Cover Feature

June 29, 2018

Cornel Zimmer Organ Builders, Denver, North Carolina

Opus 135

Summerall Chapel at The Citadel, Charleston, South Carolina

Established in 1842, The Citadel stands as one of the foremost military academies in the United States. Situated in the historic city of Charleston, South Carolina, the stately campus exudes magnificent buildings, all with imposing façades, matching one another in simple, symmetric architectural features.

Among the reserve of edifices that house the school, however, is erected the Summerall Chapel—a mighty fortress designed in Gothic style, cruciform in shape, and showered in large, colorful stained glass windows. As the foundation of all religious activity for the school, Summerall Chapel continues to see endless classes of cadets pass through her grand threshold. So important is the Chapel to those that graduate from The Citadel, that many make the pilgrimage back to Charleston to spend what is, for many, the most momentous days of their lives—their weddings. In addition to the joyous occasion of a couple’s wedding, the Chapel offers many special events and services throughout the year, from organ concerts in the L’Organo series of the Piccolo Spoleto Festival to candlelight Christmas services and Sunday morning services, and sees innumerable tour groups on a daily basis. 

In its earliest days, the Chapel housed a 34-rank Reuter pipe organ that saw many additions and modifications during its functional tenure, with the organ totaling 64 ranks when it was last altered in 1965. This project added a large number of ranks of pipes, as well as a new four-manual console. The organ, despite these many efforts to enlarge and improve the instrument over the course of fifty years, unfortunately fell silent as a result of the ravages of a hurricane tearing through the Chapel roof, exposing the organ chambers to the elements, flooding them with the devastating volume of rain accompanying the storm. In the following years, due to the immense demands of the Chapel as a venue for services and associated events, the need for an organ was great. 

With practically nonexistent funds for an organ—either a new one or a significant rebuild of the Reuter that was so badly destroyed—Chapel officials and musicians turned to several electronic organ companies in desperate efforts to lease an instrument until funds could be raised for the replacement of the pipe organ. After enough time elapsed, it was decided to purchase the chosen rental instrument off-lease, making it the official instrument of the Chapel until its downward decline and eminent failure in the early 2000s. 

In 2004 an organ committee was formed, headed by Walter Wilkins of Atlanta, Georgia. An organist himself, Wilkins’s interest in the organ project was strengthened, having one son and one grandson as Citadel graduates. Additionally serving on the organ committee was General Mark Bebensee, another graduate (also class of 1963), who also serves as a faculty member of The Citadel. With the immeasurable help of the director of music and chapel organist, Mrs. Nancy Lefter, the devoted committee interviewed multiple organ firms before ultimately deciding on Cornel Zimmer Organ Builders. 

While many factors affected their decision, the committee of dedicated people heading the organ restoration project particularly found our proposal to be unique and most effective in returning the magnificence of the pipe organ to the Chapel. Understanding that funding for organ projects, be they new organs, rebuilds, or even extensive maintenance, can be minimal or completely absent, Summerall Chapel at The Citadel faced this very situation, much like many others. However, seeing as many as four weddings per day and even more per week at times, the Chapel could not afford to be without an organ while fundraising efforts for the entire project were ongoing. 

With that in mind, we addressed the need for a functional organ while not having sufficient funding to complete the entire rebuild of the instrument all at once, an aspect that set our proposal apart from others. We set our sights on two goals: first, a functioning instrument had to be installed as soon as financially possible, and the fully rebuilt and enlarged pipe organ needed to reclaim its voice. To do this, we had to craft a proposal such that a temporary instrument could be installed with funds that would not be wasted, but rather incorporated into the future phasing-in of work to the organ. Thus, it was decided phase one of the organ project would be a completely new, custom four-manual console, whose stoplist would be that of the finished pipe organ, duplicated—however, for now—in an instrument solely comprising samplings from the Walker Technical Company, a firm with which we are proud to partner. Now, the Chapel would have the console that would play their glorious pipe organ, with all of its future stops, and have a functioning organ in the way of digital samples to see them to the next phase of the project. 

Unfortunately, Mr. Wilkins passed away in 2006 before any fundraising efforts could occur. At that time, Mr. George “Mackay” Salley, also a graduate of The Citadel, class of 1963, rose to the challenge, taking charge of fundraising, while seeing the committee’s work and Wilkins’s legacy continued.

From 2004 until 2014, funds were raised to complete the first phase, and as it is currently installed, the Chapel features a functioning organ while fundraising campaigns continue for upcoming phases. In 2016, a second phase was completed by generous gifts from a few individuals, making possible the installation of the Trumpet Militaire on the west wall of the Chapel—a solo stop on high wind pressure, tonally structured to sing over full organ, featuring casework that incorporates details found not only in the chancel but also on the buildings just outside the doors over which it hangs.  

We are pleased to announce that the next phase of the organ project is commencing—this summer marks the initiation of rebuilding for the Great, Choir, and Pedal divisions of the pipe organ. In late May of this year, our team began removal of these divisions; water-damaged chests, plaster-laden pipes, and crushed wind lines were hoisted from the North chamber. Swell enclosures, shutters, and their frames were removed and retained for improved reconfiguration, with overall efforts made to keep original components of the organ, building new only those things that were too damaged by the effects of the storm. Mixture and top-octave pipes that were pulled from their toe holes, littered about the chambers, and thrown by handfuls into the Choir box to make way for speakers installed with the rental organ in 1985 have been recovered and reunited with their corresponding ranks to undergo thorough cleaning, repair, and voicing. It is with every hope that these divisions will be reinstalled and playing in time for the Chapel’s highly attended candlelight Christmas services in December of this year. Once the pipes are installed, the digital voices will be decommissioned and the again-speaking pipes will be voiced and regulated for the grand acoustic of Summerall Chapel. 

Upon total completion of the organ project, Cornel Zimmer Organ Builders Opus 135 will be one of the largest pipe organs in South Carolina and will boast a reputation exhibited by the other great military schools and their chapels, with notoriety that brings honor to the God and institution it serves, again filling the Chapel walls with sounds of majesty and glory.

Our excitement surrounding this project never dulls—it only increases with each passing day, knowing we are ever closer to hearing the completed instrument once again make its jubilant noise in a space in which it has not sounded in more than thirty years. We continue to be honored by the Chapel and The Citadel’s decision to partner with us in this most esteemed effort to re-gift this magnificent organ its voice. 

—Jacob W. Hill

Cornel Zimmer Organ Builders


GREAT (Unenclosed)

Manual II

16 Sub Principal (digital)

8 First Open Diapason

8 Second Open Diapason

8 Principal Flute

8 Bourdon (digital)

8 Viole de Gambe

8 Gemshorn

4 First Octave

4 Second Octave

4 Hohlflute

223 Twelfth

2 Fifteenth

113 Fourniture IV

1 Cymbale III (digital)

16 Double Trumpet (digital)

8 Tromba

8 Flugel Horn (digital)

4 Clarion

8 Trompette Militaire (Solo)


8 Tuba Major (Choir)


Chimes (Solo)


SWELL (Expressive) Manual III

16 Lieblich Gedeckt

8 Diapason

8 Geigen Principal

8 Voce Umana

8 Salicional

8 Voix Celeste (TC)

8 Rohrflute

4 Octave

4 Flute Triangulaire

223 Nazard

2 Flautino

135 Tierce

2 Plein Jeu IV

16 Basson

8 Trompette

8 Oboe

8 Vox Humana

4 Clarion


Swell to Swell 16

Swell Unison Off

Swell to Swell 4

CHOIR (Expressive) Manual I

16 Dulciana (digital)

8 Principal

8 Concert Flute

8 Dulciana

8 Unda Maris (TC)

8 Gedeckt

4 Octave

4 Koppelflute

2 Super Octave

113 Quinte

113 Scharf IV (digital)

16 Fagotto (digital)

8 Cornopean (digital)

8 English Horn

8 Clarinet

8 Tuba Major (digital)




Choir to Choir 16

Choir Unison Off

Choir to Choir 4

SOLO (Expressive) Manual IV

8 Grand Open Diapason

8 Harmonic Flute

8 Viola Pomposa

8 Viola Celeste

4 Orchestral Flute

Grand Cornet IV

8 French Horn

8 Orchestral Oboe

16 Trompette Militaire

8 Trompette Militaire

16 Tuba Major (Choir)

8 Tuba Major (Choir)

4 Tuba Clarion (Choir)


Flue Tremulant

Reed Tremulant

Solo to Solo 16

Solo Unison Off

Solo to Solo 4

ANTIPHONAL (Unenclosed) Floating

8 Principal

8 Bourdon

8 Erzahler Celeste II

4 Octave

4 Open Flute

2 Fifteenth 

PEDAL (Unenclosed)

32 Contrabass

32 Contra Bourdon (ext)

16 Principal 

16 Sub Principal (Great)

16 Dulciana (Choir)

16 Violone

16 Bourdon

16 Spitzflute (digital)

16 Lieblich Gedeckt (Swell)

8 Octave (ext)

8 Gemshorn (digital)

8 Bourdon (ext)

8 Still Gedeckt

4 Choral Bass

4 Cantus Flute (Solo)

4 Gedeckt (ext)

223 Mixture IV

32 Contre Bombarde (digital)

16 Bombarde

16 Double Trumpet (Great)

16 Basson (Swell)

16 Fagotto (Choir)

8 Bombarde (ext)

16 Trompette Militaire (Solo)

8 Trompette Militaire (Solo)

8 Cornopean (Choir)

4 Clarion (digital)

4 Flugel Horn (Great)



Great to Pedal 8

Great to Pedal 4

Swell to Pedal 8

Swell to Pedal 4

Choir to Pedal 8

Choir to Pedal 4

Solo to Pedal 8

Solo to Pedal 4

Antiphonal to Pedal 8


Swell to Great 16

Swell to Great 8

Swell to Great 4

Choir to Great 16

Choir to Great 8

Choir to Great 4

Solo to Great 16

Solo to Great 8

Solo to Great 4

Antiphonal to Great 8


Swell to Choir 16

Swell to Choir 8

Swell to Choir 4

Solo to Choir 16

Solo to Choir 8

Solo to Choir 4

Antiphonal to Choir 8


Great to Solo 8


Great/Choir exchange

All Swells to Swell



Great to Pedal 8

Swell to Pedal 8

Choir to Pedal 8

Solo to Pedal 8


Swell to Great 8

Choir to Great 8

Solo to Great 8


Swell to Choir 8




Tutti - programmable for each Memory Bank

Crescendo II

Solo Tuba Sub


Contrabass 32

Contra Bourdon 32

Contre Bombarde 32



86 digital ranks

1 pipe rank


Builder’s website:

Summerall Chapel website:

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