300 N. Sheppard St. Richmond, VA 23221
Main Office: (804) 254-8810
Emergency Number Outside of Regular Office Hours: (804) 254-0887
“In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church’s ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man’s mind to God and to higher things.”
— Vatican Council II,
Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium
Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI explained that, “The organ has been considered, and rightly so, the king of musical instruments, because it takes up all the sounds of creation… and gives resonance to the fullness of human sentiments, from joy to sadness, from praise to lamentation.”
The parish has a superb organ that enhances its celebration of Mass: Opus 5 by Martin Pasi. This organ is also played at various concerts and other programs sponsored by organizations including the American Guild of Organists (AGO), serving as a means of proclaiming the Christian message and the Catholic faith to the wider community.
Great Swell Pedal
16’ Bourdon 8’ Viol da Gamba 16’ Subbass
8’ Principal 8’ Celeste 8’ Bourdon*
8’ Suavial t.c. 8’ Bourdon 8’ Principal
8’ Salicional 4’ Flute Harm. 4’ Octave*
8’ Rohrflöte 2’ Octavin 16’ Posaune
4’ Octave III Cornet t.g. 8’ Trompete*
3’ Quint 8’ Cromorne
1 3/5’ Tierce
Pasi Organ Builders, Opus 5
2 manuals, 24 stops
Built in 1996. Relocated in 2013.
One manual coupler
Two pedal couplers
Wind system with one wedge-shaped bellows
58-note keyboards with boxwood naturals
and ebony sharps
Zimbelstern (added 2017)
Temperament: Mark Brombaugh Mild
From the Builder
In 1993, we were commissioned to build a new organ for a home addition especially designed to house the instrument. The concept for our Opus 5 initially resembled our first church organ, Opus 2, but eventually developed into a 24-stop organ installed in a beautiful private recital hall with exemplary acoustics. Although in a private residence, Opus 5 enjoyed considerable exposure to the local, regional, and even national connoisseurs of organ music.
When it came time for the original owner to move out of the house and sell the organ, St. Benedict Catholic Church of Richmond, Virginia, asked us to study the feasibility of moving the organ to its church building. The instrument promised to fit into the building as if it had been designed for it—as long as the rose window in the back gallery could be covered. When all was weighed in the balance, the proposal to acquire the organ won the day, the instrument was purchased, and plans were made to move the organ in August 2013 from its home in the Pacific Northwest to Virginia. We first brought the instrument back to our shop to make sure everything was in good order, and to make changes to the rear case so that it could be freestanding in its new home.
The polychromed case is made of poplar and is modeled after famous Dutch organs of the 17th and 18th centuries. The main case houses the large Great division. The smaller Swell division is placed behind the Great in the rear case, flanked by the independent Pedal division. The carved pipe shades are covered in gold leaf.
All of the metal pipes—flue and reed—were made in our shop, from the casting of the metal through to the completed pipes. They are made of 97% lead with trace impurities of copper, bismuth, and antimony to help stiffen the metal. To enhance the intensity of their sound, the metal is hammered after casting, which tightens its molecular structure. The Subbass pipes are the only wood pipes in the organ; they are made of poplar.
An electric blower supplies wind to the organ, which is stored and regulated in a single wedge-shaped bellows measuring three feet by six feet. The bellows and blower are located inside the organ. This wind system imparts a gentle flexibility to the organ’s sound, allowing the pipes to sound more like a choir of human voices than an impassive machine.
Both the stop action and key action are mechanical, the latter being of the “suspended” type, in which the keys literally hang from the pallets, yielding a light and responsive touch. The manual keys are made of boxwood with ebony sharps. The organ is tuned in an unequal temperament favoring the keys nearer C major, while remaining harmonious in all keys. Originally tuned in Herman Kellner’s “Bach” temperament, Opus 5 is now tuned in “Mark Brombaugh Mild,” a temperament we have used in our most recent organs.
The organ draws its tonal inspiration from the great northern European organs of the 17th and 18th centuries, leavening its resources with strings on both manuals and harmonic flutes, as well as a principal celeste in the manner of the Italian Voce humana—a voice appearing in several of our organs that we call “Suavial.” The original manual reeds were French but needed to be changed to German style to better suit the room acoustics in its original home.
In this final form, the organ is capable of rendering all of the major textures associated with classical traditions of liturgical organ playing. It is at the same time remarkably flexible in providing choral accompaniment and rendering 19th- and 20th-century organ literature. Even more important to me, however, is the hope that people will find beauty in the organ, and that it will inspire musicians to create new music for celebrations of the communities it serves.
Relocating an instrument sometimes brings mixed feelings. In this instance, however, I am grateful for the very special opportunity and vision of the original commission, and I’m thrilled that the organ has a new home that is architecturally and acoustically beautiful, embraced by a vigorous worshiping community, and at the daily disposal of extraordinary musical talent.
Thank you to the musicians and leaders at St. Benedict’s for giving the organ a new life, and to our entire crew at Pasi Organ Builders for preparing and moving the organ and fitting it so perfectly in its new home.
This excerpt appeared as the cover feature of the September, 2014 issue of The American Organist. Copyright 2014, by the American Guild of Organists. Reproduced by permission of The American Organist Magazine and Martin Pasi.
Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor from our parish, a Zimbelstern stop has been added to our pipe organ. Common on Northern European organs of the 16th through 18th centuries, a Zimbelstern (German for “Cymbal star,” or “bell star,”) is a stop consisting of a wooden star mounted on the organ case that rotates when the stop is engaged, as well as a set of small bells which produce a tinkling sound to accompany the playing of the organ.
At the blessing of our organbuilder, Martin Pasi, Christopher Bono of Taylor & Boody Organbuilders, in Staunton VA, was selected to build our Zimbelstern. Our custom-built Zimbelstern includes five bells, specially cast for us by the B.A. Sunderlin Bellfoundry in Ruther Glen, VA. The gilded star was carved by hand by Robbie Lawson of Taylor & Boody Organbuilders. Following traditional organbuilding practices, our Zimbelstern is completely mechanical, utilizing the same wind that makes the pipes sound. This stop is activated by a hitchdown pedal, and its installation preserves the craftsmanship and historic integrity of our beautiful organ.
Photography by Bill Van Pelt, Jane Dudley,
and Joel S. Kumro.
For more information, contact Joel S. Kumro, the Choirmaster and Organist