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  • Writer's pictureSt. James by-the-Sea

Pipe Voicing Begins in Canandaigua, NY

Building the new St. James organ is a huge undertaking, and the workshop at Parsons Pipe Organ Builders in Canandaigua, New York is the hub of progress. All the new pipes have arrived from various suppliers around the world, and the process of "voicing" each pipe has now begun. This is a delicate process of crafting each pipe into the shape and size needed for its desired pitch and tone quality.

In August, our organ consultant, Thomas Sheehan, met with Manuel Rosales, Ric Parsons, and the whole team at Parsons Pipe Organ Builders to check in on the progress. "The metal flue pipes from Portugal make up most of the organ, and they are all now in the voicing room at the shop, being adjusted by Parsons head voicer Duane Prill in a process known as “shop voicing,” assisted by Manuel Rosales, who will be much more involved in the process of “tonal finishing” once the organ is actually installed in the church. In both processes, the geometry of each of the thousands of pipes is carefully adjusted so the sound of each one fits perfectly into the organ. The wooden pipes are being assembled in the shop, and these too are almost entirely complete. Most of the reed pipes have arrived from England and are being sent to Chris Broome in Connecticut for voicing. Chris has a small shop and can’t work on all of them at the same time, so he has created a schedule in which he will request pipes be sent to him as he needs them. This process is moving along well," said Sheehan. In the following video, you can see some of what they're working on.

In addition to the work on pipe voicing, a number of elements to the new organ are now complete. Our structural engineering is now complete, and we can soon start preparing the building at St. James to receive the new organ. This includes structural concrete work and steel fabrication, all of which had to be approved by the City of San Diego. Together with new lighting and fresh paint, visitors to the church will soon see the progress.

Talking about the progress, Tom Sheehan reports, "The Parsons wood shop is absolutely magnificent. The CNC (computer numerical control) router that they have works incredibly quickly at making wooden parts. What used to be many wooden parts cut and glued together by hand is now very often a single piece of wood, cut to the perfect shape (tolerances of half a millimeter) by the CNC. This makes for lots of computer design work, but the actual manufacturing of wooden pieces moves stunningly quickly. Because of this, many of the wooden mechanical parts of the organ are already finished, and the construction of the remaining ones is going very well.

The organ console design is being finalized shortly, and the console will be built by Joseph Zamberlan in Ohio and shipped to NY when it is done. The keyboards are coming from England, and we are expecting that order to arrive before the new year. A few console components are coming from a company in California, Harris Organs, which are also scheduled to be delivered in December."

The whole organ will be set up in New York once completed. It will be tested for any corrections and shared with the community for open houses, concerts, and demonstrations. In the spring, it will be disassembled and shipped to California where installation will take place in two phases. Thank you for following along with our progress and stay tuned to this blog for more updates in the coming months.

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