Swelling pipe organ sounds soon at the Cathedral

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One of my sonic memories of music at the Cathedral of St. Paul is busloads of basses brought in for a performance. It happened a few years ago as Philip Brunelle and VocalEssence prepared to perform a piece that called for lots of singers with a healthy lower register.

Philip knows that to fill the Cathedral with sound you need horsepower, or in this case, bass power, and thus the recruitment of basses from several colleges.

Lately, the Cathedral of St. Paul’s two pipe organs have struggled to fill the worship space with sound when there’s a capacity audience of 3000. That concern likely ends March 30th, Easter vigil, when people will hear the results of a $3.4 million restoration of the two organs.

Listen today during All Things Considered for a new episode of Minnesota Sounds and Voices where I chat with some of the folks involved in this massive project.

The new sound rests in large measure in the hands of the internationally acclaimed Quimby Pipe Organs company based in Missouri. They’re in charge of new wiring and solid state switching, two identical four-manual consoles with complete complements of stops, couplers and pistons to control both organs, restoration and releathering of gallery organ windchest mechanisms, complete cleaning and restoration of all existing pipework. And more.

There’ll be an additional batch of pipes called bombarde and other refinements which should increase and certainly greatly enhance the Cathedral’s pipe organ volume and sound.

Jeff Thompson’s very fine photo hints at the scale of the project. He captured an image of crew members from Geoff’s Woodworking in Richmond, Calf. as they assemble the wood casements that will surround the refurbished organ pipes at the Cathedral.

The Cathedral’s organs, which will feature new consoles, linked by fiber optics, a walnut casement and refurbished pipes, are scheduled for completion on March 30, 2013.

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