Cover Feature

June 5, 2015

Peragallo Pipe Organ Company, Paterson, New Jersey

Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph, Brooklyn, New York

A stroll through the Prospect Heights section of Brooklyn immediately tells you this neighborhood is experiencing a new day. The landscape has seen many new buildings go up, restaurants open, and the world has come to once again recognize Brooklyn as a cultural center. New York Fashion Week saw many of its shows move across the river to the borough, and the Democratic National Convention is scheduled to arrive next year. With all of this new attention, Brooklyn has seen a rising energy and pride not felt since the Dodgers left for Los Angeles in 1957.  

Recognizing the growing number of faithful in the area, the Brooklyn Diocese sought to invest in the center of this new growth with a renewed place to worship. In 2013 St. Joseph Church, not far from the new Barclay’s Center and downtown business center, was designated by Pope Benedict XVI to become a new co-cathedral for the Brooklyn Diocese.

St. Joseph Church was designed by the local Brooklyn architect Francis J. Berlenbach and was dedicated by New York Archbishop John Hughes in 1912. After decades of use, the church was in desperate need of a complete restoration. A team of ecclesiastical architects, engineers, and restoration artists led by Reverend Monsignor Kieran Harrington, the vicar for communications for the diocese and rector for the new co-cathedral, was assembled to undertake the task. The plan called for the new cathedral to be state of the art, capable of supporting televised liturgies, concerts, and diocesan events.

Looking for guidance on what to do with the old organ, Bishop DiMarzio asked the Reverend Monsignor Ronald Newland to consult on the project. In 2012, Msgr. Harrington and Msgr. Newland tasked the Peragallo Organ Company to offer a report on the dormant organ residing in the balcony. In 98 years of history, the firm had seen its fair share of old organs, but this one was unique. Every element of the instrument was in rough shape, but its ranks with broad scaling held true promise. The original organ was built by the A.B. Felgemaker Co. in 1887. The instrument was expanded and reworked by the M.P. Möller Company of Hagerstown, Maryland, in 1908. Unusual details within the instrument indicate the organ was possibly rebuilt in the late 1950s. The organ was controlled by a three-manual and pedal console supporting roughly 32 ranks of pipework. The Great division was located at center, in a recess behind the choir risers, and had seen heaps of fallen debris crush its ranks. The Swell and Choir divisions offered many unique ranks to work with, but also were in rough shape.

Gathering up the keydesk’s panels and top in the balcony, a hand-carved shell of solid walnut was revealed; properly restored, it could be a shining gem. The console’s electropneumatic switching action was housed in the adjacent bell tower and had seen years of exposure to the elements. 

The Peragallo Organ Company was selected to undertake the refurbishment of the organ in early 2013. Working alongside the many talented tradespeople already at work on the building, we saw during the next two years an unbelievable transformation of the space, as the interior blossomed both visually and acoustically into a space worthy of a co-cathedral.

The renovated pipe organ has many complex textures that reflect the dynamic borough that surrounds it. It has the versatility to command any piece of organ literature while being delicate enough to fulfill any of its liturgical responsibilities. The tonal scheme, designed by John Peragallo III, utilizes 41 ranks of pipework to elicit a French Romantic palette. 

The Grand Orgue division has been repositioned to speak at the same height as the balance of the instrument. It features a new Principal chorus based on a warmly voiced 8 Montre. The 16 Violone was one of the best-kept secrets of the old Möller. The rank was revoiced at 8 to accompany the 8 Montre along with a slightly overblowing 8 Flute Harmonique (our signature) to complete the tonal trinity for French literature. 

The Choeur division is delicate in nature with its Cor de chamois céleste. Its Clarinette is a wonderful color stop that is playable at 4 in the Pedal. 

The Récit is a well-rounded division, with the capacity to contrast the powerful Grand Orgue while also increasing the dramatic power of the instrument. Its design is more American-Classic in style, with a textured 16 Basson underpinning a powerful reed chorus. The Viole de Gambe and Voix Céleste are broadly voiced. 

Atop the Récit division resides the former 8 Cornopean, which was rebuilt and revoiced on 15 inches of pressure to speak forth as a new Trompetta Cathédrale. This commanding reed is playable on each manual and pedal and easily cuts through the entire plenum.  

The Pédale division is most often the test of an organ’s ability to move one’s soul. Literally shaking the cathedral’s interior, the fundamentals of the 16 open wood were among the biggest rewards of the project. Crowning the Pédale is the 16 Bombarde, which speaks on 10 inches of pressure.  

Most apparent to the observer, the façade’s pipes were restructured and gilded to match the cathedral’s new gold appointments. Above the pipes is the newly commissioned mural of all the American saints.

The console of the organ was modified and refurbished to comfortably hold a greatly expanded stoplist. New manual claviers, a new pedal clavier, and oblique-style drawknobs were designed and built to support the 41 ranks of total pipework. A user-friendly switching system allows organists the ability to program 300 levels of memory and employ an onboard sequencer. This useful tool makes it possible for organists to record and rehearse registration settings, then witness the organ’s effect from any place within the cathedral. 

The Peragallo family is honored to have participated in the restoration of St. Joseph’s Co-Cathedral. The newly refurbished sanctuary will undoubtedly come to serve as a cornerstone for the Brooklyn Diocese in the coming decades. 

—John Peragallo IV 


The dedication concert will take place Sunday, September 27, at 3 p.m., featuring Christopher Houlihan, a Phillip Truckenbrod Concert Artist. 

Peragallo Pipe Organ Company

John Peragallo, Tonal Director, President 

Frank Peragallo, Design Director,
Vice President

Anthony Peragallo, Operations Director

John Peragallo IV, Creative Director

Ellen Kreil, Administrator 

Mark Matulewicz, electrical 

Timothy Hollister, finishing 

Julio Aguero, mechanicals 

Pelayo Mendoza, woodworking

Thomas Urban, releathering
and restoration 

John Zapotocky, wind chest assembly  

Carl Larson, voicing and tuning

Richard Avila, pipe restoration 

Orlando Ortiz, wind chest assembly 

Bob Martin, pipe restoration 

Andrew Cioffi, maintenance 

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