Our pipe organ was designed specifically for our worship space and was an integral element in the overall design of the new Saint Bede Catholic Church. Our organ consists of two main components: the main organ that is located behind the musicians, and the processional organ above the entry doors.
The main organ in its case is 32 feet tall, constructed of solid 1½” white oak to match liturgical furnishings. This organ accompanies the choir and other ensembles, and leads the congregation in song.
The processional organ is much smaller, but utilizes similar architectural proportions, shapes, and rhythms. Located above the entrance from the Commons Area, it features a set of horizontally mounted pontifical trumpets made of polished copper with large orchestral bells to herald the arrival of the Bishop, other dignitaries, or brides at their weddings. When the main and processional organs are used together, the congregation will experience a unique “surround sound” effect.
The organ cases compliment the Georgian Architectural concepts used in the design of the exterior of our buildings and in the design of the Commons. They were designed to articulate the instrument’s vertical structure. They incorporate dark red mahogany accents for visual interest, emphasizing the rhythm of the repeated towers and open areas displaying the large open metal pipes. The Celtic Cross of the Holy Spirit mosaic in the Commons floor is incorporated into the case design, albeit in a simplified manner.
The organ’s console, recognizable to most as the organist’s keyboard and command center, is also made of 1½” solid white oak. Its interior woodworking, where stop-knobs and keyboards are mounted, is solid dark red mahogany, to provide a contrast and make the musical notes, stops, and keys easier for the organist to see. This is important because music written for organ, and sensitive hymn accompaniments, require the organist to change the stop settings while playing. The 183 keys of the console’s three keyboards are plated in polished bone and ebony (ivory is unavailable in the quantity required). Some 47 stops control the 54 ranks of pipes, blending sounds, tones and intensities. Underneath is a 32-note pedal keyboard. The entire console unit is mounted on a slim, movable platform for ultimate flexibility.
What sets any pipe organ apart from its electronic counterparts is, of course, its pipes. Our organ contains some 3600 pipes, each of which produces its designated sound when wind from the blower (located in the basement) flows through it. The largest pipes are a soaring 32 feet high; the smallest about ¼ inch. The pipes are made from woods and a variety of metals selected for the tone colors they produce. The largest wooden pipes made of poplar produce dark tones—those representing the low musical pitches of tubas, trombones, and the bass of non-imitative organ-tone. Smaller wooden pipes made from Honduran Mahogany produce orchestral and non-imitative flute tones. Metal pipes are a mixture of tin and lead—much like pewter—and produce organ-specific tones, as well as orchestral imitations of strings, flutes, reeds, and brass.
The result of these various pipes, ranks, keyboards, stops, and pedals is a rich, dynamic melding of pitches, tones and volumes, designed to enhance the worship experience from the smallest, most intimate gathering to a robust, church filled celebration.
From early rough sketches on a notepad, through pages of elaborate schematic drawings, our organ has been more than 10,000 man hours in the making. Constructed in Champaign, Illinois by noted organ builder John-Paul Buzard, the instrument was assembled in their erecting room, tested, dismantled, and trucked to us in Williamsburg.