A concert tonight will mark completion of the three-year, $3.4 million restoration project.
The Cathedral of St. Paul, consistently rated among the Twin Cities’ most visited sites, finally has got the big voice to go along with its imposing, classic Beaux-Arts looks.
On Thursday, the cathedral will officially take the wraps off its two newly refurbished pipe organs in the sanctuary and choir loft, marking the end of a three-year restoration project that propels the St. Paul church into the first rank of organ venues in the country.
The $3.4 million project also helps complete the church’s original design by French architect Emmanuel Masqueray, whose plans to properly house the choir loft’s organ pipes went unfinished until now. The hand-carved gilded walnut casework for the pipes was designed by University of Notre Dame architect Duncan Stroik, based on Masqueray’s blueprints, and crafted by a California studio.
Fundraising for the project was recently concluded successfully by the Cathedral Heritage Foundation, which now will build an endowment to maintain the organs.
For months now, a team from Missouri-based Quimby Pipe Organs has been restoring and adjusting the St. Paul Cathedral’s two organs.
Click on the audio link below to hear the conversation, and see the Quimby workers at work.
Fans compare pipe organs to orchestras, with settings and stops designed to allow a musician to mimic woodwinds, brass, percussion, strings and more. Cathedral of St. Paul sacred music director Lawrence Lawyer — one such fan — says you can feel their power especially in the lower pitches, when the wind through the pipes vibrates the air around your body.
A pipe organ worth the name, he suggests, should cause dress hems and pant cuffs to flutter just a bit.
But while the Cathedral of St. Paul has a splendid array of bells outside, the structure’s aging pipe organ insides had been struggling of late. Its switches and other controls were a bit out of date and worse for wear, and the pipes themselves were in need of some restoration.
The Cathedral’s $3.5 million organ restoration project is nearing completion.
The two pipe organs, which are located in the sanctuary and in the rear gallery (the choir loft), were restored by Quimby Pipe Organs of Warrensburg, Mo. The E. M. Skinner Organ Company built the sanctuary organ in 1927, and the Æolian-Skinner Organ Company added the Gallery organ in 1963.
The restoration project — which began last September with the dismantling and shipping of the organs — included complete tonal refurbishing of both organs.
Quimby Pipe Organ workers are installing two fully restored historic pipe organs in the Cathedral of St. Paul’s sanctuary and choir gallery. The two organs total seventy-one ranks, eighty stops and contain 4,560 pipes.
The installation of the E.M. Skinner and AEolian-Skinner organs, which were first installed in 1927, will be repositioned behind the main alter inside the cathedral and will take nearly three months to complete. The first sounding of the organ will be at the Easter Vigil on Saturday, March 30th at 8 p.m.
As the first walls of the Cathedral of St. Paul began to form more than 100 years ago, church leaders envisioned a grand building that would define St. Paul. But money dried up before they could put on a dome.
On Sept. 19, 1912, more than 40 civic leaders — of all faiths — sat for lunch at the St. Paul Hotel. By the end of the meal, the state’s biggest movers and shakers decided to pay for the dome themselves, said Eric Hansen, who wrote the biography of the Cathedral of St. Paul.
On Friday, Sept. 28, the Cathedral Heritage Foundation will gather at the same hotel to celebrate the historic landmark, and to raise money for its upkeep. The foundation owes more than $6 million for its renovation, said cathedral rector, the Rev. John Ubel.
At Friday’s gala, they hope to recapture the civic fortitude that built the church.
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Rob Ridgell, Director of Sacred Music, talks about the Cathedral’s two Skinner pipe organs on Comcast Newsmakers during the home stretch of the organ restoration project.