June 2019 TAO Feature Article

St. Pius X Roman Catholic Church
Lafayette, Louisiana
Cornel Zimmer Organ Builders
Opus 145, 2017
View the Stop List

By Kevin Martin

When the final plans for St. Pius X Parish’s new church building were released, it was readily apparent that the new organ would require an enlarged specification, ultimately leading to digital augmentation. While there was ample room in the organ chamber (located in the rear of the nave) for approximately 30 to 40 ranks of pipes, the transepts were located too far away from the organ chamber and, therefore, would require organ divisions of their own to support the choir and congregational singing.

The console, built in the French-terrace style, affords the player easy access to all controls.

The search for a pipe organ builder who would incorporate digital voices with speaking pipes resulted in our selecting Cornel Zimmer Organ Builders (CZOB) to design and build the new organ. The Zimmer firm designs every organ as a pipe organ first, exchanging pipe stops for digital voices when the reality of budget and space restrictions weighs in. It was our hope to incorporate 13 pipe ranks of our existing Wicks pipe organ in this new church organ; however, it was determined that their scaling was insufficient for the new 31,000-square-foot building. Thus, we developed a completely new, all-digital design incorporating voices from Walker Technical Company, leaving chamber space for pipe-rank additions in the future. The new instrument comprises the gallery organ in the rear of the nave, a nave organ located above the transepts, and an ethereal organ and floating string division located behind the altar above the baldachin. The four-manual console is French-terraced in design (reflecting the strong French influence in southern Louisiana) and includes Roman arch cut-out panels to mirror the architecture of the new church. The main organ, located in the gallery, features a substantial facade, covering the tonal opening of the chamber, blending seamlessly with architectural elements to add beauty to the new church space.

The console exterior is of red oak with a walnut interior. Roman arch cut-out panels reflect the architecture of the new church.

The result? Cornel Zimmer Organ Builders simply outdid themselves: a sonic and visual masterpiece—expertly designed, crafted, installed, and voiced by the gifted and capable craftsmen of CZOB and Walker Technical Company. The American symphonic specification of the organ brilliantly accompanies congregational singing and soloists and handles all types of literature beautifully. St. Pius has a strong, 50-year history as a musically active parish—including vibrant congregational singing and an appreciation of sacred music at a high level, both musically and spiritually. The organ has already been heard in concert performances of Bach’s Magnificat and Duruflé’s Requiem. The Reverend Steven Leblanc, St. Pius’s former pastor, who oversaw the building project, sums it up well: “Everything about it is beyond expectation. The console, the sound, the facade all make our liturgies a feast for the eyes and ears, and uplift the soul in praise to God.”


Drawknobs turned from varying wood species define each division.

Kevin Martin is organist at St. Pius X Roman Catholic Church in Lafayette, Louisiana. More information on this installation is available at Zimmer Organs.

Photography: Danny Izzo, Nouveau Photeau

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