Los Angeles organbuilder Manuel Rosales contacted me in the fall of 2004 about a possible collaboration. He had been the Consultant for the rebuilding, expansion and installation at St. James’ Episcopal Church in Los Angeles for the Murray M. Harris organ that had been removed from St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in Los Angeles. St. James’ had also installed a battery of horizontal trumpets under the liturgical west window of the nave in the fall of 2000, and now wished to add a small Positive division in a forward position of the gallery.
Manuel Rosales, Jim Buonemani, the Organist and Director of Music at the church, and I exchanged ideas for several months. During this interval, the stoplist was refined to provide maximum value from the tonal resources. The visual design progressed as well, and in February 2005 the Vestry approved funding for the project.
The primary purpose of this “Antiphonal Positiv” is to provide gentle support and reinforcement of the chancel organ’s sound for congregational singing, as well as to fulfill the functions of a small positive division for the literature. The final tonal design featured that two of the three ranks would be unified and consequently direct-valve-electric action was planned with a magnet beneath each pipe. As is customary for us when we utilize this design, extra-thick toeboards and a small expansion chamber below each pipe are added to assist in the voicing process; these also help to eliminate undesirable speech characteristics associated with this type of chest action.
The elaborate casework is constructed of quarter-sawn white oak, stained and finished to complement the church furnishings. We took inspiration from the work of Leopold Stickley, and glued a thin strip of oak to the edges of the case posts; these were then profiled to the glueline, so that quartersawn grain is prominent on all three visible faces but appears to be one solid board. For access to the interior of the case, opening the large rear doors reveals a generous walkboard for ease of tuning all the pipes. Below the removable sections of the walkboard are mounted the blower and the reservoir.
Manuel Rosales and his associate Kevin Gilchrist were responsible for the pipe scaling, the voicing and tonal finishing. One of the reasons I had looked forward to this project was the chance to glean some of their vast knowledge as voicers with over 40 years of experience. An example of this is the Principal 8’, which for visual reasons begins — with a fancifully-embossed pipe — in the façade starting at E5; four wood pipes for notes C through D# are housed within the case and were made in our shop of cypress. With their thin walls, raised mouth caps with beveled lower lips and added roller beards, they were unlike anything we had constructed in the past, but the results are excellent — the transition from wood to metal pipes is indistinguishable and provide a rich bass sound.
I would be remiss if I did not mention two other collaborators on this project. We were fortunate to be able to engage Frederick Wilbur for the carvings and Sandy Jensen for the gold leaf decoration of the casework, both respected practitioners in their fields.
ANTIPHONAL POSITIV (floating, C1-c61)
Octave 4’ (ext.)
Spitzflute 2’ (ext.)