Photos 3: Scottish Rite Cathedral, Saint Louis, Missouri
Scottish Rite Cathedral, Saint Louis, Missouri, USA, the historic 1924 IV/53 Kimball Symphonic organ, 143 stops, Organ Historical Society citation 2003. This is a fully enclosed and expressive instrument of over 3,500 pipes, plus traps and tuned percussions.
Sitting at such a colossal affair like this you get the sense that playing a pipe organ isn't merely an esthetic experience ... it isn't just something you do because you 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.
Restoration of instruments like this one isn't merely a matter of giving to a noble project for that 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.
The author of this blog was first given opportunity to play and trouble shoot this incredible instrument way back in 1969 just before he arrived at the age of 20 years, and this experience made an indellible impression upon him. He was awestruck by its size, beauty, expressiveness, wonderful color stops, its incredible range of sounds which exceeds a full symphony orchestra, and that it's voiced to speak with the power of an organ more than twice its size. This instrument represents a style of organ building and manifests a quality of construction that we are not likely to ever see again. Against a background of Great Diapasons and Swell string chorus was placed a wealth of soft effects and orchestral color, all fully expressive from top to bottom. It was its sound in fact which inspired him to write his organ compositions [See menu bar, Free Stuff, Bio, Catalogue of Works]. He told his family back then that he'd give anything to be able to have regular access to this instrument. At the time he never realized that in another 27 years this wish of his would become a reality. He actively served as a choir rehearsal pianist and organist there from 1996-2004 and additionally after that, for special ceremonies.
Imagine the thrill of being seated at a flexible, fully expressive from top to bottom, truly musical instrument like this in an auditorium which seats 3,400 people, drawing a big combination, playing something on it that you yourself composed for it, and hearing such a magnificent wall of sound in all of its guts, fire, and fury come roaring like a tidal wave out of those pipe chambers facing you from high above, some of it from a chamber located 60 feet above the center of the auditorium and some of it from a chamber located 170 feet away on the other end. You haven't lived until you've heard a hair raising crescendo on the earth-moving 32-foot Contra Bombarde stop in the Pedal division of this instrument, a stop which, if present at all, is typically unenclosed.
Save for another pipe organ of this size or larger with over 50 ranks under expression, 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, flexibility, expressiveness, and this amount of power.
Nothing can be even remotely compared with it. It's the top.