By Goulding & Wood
One of the most interesting aspects of a new organ project is seeing how an institution navigates the process. A healthy venture, typically the product of a healthy organization, will exemplify the personality of the group overseeing the endeavor. One such example is St. George’s Episcopal Church in Germantown, Tennessee, which followed a path that was unlike any other in our experience.
Our first contact with the church came in 2004, by way of an inquiry from Lynn Bauman, then organist and director of music. The parish was evaluating how to address the failings, both musical and mechanical, of its aging pipe organ. The conversation developed along normal lines, with site visits and design work for a new instrument. The congregation shared the campus with a day school—something that had become increasingly difficult over the years because of limited space. Although the parish had established the school, both had grown to a point that necessitated the separate incorporation of each. The church elected to purchase land and move to a new campus, and this refocused the conversation around a new organ for St. George’s.
The dialogue with St. George’s continued to be fruitful, and the organ task force designated Goulding & Wood to be the builder of the new instrument. This led to a flurry of design activity with architect Jim Williamson, himself a staunch Episcopalian, and acoustician Dennis Fleischer. During the stressful time of the transition, Lynn Bauman moved to another position, and Angela Saunders took the helm, working closely with Mark van Stolk, chair of the organ task force. The design team worked together unusually well, with a healthy cross-pollination of ideas. The final design of the church space was engaging, warm, and inviting—a refreshing blend of traditional organization and contemporary language.
Given the enormous undertaking of creating a fully equipped facility for a large and active faith community, the committee overseeing the project elected to pursue a comprehensive plan that could be implemented in stages. Goulding & Wood proposed a well-developed three-manual instrument of 54 ranks, with plans for prepared stops in each division and an overall design that could be installed over time. We responded to the committee’s request by first installing most of the Great and Swell divisions, along with three Pedal stops. The Choir Cremona was installed on the toe board of the Great Trumpet, providing a useful color in this vastly reduced version of the final design. The organ proved itself not only adequate for weekly use in liturgy, but also able to hold up to a demanding and thrilling inaugural recital by Cherry Rhodes in the spring of 2008. The success of the instrument was such that we feared the congregation would not feel a strong need to complete the organ.
To our delight, Mark van Stolk and Angela Saunders remained steadfast in their commitment to see the instrument through to completion. St. George’s engaged us to add the remaining Great stops in December 2010, the remaining Swell stops in October 2012, and an independent Pedal reed in February 2014. The complete Choir division and remaining Pedal stops were installed in January 2016. The organ now stood virtually complete as originally designed, lacking only the casework to visually articulate its presence in the room. Angela Saunders retired in July 2017, and her post was filled by Alan DePuy, who eagerly took up the completion of the case. Our team returned to Germantown to discuss design concepts for the facade in September 2018. We were thrilled to find in Alan a talented musician, a kind person, and an ardent advocate for the organ. Mark van Stolk continued to doggedly pursue the end goal, maintaining regular contact with our workshop. When Alan DePuy passed away in January 2020, tragically young and very unexpectedly, the desire to see this project through grew even stronger. Lucas Fletcher, a recent graduate of the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, was named organist and director of music, and his familiarity with Goulding & Wood made him a very willing partner in the conversation.
Our engineering team had created several design concepts for the facades over the dozen years we had been involved with St. George’s. Jim Williamson’s elegant, understated vision called for casework that was confidently simple yet bold in scale. The result is the twin 16′ red oak facades that flank the chancel today. The pipework resources in these cases allowed the church to increase the specification of the organ by three ranks beyond the instrument proposed in 2006, including an independent 16′ stop on the Great. Work on the cabinetry began in late 2021, and the installation occurred the following summer. Cherry Rhodes returned in the spring of 2023 to dedicate the completed instrument in another masterful performance that showed off all of its resources.
Musically, the organ adheres to the character of Goulding & Wood instruments. Broadly scaled principal choruses provide a strong backbone, creating rich ensembles that encourage congregational singing. Colorful flutes and strings expand the color palette with interesting and contrasting hues, while reeds supply power, pungency, and poetic appeal. Contrasting 8′ diapasons on the Great stand in opposite facades, offering different levels of intensity and accompanying the two sides of the choir seated decani and cantoris. Each division uses Goulding & Wood’s exclusive design of electropneumatic slider and pallet windchests—a mechanical system that promotes gentle speech, blending voices, and precise ensemble tuning. The acoustical environment of the church, designed by Dennis Fleischer, allowed our voicing staff to finish pipework without forcing speech or driving wind to overcome the issues typically associated with chambers. The organ’s sound flows freely, with spontaneity and conviction of tone.
The completion of Opus 46 marked the conclusion of a process begun nearly 20 years before. This longevity hints at the aspects of organbuilding that we at Goulding & Wood value most. While we have an uncompromising commitment to building the most artistically sophisticated musical instruments possible, this aspiration is rooted in a fundamental desire to be a partner with the congregations that entrust us with their goals. We are extremely grateful to Mark van Stolk and Jim Freeman for their unwavering support and enthusiasm through the years, and especially to Angela Saunders, who has maintained close ties to the organ even in retirement. In addition, we extend our deep appreciation for the workshops of Jacques Stinkens, A.R. Schopp’s Sons, and Solid State Organ Systems. Finally, we recognize the powerful dedication the people of St. George’s have to worship and the role of the organ in liturgy. Many people contributed to keeping the spark of this project alive throughout periods of dormancy, personal tragedy, change, and uncertainty. We are honored that this congregation values our work and our collaboration, and the completed Opus 46 (2007–22) stands as a testament to the primacy of musical liturgy in their parish community.
Goulding & Wood Pipe Organ Builders
Photos by Goulding & Wood, except where noted.
Cover photo by Andrew Parks.