In 1996, the 78-year-old organ at the First Presbyterian Church in
Albany, New York underwent a complete renovation thanks in large part
to a very generous donation to the church from the estate of Yvonne
Regan. The restoration, which included the organ and the organ pipe
chamber (replacing crumbling walls up in the chamber, installing
badly needed lighting, etc.,) cost over $100,000. The entire organ
from top to bottom was dismantled and repaired. The cleaning alone
required that all 2,094 pipes be removed so that their interiors as
well as exteriors could be cleaned and repaired. Having all the dead
insects, debris, and dust of over 70 years cleaned out of the chamber
helped to clarify the tone. Two new stops designed at Casavant
Frères Ltée specifically for this organ were added: the
Trumpet and the four-rank Mixture.
The pipes of the Vox Humana (which had been removed some 40 or 50
years ago and stored in the basement of the church) were all cleaned
and returned to their place on the Swell. The Harp, an original 1923
stop, was restored. In June of 1996 Luc Santoire began this
monumental restoration project, completing the work six months later
just in time for the Christmas Eve service.
This organ was one of four instruments all made by the Canadian firm
of Casavant Frères Ltée in Quebec and donated to houses
of worship in the Albany New York area by Miss Frances Adelaide
Strong. (This same benefactor also donated the "Sea of
Gallilee" Tiffany Window prominent in the First Presbyterian
Church sanctuary.) In 1923 the First Presbyterian Church organ was
installed by George
Santoire, authorized representative of Casavant, with the help of his
father. Since that time this organ has been in the continuous care of
the same family, being presently maintained by the fourth generation
of Santoires. The organ has four manuals, or keyboards, along with a
32-note pedal board. It has 52 ranks (sets of pipes) each producing a
particular sound, such as flutes, strings, reeds, trumpets, and diapasons.
Originally, the organ and most of the pipes were visible in the
chancel area behind the center pulpit. Around 1927, the organ pipes
were moved to their present location up above the chancel behind a
lattice work; however, the lattice was subsequently covered with a
painted cloth, muffling the sound. During the 1996 sanctuary
renovation, this cloth cover was removed allowing the organ sound to
project into the sanctuary, significantly increasing its brightness.
In 1988 the original console was replaced and the new console
installed in its present location to the right of the lectern. For
special events and concerts, this new console may be moved out to the
front of the church.
To round out the sound of our pipe organ, in 2005 the Walker
Technical Company added 11 digital stops, which included two new
mixtures on the manuals, as well as a principal chorus and two
32-foot stops in the pedal, resulting in a fuller, brighter more
satisfying sound. The Walker Paradox System reproduces extremely
accurate and realistic pipe organ sounds blending with and impossible
to distinguish from real pipes."
Today the First Presbyterian Church in Albany has a "King of
Instruments" that is as exciting to listen to as it is
satisfying to play.
Click here for a small sampling of Nancy Frank's talent - an MP3
recording of J.S. Bach'sNun komme, der Heiden Heilandfrom
our Advent Vespers 2003 (arrangement by Paul Manz).
Or how about Jehan Alain's Litanies from Trois Pièces pour Grand Orgue? (2011 recording)