Organ Project Nearing Completion

The final phase of the Saint Vincent organ project is nearing completion, with installation of the gallery organ in the Archabbey Basilica. The instrument was manufactured by the John-Paul Buzard Organ Company of Champaign, Illinois, and should be completed in August.

The first part of the project was completed in 2010 with installation of an apse organ for smaller liturgical functions. Since that time, Buzard, a master organ builder, has been working on the second phase, a three-manual and pedal organ of 50 stops, with 70 ranks of pipes. The acquisition of a new organ is one of the last major investments to be made since the restoration of the Basilica began in 1995. The new instrument replaces a Möller pipe organ installed in the 1950s. Father Cyprian G. Constantine, O.S.B., is serving as coordinator of the project, with Father Vincent de Paul Crosby, O.S.B., serving as design consultant.

“This has been a long project in the making and we’re very glad that it is coming to fruition,” Father Cyprian said “There will be two organs, one in the apse of the Basilica where the monks have their services, and the second one in the gallery, but the console will control both organs. The organist will be able to play both organs from the console or each organ separately.

“This is a pipe organ, not an electronic substitute,” he said, “so the sound is coming from real wind-blown pipes and not from electronic speakers.”

The process of building an organ consists of many parts, Father Cyprian said. Some pipes from the old Möller organ have been reconditioned and will be reused in the new organ. “Wind chests and bellows and wind ways and pipes are all assembled at the factory, but then they have to be hauled piece by piece up into the gallery and then put together like a jigsaw puzzle. It is all very carefully engineered and marked out to the very inch in the gallery so that no space is wasted and so that the organ is fit into the gallery space.”

Workmen from the Buzard company constructed a scaffolding in the back of the Basilica and are carefully winching up each piece, in a finely choreographed order, due to limited workspace.
Some pipes, Father Cyprian noted, will be “lying on the floor because we didn’t want to obscure the rose window in the gallery. These are very long pipes that correspond to very low notes in the keyboard. That was part of the requirement of the design. They have engineered all of this so that it will be a full functioning instrument with all of its proper tonal qualities but still fit the space and the design of the church.

“This is not something you can go to the store and purchase,” he said. “It is all hand-crafted and hand-designed for our particular acoustics, our particular worship needs, chanting and singing hymns, and parish liturgies, organ literature and teaching. There is no other instrument like it.”
Father Cyprian said that there are four different divisions of pipes, called “Great,” “Swell,” “Choir,” and “Pedal.” Each division contains ranks of pipes which produce particular characteristic sounds for that division. The ranks in the “Swell” and “Choir” divisions are enclosed in two large boxes (called “swell boxes”), located on either side of the rear of the organ gallery. Each swell box is open on two sides, and the openings are fitted with vertical shutters, which the organist can open or close by means of a foot pedal at the console, to increase or decrease (or “swell”) the volume of the sound. The ranks of pipes in the “Great” division are unenclosed; these ranks produce the most characteristic organ sound, which in large part support congregational singing. Many of the ranks of pipes for the great division will be in the center of the gallery; others will stand in front of the swell and choir divisions. The ranks of pipes in the “Pedal” division produce the lowest sounds of the tonal spectrum. Some of the longest pipes in the great and pedal divisions will form the façade of the organ case.

The instrument also includes mechanical work for winding the organ. There are various ducts to get the wind into the wind chests. The wind is produced under pressure and piped through various ducts to the wind chests in the organ. Pipes are placed vertically in their ranks above the windchests, supported from above and below. Each pipe has a specific diameter and length for the particular sound that needs to be produced, a particular level and quality of pitch. Thus, the mechanical work that has to be done to provide wind for the organ is a complicated piece of engineering.

“This is a relatively small gallery as galleries go, so the organ had to be well-engineered so that it could all fit together as a puzzle in this space,” Father Cyprian said. “The Buzard company has done an excellent job in working with that and providing a beautiful sounding instrument for us. We are looking very much forward to the sound.”

During the second week of August more pipe work will be brought in after the rest of the framework and casing and mechanicals are finished.

“Then,” he said, “we will really begin to see it take shape. We will be hearing some real sounds from the organ and the pipes will be voiced. A single pipe has to be voiced properly for this particular space so that each pipe sounds uniform in its own rank and that it sounds the best in these acoustics.”

The dedication of the new Archabbey Basilica Gallery Organ is scheduled for November, 2014. The dedication concert will be given by Father Cyprian a native of Boulder, Colorad, and a member of the monastic community since 1971. Father Cyprian studied piano and violin at an early age before undertaking organ studies in his native Colorado. He earned the bachelor of music education degree in 1971 at the University of Colorado, where he studied violin with Oswald Lehnert and organ with Don Vollstedt. He earned the master of divinity degree from Saint Vincent Seminary in 1976 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1977.

Father Cyprian received the master of music degree from Northwestern University in 1979, where he studied organ with Wolfgang Rübsam. While at Northwestern he met John-Paul Buzard, whose company is building the new Basilica organ. After his master’s degree in 1979, he was named organist/director of music for Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Greensburg. He returned to the Archdiocese of Denver in 1993 to help out his mother after his father’s death, and served as organist at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver and director of liturgy for the Archdiocese. Later, he returned to the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he received the doctor of musical arts degree in organ in 1992. While a doctoral student at Colorado University, Father Cyprian was organist/director of music at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Denver and served as organist/choirmaster and parochial vicar for Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in Boulder.

Father Cyprian has appeared many times as organ recitalist in the Saint Vincent College concert series, and in other series around the country: Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Pittsburgh; Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Harrisburg; the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C.; Whatley Chapel at the University of Denver, St. Paul’s and Our Savior’s Lutheran churches, Trinity Methodist and First Baptist churches in Denver; as dedicatory recitalist in Covington, Kentucky and Baltimore, Maryland., as well as in Rome, Italy. He is principal organist and instructor in music for the monastery novices, and assistant professor of fine arts and Music Department chairman at Saint Vincent College, director of the Archabbey Schola and also director of liturgical formation and faculty member for Saint Vincent Seminary.

The Saint Vincent Camerata will perform two concerts celebrating the new organ, the first “Rejoice at the Sound of the Pipe!” on Saturday, November 8 and the second on Saturday and Sunday, December 6 and 7, “Festival of Lessons and Carols.”

In honor of the new organ, one of the forthcoming Saint Vincent College Concert Series performances will feature Alan Morrison, one of America’s premier concert organists. He will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 21 in the Basilica. Morrison has recorded ten critically acclaimed CDs for Gothic Records, ACA Digital Recording, and DTR. These and other concert performances are regularly featured on American Public Media’s Pipedreams and Performance Today, and on radio stations throughout many countries. On television he has been featured on two episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and on Georgia Public Television in a performance of the Shostakovich Piano Concerto No. 1. In 2003, He appeared with Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma for the Fred Rogers Memorial Service, which was telecast live from Pittsburgh’s Heinz Hall.