 16′ to 8′. At 16′ pitch it functions as a Fagotto for use in the Swell reed chorus and as a secondary 16′ reed in the Pedal; at 8′, it fulfills the traditional roles required by organ literature. The Choir Cromorne is also inspired by early Aeolian-Skinner examples, and is slightly softer than the Oboe, especially in the 16′ range, allowing it to be used as a secondary manual double reed and tertiary pedal double—an unexpected but welcome luxury in an organ of this size. Its duplication in the Great at 8′ pitch allows for its use in dialogue with the Choir Cornet décomposé.
Mechanically speaking, the instrument is responsive and reliable, something that Michael Quimby attributes to the fact that “the majority of flue manual ranks are on electro-pneumatic slider windchests in the Blackinton style.” Other ranks, which are duplexed or unified for flexibility, are “on electro-pneumatic windchests with individual actions.” Duplexing and unification are restricted to some reeds and the Swell Gedeckt between the manuals, and for the augmentation of the Pedal. The responsiveness of the chest actions is matched by their reliable performance, proven over time to be dependable. Complete octave and sub-octave couplers are provided within and between all manual divisions, not for completing the ensembles, but for registrational flexibility and expanded color possibilities.
The three-manual, drawknob console, constructed in the Skinner style, is an exercise in both convenience and elegance. Constructed of black walnut with a mahogany interior, the casework matches accent walnut woodwork in the newly renovated chancel, providing rich contrast to the more prevalent blond oak. The console has 256 levels of memory for the combination action, a piston sequencer, adjustable crescendo pedal, sequence recorder, and MIDI in and out.
Chancel renovations completed prior to the installation of Opus 67 included reconfiguration from a traditional English divided choir to built-in hardwood risers with moveable chairs facing the congregation. The console cabinet from the previous instrument was converted into a new pulpit, which helps to anchor the liturgical south end of the chancel (the new console being on liturgical north). A new façade, cased in black walnut, with polished zinc 16′ principal pipes and Great principal basses, replaces a mid-twentieth-century organ screen and monumental cross. A new stained glass and metal cross, crafted by congregation members Carolyn Stuart and Gary Pitcher, is suspended in front of the organ façade.
In their mission statement, Quimby Pipe Organs admits to “a great responsibility to produce organs that will not only ‘do church,’ but will do it with style.” Their stated goals for achieving this are to provide organs that support choirs, offer organists “registration possibilities for creative and sensitive service playing,” and to have “an essential grandeur as well as a heroic nature appropriate” to the context and requirements of the situation. These objectives have been resoundingly met in the design and construction of Opus 67, which “combines the foundation for excellent support of choral, congregational, and service music in addition to supporting organ concert literature and the community concert venue.”
First Congregational Church’s organist Kim Pace echoes these thoughts, as she describes her own impressions of the new organ: “This glorious instrument is an expression of beauty as it envelops the congregation’s songs, as it colors the choir’s anthems, as it speaks to our hearts and souls through Bach or Duruflé, spirituals or jazz. It is an expression of faith—the faith and vision of a congregation that embraces music in worship and as a ministry to others. And, it is an organist’s dream!”
The organ was first used in worship on Sunday, September 11, 2011, with Kim Pace presiding at the console. The dedicatory recital was given on October 21, 2011, by Wilma Jensen, who opened her program with Franck’s Pièce Héroïque, not knowing it was the same piece that Professor George Whitfield Andrews played to close the dedicatory recital of the church’s former Lyon & Healy 104 years earlier. On March 25, 2012, Kim Pace presented a recital to the community, and one additional recital is scheduled for this year, with Ken Cowan performing on October 7 at 4 pm.
— T. Daniel Hancock