From the Founder and Artistic Director
The new organ for St. George’s Episcopal Church is the final component of a comprehensive visual and acoustical renovation of the primary worship space, which was the capstone of a multimillion-dollar general construction project to serve the growing congregation. The church’s formerly harsh, top-heavy acoustics were masterfully transformed by Riedel & Associates to become a beautiful tonal environment: buoyant, lively, clear, and evenly responsive, with a warmth that embraces the most delicate musical nuances.
It was a joy to develop this organ’s unique specification, which includes a great degree of expression, with Woosug Kang, director of music ministries, and Gerry Senechal, associate director of music ministries and organist. The instrument currently comprises 55 stops and 65 ranks; planned future additions include six stops in the main organ and a ten-stop Antiphonal division. Supporting congregational singing and accompanying the choir were the prime directives in the tonal design, scaling, and voicing of the instrument. When the organ was first used in worship, the immediate, exponential increase in congregational participation was stunning.
The organ’s cases outline the curved wall of the apse. Its facade incorporates elements of a colonnade originally envisioned by the church’s architect and features more than 200 speaking pipes.
I thank my team from the bottom of my heart for their tireless efforts, unflagging enthusiasm, and beautiful work. This organ’s installation was greatly prolonged by many challenges imposed upon us. Our entire staff (and their spouses back home) met them with extraordinary grace and patience. I am extremely proud of their outstanding accomplishments in every aspect of this instrument: from the planning and engineering through the construction, installation, and voicing. And I’m extremely grateful for the parishioners’ patience and understanding.
From the President and Tonal Director
The Buzard team always welcomes the opportunity to design and build an organ for an institution that leans heavily toward the performance of English cathedral repertoire—or perhaps more accurately, the American interpretation of English cathedral repertoire. When some U.S. choirs are welcomed to the United Kingdom for weeklong residencies in those hallowed spaces that inspired the music, they fall ever more deeply in love with it and strive to bring the mountaintop experience back to their home churches completely intact.
The integrity of the repertoire remains constant, but nothing else is the same. The shapes, construction methods, and acoustics of our rooms are vastly different. Worship styles, although always being adapted on both sides of the Atlantic, are influenced by very different traditions and heritage. Organbuilders apply their art in a variety of ways to help bridge the gap and let the music live in the new environment. Sometimes it is a virtual reproduction of a much-admired stoplist. Sometimes it is a detailed documentation and copy of the scaling of a particular stop, or even incorporating one or more ranks from a historic organ that has been removed from service.
The Buzard approach, particularly in the instrument for St. George’s, takes some of those techniques into account, but it does not stop there. In multiple discussions with Woosug Kang and Gerry Senechal, we studied specific examples of their favored repertoire. Rather than identifying individual stops that would be needed, we concentrated on issues of balance, tone color, composition of accompaniment ensembles, blending, and above all, flexibility.
It has been a rare treat to voice an organ in the revised acoustical environment of St. George’s. Scott Riedel’s recommendations have provided a room that, without excessive reverberation time, responds with extraordinary evenness throughout the frequency range. This has allowed us to voice the instrument with clarity even at its softest level, building smoothly to a thrilling full-organ sound without ever needing to exaggerate anything in order to fill the room. We have deliberately concentrated our efforts on shaping the blending characteristics of stops in the mezzo piano to mezzo forte range, making choral accompaniment a real joy. Having three separate enclosed divisions enhances the experience.
The sound of any organ is always the result of many people who have contributed to its design, construction, installation, voicing, and maintenance. I have often said that our ears are able to detect sounds that have been loved into existence. Along with my colleagues on the Buzard team, I am honored and proud to offer you this gift. Come and hear it for yourself!
From the Director of Music Ministries
“Sing Ye to the Lord” was the theme of our organ dedication series in spring 2023. The title reflects our vision of creating an instrument that would sing—and one that would encourage our choir and congregation to do likewise. When St. George’s launched its capital campaign several years ago, there was an emphasis on improving the placement of the choir and the acoustics of the church, as the previous setup created visual difficulties and an unbalanced choral sound throughout the room; it also made it hard for the choir to lead congregational singing. Through research, it became clear that the best option—artistically and financially—was to invest in a brand-new organ.
An organ committee was quickly formed, with acoustical consultant Scott Riedel supporting us along the way. Our mission was to build an instrument of outstanding quality—and with vast expressive capabilities—that would inspire us for generations. I enjoyed working with our committee, and I am thrilled that we chose Buzard.
We have been fulfilling the vision of singing to the Lord since our first dedication program, a hymn festival with Robert McCormick and guest speaker Jeremy Begbie. Opus 48 is encouraging the congregation to sing more, and the choir is now better connected to the congregation, even as the organ supports both with colorful expression. And parishioners—including some previously skeptical ones—have vocally expressed their appreciation for the impact the instrument has made since the beginning of the year.
I have always seen my role at St. George’s as twofold: developing the musical legacy I inherited and building an even stronger foundation for future generations of musicians. I believe that Opus 48 is one of the crowning realizations of that vision, and I have been deeply humbled by the entire endeavor. With its outstanding craftsmanship and artistry, this instrument will serve St. George’s, our city, and our region for generations to come. And as I told my choristers, “Some of you will get married with this organ!” Their smiles on hearing that demonstrated that this future is with us already.
From the Associate Director of Music Ministries and Organist
Recently, hundreds gathered here at St. George’s for one of the most somber occasions I can remember: the funeral service of a little boy who lived just 18 days. His parents, dear friends, are both priests here in the Diocese of Tennessee, and his mother served on staff at St. George’s until accepting another call late last year. So many had prayed feverishly that the boy, named after his father, would recover from a host of very serious medical problems, but it was not to be; hospice was called, and a short time later he passed away in the arms of his parents.
Our beautiful new organ had become fully playable just two weeks prior, and during the course of the morning’s crushingly difficult yet overwhelmingly beautiful liturgy, I became convinced that this was no coincidence. Throughout the service I gave thanks to God that this tremendous instrument, at last in full voice, was able to speak when we could not, guiding our worship with an inviting warmth and gentle strength—though many of us, like Elijah, simply wanted to sit down beneath a tree and give up.
Early in the prelude I began Bach’s “Aus tiefer Not,” BWV 686, with the simple austerity of just the Great 8′ Dulciana; of Willis scaling, it functions as a Third Open Diapason. The texture slowly began to thicken, gaining strength and brightness with the incremental addition of the Swell and Great choruses. The Pedal 16′ Trombone grounded the entire sound, and on the final page, the Pedal 16′ First Open Diapason, an open wood, gave a rock-solid foundation and completeness to the whole organ. The piece was the cry we all needed to lift to heaven.
The family entered during the final phrases of the Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber. The Swell 8′ Salicional, gently tremulated, plaintively cried out the dying strains of the solo melody, accompanied by the Solo 8′ Flute Coelestis, of Ludwigtone construction, a sound at once heart-wrenching and exceedingly gentle.
With the procession complete, the service took an intentional turn. The first hymn was “O What Their Joy and Their Glory Must Be,” sung to O quanta qualia. The Solo Tuba Mirabilis sounded a fanfare with dark yet commanding tone, followed by a beautiful, seamless wall of colorful, perfectly balanced sound. The Great principal chorus gave clarity and leadership, with the diapasons providing fullness at the bottom while the mixtures and other upperwork contributed just the right amount of brilliance. Meanwhile in the Enclosed Great division, the Tromba chorus undergirded the ensemble with a rich, noble fullness. The sound was complete in every way; nothing was out of place, nor was anything lacking. Above it all rose the voice of the people:
O what their joy and their glory must be,
Those endless Sabbaths the blessed ones see;
Crown for the valiant, to weary ones rest:
God shall be all, and in all ever blest.
Although we were crushed with grief, as Christians we knew that this dear boy was now safe in the embrace of Jesus. His few days upon this earth, difficult and painful, had given way to the beautiful warmth and dazzling light of heaven. The organ led with unwavering confidence and resolve, empowering the people to lift a song of faith that, if led by an instrument with distracting flaws, could easily have felt artificial and naive. We were able to fully pour our emotions into the promise of the Resurrection of the Dead, approaching the throne room of heaven itself on a golden wave of full, perfect sound.
That morning, as on so many occasions now, the organ fulfilled its primary objective, which is to enable the musical worship of God through the Anglican tradition. This mandate has guided every aspect of the organ’s design. One of the most radical departures from classical organbuilding has been the decision to enclose a significant portion of the Great. In a traditional instrument, the player has excellent control over the volume of the Swell thanks to the expression shades, but as soon as the Great or Pedal reeds are drawn, the organ’s volume is simply loud, and the position of the Swell shades ceases to make any meaningful difference. Thus, we requested that the Great reeds be enclosed. Buzard’s excellent team returned with a brilliant scheme: they would enclose the Great reeds, but also a significant portion of the rest of the division. Further, since there is considerable overlap between the softer portions of a typical Great and a Choir, this Enclosed Great would eliminate the need for a Choir division. Stops commonly found in a Choir would be added to the Enclosed Great, such as an 8′ Clarinet, 16′ English Horn, and three-rank Sharp Mixture. This decision allowed for the funding—and even more importantly, the space—for a Solo division.
Countless details help this glorious instrument fulfill its purpose. The Great Tromba chorus is playable in the Pedal, even down to 32′, where it is not only still enclosed but also full-length. This luxury is made possible by ingenious engineering in which the several lowest pipes begin deep in the organ, travel up and out the top of the expression box, then make a 180-degree turn, reenter the box, and in the case of low C come back down almost to the boot! To ensure beyond any doubt that the division is of sufficient strength, the Solo Tuba Mirabilis is also playable in the Pedal as the 16′ Ophicleide.
The Swell features strings at 16′, 8′, and 4′; the 4′ is so delicately voiced that it can be used at 2′ over light 8′ and 4′ stops to create a delightful continuo sound. There are two mixtures: a lower, two-rank Grave and a higher, three-rank Plein Jeu. Finally, there are two 8′ chorus reeds: a Cornopean and a Trompette Harmonique. Full Swell is built around the Cornopean, but adding the Trompette Harmonique gives a white-hot fire to French repertoire as well as select stanzas of a hymn. Given the unusually large size of the Swell, there are ten divisional pistons rather than the usual eight.
The Solo boasts a stentorian Tuba Mirabilis as well as several prepared-for solo reeds: a French Horn, an Orchestral Oboe, a Flugel Horn, and a Corno di Bassetto. The Grand Open Diapason has two mouths per pipe in its treble register, contributing a very different tone than any of the Great diapasons. The Claribel Flute is beautifully clear but distinct from either the Flauto Traverso on the Swell or the Flute Harmonique in the Enclosed Great. And finally, the Viola Pomposa and its celeste bring a more focused and powerful string tone than their counterparts in the other divisions.
The Unenclosed Great is home to a very fine chorus, which is built on the Second Open Diapason. The upperwork beautifully adorns the ensemble rather than dominating it, and the five-rank Fourniture is surprisingly sweet and never aggressive, gently yet firmly crowning the ensemble. The First Open Diapason, largely in the facade, has doubled pipework through much of its compass, which, combined with generous scaling, results in a wonderfully thick and warm texture. The 16′ Double Diapason adds just enough rumble beneath the Great chorus without creating a muddy texture.
Even the console is unusual; we requested that it be as short as possible so that a conductor would be clearly seen over its top—and also so that the organist would be visible to the choir. As such, the divisions are each five drawknobs in width, allowing for a shorter profile, while conventional organs are often only two or three knobs wide, but quite tall.
The matchless skill, dedication, and artistry of the Buzard team has resulted in something so exquisite and out of the ordinary that it continues to surprise and inspire me every time I get on the bench. This glorious instrument has completely changed the way we worship at St. George’s; it brings new life to repertoire of all styles and accompanies both choir and congregation exquisitely. Dear reader, if you are ever near Nashville, I would be honored to make the instrument available for you to play; it is an indescribable gift to us here at St. George’s, and one we would very much like to share. I continue to give thanks to God for his goodness to me and this parish through the great blessing that is Buzard Opus 48.