Saint Joseph's Church SSt. Joseph's Church, Detroit, Michigan
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St. Joseph's organ

 

 

 

St. Joseph’s original organ was Opus 121 of J. H. & C. S. Odell, a two-manual 32-rank tracker, then said to be the second-largest organ in Michigan. It was incomplete at the time of the church’s dedication and the dedicatory recital was held in March, 1874, and, most unusually for the time, included three works of Johann Sebastian Bach.

The case was made by Detroit cabinetmaker Wilhelm Mayer to a design by the architect of the church. The original stenciling of the facade pipes survives, although somewhat darkened with age, the original ground color having been a soft grey-green.

In 1915, the organ was transformed into an electric-action three-manual instrument on universal windchests by Henry Hammer of Detroit, and in 1941 Hilgreen-Lane installed a new console and did other work. By 1970, the organ was unplayable, and the large quantity of Odell pipework still
in it was largely ruined by inappropriate revoicing and abusive tuning methods.

In 1972, to celebrate the centennial of the building, the parish commissioned a new mechanical-action instrument, the case and as much pipework as possible to be retained. No attempt to duplicate the Odell was intended, but given the character of the building, the case, and the usable pipework, it was decided to use the Odell stoplist as the basis for the new specification and to attempt a modern interpretation of an American 19th century organ.

Ranks partially or wholly by Odell are indicated in the stoplist; while there are many other older ranks in the organ, these have been so thoroughly altered that to identify them seems beside the point.

The new organ was dedicated on November 25, 1973, by Marie-Claire Alain, with a program ranging from Bach and Bruhns to Jehan Alain, and including the three Bach works played in 1874. Like its nineteenth century antecedents, the organ has turned out to be exceedingly versatile, and has provided the basis for the revitalization of the parish's music program, including a weekly mass in Latin and the continuation of the tradition of the orchestral Mass setting for major feasts. It has also been used for for public recitals by organists including Christopher Herrick, formerly of Westminster Abbey , and recitals for meetings and conventions of the American Guild of Organists and the Organ Historical Society. In a review of Thomas M. Kuras 1995 recital for the Organ Historical Society, the national magazine for organists The Diapason,” said, “…it is a versatile, eclectic instrument of impressive musical value…We went out into the night on a genuine high.”

Click here to see the organ's stop list.