Skip to Content

Organ Blessing and Solemn Vespers

Click here for more pictures

The Story Behind The Organ

We are enormously blessed tonight to be celebrating the completion of the installation of our new organ here at St. Gertrude's Parish. We gather in gratitude and thanksgiving for God's generosity! The worship of Almighty God is our duty and our privilege. The highest form of worship given to us by Jesus Christ, through the Church, is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Mass not only deserves, but demands beauty. The music for the liturgy is central, not extra, to this demand. Therefore, the instrument at the heart of the music must be well suited to provide the highest level of beauty of sound, dignity, grandeur, and versatility to this purpose. The investment of time and money in a high quality organ is an investment in beauty and in the liturgical life of any parish, which is its very heart. Thank you for your patience and support during the past several months that it took to accomplish this most worthy task.

On the Feast of Corpus Christi 2016, the parish's 1995 Baldwin electronic organ sounded its last note. This inevitable day had been predicted for several years and the time had finally come to face the very real need to purchase a new organ.

About a year before this I had been given a large envelope labeled "Music- Archives" and I was intrigued to discover that it was full of letters, proposals, and blueprints dating from 1961 - 1964 , all concerning the installation of a full pipe organ. This would be the final step in the completion of the new church building which was dedicated in 1962. These letters were primarily between Fr. James Joyce, OP, Fr. J.B Briggs, OP , Edward Schulte, the architect of the newly built church, and two organ companies.

Two things came to light by reading these correspondences. Most notable was that the church choir loft had been intended from the very start, by the architect and pastor, to house a full pipe organ. Secondly, that while serious conversations about the organ went on for over three years, and though steps forward were made, the project was thwarted time and again by various hold-ups or financial concerns. In 1961 Archbishop Alter would not allow the purchase of the organ because St. Gertrude's was carrying a debt of close to $400,000. Finally in 1964 permission was granted by then Auxiliary Bishop, Paul Liebold, to move ahead with the project as long as the parish had the money designated for that purpose. The organ proposed was to have 57 ranks (that would be over 3000 pipes!), several ranks of which would be exposed and affixed to the back wall. The rest would be contained in the large pipe chambers on either side of the choir loft. This organ would have been built by Casavant Brothers Organ Company in Quebec, the projected cost for such an instrument being about $57,000. And yet, the fulfillment of the grand vision of Fr. Joyce and Edward Schulte never came to pass. After this point, there are no more letters except for one from 1970 that speaks of "the organ now in the church", which was a new Baldwin electronic. Apparently, all proposals to install a pipe organ had gradually been abandoned and passed over for the more economic, fully electronic organ, costing about $20,000.

Tonight we are gathered to celebrate what could be called the completion of the building of the parish's new church- just 55 years later! The organ which has been installed over these last weeks of summer is a hybrid instrument, meaning that it is a combination of true pipes and digital sound. This organ has 7 ranks, which means 434 true pipes. While this does not meet the full vision of the men who planned and built the church, it is a good beginning because over time more pipes can be added to replace the digital components. This allows the parish to grow the organ into a full pipe instrument a few ranks at a time, which is much more financially feasible.

The organ being blessed and played for you tonight is truly a gift to us all. It became available from a church that had closed in Orlando, FL very soon after our need to purchase a new instrument arose. Installed in that church only 10 years ago, we were able to obtain a practically brand new instrument for a very reasonable price. It was built by the Wicks Organ Company of Highland, IL with digital component by the Walker Technical Company of Zionsville, PA. I look forward to praying many, many beautiful liturgies here with you, with this instrument, which will continue to be a gift to the parish for many generations to come!

by Catherine Fishlock , Director of Music