A NEW ORGAN FOR CHRIST CHURCH

Experience C.B. Fisk Opus 150 

The Esther Wideman Memorial Organ, C.B. Fisk Opus 150

“The pipe organ is the closest instrument physiologically to the human voice, and with its capacity for sustained tone, the ideal accompaniment to the voice.” — Christ Church organist and choir director Parker Kitterman

On May 5 and 6, Christ Church Philadelphia  dedicated the Esther Wideman Memorial Organ, built by C.B. Fisk Organ Builders of Gloucester, Massachusetts. 

Christ Church and the Christ Church Preservation Trust contracted with Fisk in 2015 for a comprehensive three-manual organ to be incorporated into the existing historic case built by Henry Erben in 1837, with the pipework positioned entirely out of the church’s tower space and into the nave proper.  This short video shows a quick time-lapse look through the entire process of creating the instrument and restoring the historic organ case.

Christ Church and the Christ Church Preservation Trust have $220,000 remaining to raise for Fisk Opus 150, a $3.5 million project. Please help us by donating here.


The Esther Wideman Memorial Organ, C.B. Fisk Opus 150: 2018-2019 season

Check back for more details on programming and repertoire.

Wednesday July 4, 7 p.m.Parker Kitterman and Wesley Parrott will present a fun, crowd-friendly program of all-American music entitled “Patriotic Pipes.” Free concert and followed by a tour of the organ

August 3, 7 p.m., Lucas Brown: Bach, Alain, and Improv.  “First Friday” concert, followed by an organ crawl; all are welcome, free-will offerings gratefully accepted. 

September 7, 7 p.m., Anna and Erik Meyer: Flute and Organ.  “First Friday” concert, followed by an organ crawl; all are welcome, free-will offerings gratefully accepted.

October 5, 7 p.m., Eric Plutz et al: Leo Sowerby Celebration.  “First Friday” concert, followed by an organ crawl; all are welcome, free-will offerings gratefully accepted.

October 14, 5 p.m., Choral Vespers.  Music and readings in a reflective setting to finish the weekend and begin your week.

November 2, 7:30 p.m., Kathleen Scheide: Petr Eben “Labyrinth.”  First Friday” concert, followed by an organ crawl; all are welcome, free-will offerings gratefully accepted.

November 4, 5 p.m., Choral Vespers.  Music and readings in a reflective setting to finish the weekend and begin your week.

December 7, 7 p.m., Robert Horton: Elgar, Mozart and Improv.  First Friday” concert, followed by an organ crawl; all are welcome, free-will offerings gratefully accepted.

December 9, 5 p.m., Choral Vespers.  Music and readings in a reflective setting to finish the weekend and begin your week.

January 4, 7 p.m., Parker Kitterman: Olivier Messiaen’s “La Nativité.”  First Friday” concert, followed by an organ crawl; all are welcome, free-will offerings gratefully accepted.

February 10, 5 p.m., Choral Vespers.  Music and readings in a reflective setting to finish the weekend and begin your week.

March 1, 7 p.m., Sandor Kadar: Masters of Improvisation.  First Friday” concert, followed by an organ crawl; all are welcome, free-will offerings gratefully accepted.

March 17, 5 p.m., Choral Vespers.  Music and readings in a reflective setting to finish the weekend and begin your week.

April 5, 7 p.m., Parker Kitterman: Marcel Dupré “The Way of the Cross.”  First Friday” concert, followed by an organ crawl; all are welcome, free-will offerings gratefully accepted.

May 3. 7 p.m., John Walthausen: Spectral Sounds.  First Friday” concert, followed by an organ crawl; all are welcome, free-will offerings gratefully accepted.

May 12, 5 p.m., Choral Vespers.  Music and readings in a reflective setting to finish the weekend and begin your week.

June 9, 5 p.m., Choral Vespers.  Music and readings in a reflective setting to finish the weekend and begin your week.                                             


Crafting a Pipe Organ and Its Home

A gamba player tests acoustics in the organ case.

To study the church’s sound audibility, singers and musicians performed for an acoustician at different locations and elevations in the sanctuary. Philadelphia’s most renowned preservation architects then made historically sensitive improvements, including the construction of a new acoustic wall to close the gaping portal in the steeple tower, also part of the Trust’s steeple preservation campaign.

Christ Church shipped the 19th-century wooden Erben case to Gloucester, Massachusetts, so the new organ could be built within it. There, the Fisk team had started the herculean process behind the making of a pipe organ.

"Voicing" the pipes of an organ

For the new Christ Church instrument, welders cast, cut and shaped 3,099 pipes — each one then moved to Christ Church and handled, adjusted, and tuned by builders from the Fisk team. Through rods of carbon fiber, artisans connected valves at the base of the pipes to the organ’s keyboard: this direct mechanical connection, called “tracker action,” allows the organist’s fingertips to trigger the release of pressurized air through the pipes. As the source of a pipe organ’s sound, mechanical tracker action replaces the electricity relied upon by mass-produced organs. 

Organ case parts in Fisk's workshop

Fisk craftspeople also built the wind chests that hold the organ’s pressurized air, inserted stops, and assembled the organ’s console. They sanded and repainted the moulding of the 1836 Erben case, and re-gilded the urns that sit atop the casing. As soon as the pipe organ sang to Fisk’s satisfaction and fit perfectly into the casing, it was disassembled and sent to Philadelphia, where voicers once again engaged in the painstaking tuning process of each pipe, now to fit the acoustics of Christ Church.  This short video shows the whole process of conception to completion of Opus 150.

Fisk Opus 150 is the only mechanical-action organ of its kind in Philadelphia. We look forward to sharing it with singers, chamber musicians, composers, teachers, artists, and students. Please visit Christ Church to participate in one of our dedicatory events and performances.

 

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