Photos 3: Scottish Rite Cathedral, Saint Louis, Missouri

The Scottish Rite Cathedral in Saint Louis was built in 1924 at a cost in excess of 2 million dollars at the time.  It was designed by architect William B. Ittner, and its style is one of grandeur and magnificent proportions.  The frontage on Lindell Blvd. is 235 feet with an average depth of 175 feet.  The height from street level to roof is 104 feet.  There are 3 main stories of which the great height of the Auditorium permits with 3 mezzanine floors, thus making 5 stories above the Dining Room level.

In passing through the great bronze doors ornamented with emblematic designs and up a short flight of stairs one reaches a spacious lobby or main floor.  It is here that the general offices of the Rite are housed.  The lobby is 166 feet long and 23 feet wide.  The Auditorium which is entered on this level is 165 feet wide and 130 feet long, and its great height is 58 feet from floor to ceiling.  Its seating capacity is approximately 3 thousand people.  The stage is 98 feet long, 4 feet more than the Hippedrome stage in New York City.  On this stage 480 men in military uniform formation can be placed.  Large curtains hang from the ceiling of the stage having 164 changes of scenery suitable for the Rite's degree work.

On the east side of the Auditorium is the Candidate's Room, 35 feet by 85 feet long with a height of 25 feet giving a sense of dignity and spaciousness.  The seating capacity is 600 persons.  It is here that candidates receive final instructions on the degrees, and it is the meeting place of the Class.  On the west side of the Auditorium are 2 dressing rooms between which is the Wardrobe Room fitted with specially designed cases for housing hundreds of robes and costumes used in the degrees.

The Lounge and Library may be reached by going down a short flight of stairs from the main entrance.  The Lounge is open daily for members and visitors.  It is 55 feet wide and 166 feet long with smaller rooms at each end (The Billiard Room, the Card Room, and the Ladies Lounge used by the Scottish Rite Woman's Club meetings, etc.).  The Lounge is beautifully decorated and furnished with restful chairs and tables.

The Dining Room is on the lower level (one level below the Lounge), is 101 feet by 230 feet, and can provide for feeding 2 thousand people at tables.  The kitchen is at the rear and is practically a 2 story room.  It is 96 feet wide by 48 feet deep.   Here are assembled cooking and serving equipment sufficient for preparing a full banquet requiring about 3 tons of foodstuff.

A world class, one-of-a-kind, national treasure of a pipe organ was also built by the W.W. Kimball Company of Chicago, Illinois, to accompany the Scottish Rite choir and fill the spacious Auditorium of 1-1/4 million cubic feet with sound.  This historic electropneumatic action instrument (KPO 6763) was installed in October of 1924 and is equipped with 4 manuals, 144 stops, angled stop jambs, 53 ranks, 3,859 pipes, 16 percussions (tuned and untuned), and all 9 divisions enclosed rendering it fully expressive from top to bottom.  This organ was granted citation status (No. 291) in 2003 for historic merit by the Organ Historical Society, which is the highest level of recognition the OHS may grant to a precious, historic instrument.  It was through the efforts of this author that this citation was granted to this organ.

One's first impression when sitting at this colossal affair and trying out its stops is that it's an awful lot of organ ... a truly musical instrument which can truly express the entire range of human emotion and sensitivity at the touch of a key.  One also gets the sense that playing a pipe organ isn't merely an esthetic experience -- it isn't just something somebody does because they like it -- but it's attached to something sublime, something profound.  It's something that can open the gates of heaven before any and all listeners who have an open heart.  Keeping an instrument like this fully playable isn't merely a matter of giving to a noble project for its own space exclusively, but it's something more broad than that.  It's supporting great organ music which spans hundreds of years, and this music will be heard by countless numbers of people, indefinitely into the future.

An organist seated at this instrument is immediately awestruck ... not merely by its size but by its beauty, dynamic palette, striking color stops, and that it's voiced to speak with the power of an organ more than twice its size.  The Kimball company employed some of the finest technicians and pipe voicers in the world during the 1920's, and this instrument represents a style of organ building and manifests a quality of construction that we are not likely to see ever again.  Against an ample background of foundation tone and an 8-rank string chorus this builder placed a wealth of soft effects, imitative orchestral color, and some big high pressure reeds, all enclosed from top to bottom.  The result is a truly musical instrument as flexible and expressive as the united forces of a grand symphony orchestra, while having a range which exceeds it.

NOTE:  Another thing the organist will notice is that the pedalboard is concave but deviates slightly in its radiation from the AGO standard (the standard pedalboard radiation first recommended in 1933 by the AGO to organ builders specifies an 8 foot 6 inch radius, with 8 feet 6 inches being minimum and 9 feet 6 inches the maximum).  Although many of the recommended AGO standard console measurements developed in 1933 were taken from the Kimball builders, this Kimball instrument was built 9 years anterior to the publication of these standards and thus does not, in this respect, adhere precisely to them (the radiation of this pedalboard seems like it could be at least 50 per cent less than the AGO standard, having a much larger radius -- enough, at any rate, to be noticeable).  This means that, for organists used to performing on a pedalboard built to the "AGO standard," it may take a little practice to "feel" the extreme pedal keys accurately with the feet without looking down.

Imagine the thrill of being an organist seated at an instrument like this in a room of this size and ambience, drawing a big combination, playing something on it that you yourself composed for it, and hearing this tremendous wall of sound in all of its guts, fire, and fury come roaring out of those chambers like a tidal wave, some of it from the ceiling midway, some of it from behind a grill on the other side, and some of it emerging from a behind a grill to your left and high above your head.  An organist hasn't lived until they've heard the hair-raising decibel gain this instrument is capable of producing with its high pressure stops undergoing full crescendo.

Save for another fully expressive pipe organ of this size or larger, there's nowhere else on the face of this earth where one human being can be seated at an instrument and have this amount of tonal spread and this amount of power.  For the serious musician, it's the top.  Cool