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The Organ Music of Gerre Hancock, Todd Wilson, Organist, St. Thomas Church Organs, New York, with Kevin Kwan, organist
2CDs for the Price of One
Stupendous Reviews! - [OAR-951]

2-CD set for the price of one CD

Todd Wilson records on 2 CDs all of the organ music composed by Gerre Hancock, playing the two famous organs at Saint Thomas Church, New York, where Gerre Hancock was organist and choirmaster 1971-2004. Kevin Kwan, organist, plays in the duos. The famous chancel organ at St. Thomas, originally built in 1913 by E. M. Skinner as op. 205 and rebuilt many times thereafter into one of the very great American organs for Anglican church music as well as repertoire, especially French repertoire, was removed from the church in May, 2016, to be replaced by a new instrument by Lynn Dobson. This is the last recording, and perhaps the best, technically, of the previous organ.

Air: Prelude for Organ
Variations on Palm Beach, Coronation, Ora Labora
Fantasy on Divinum Mysterium
Prelude & Fugue on Union Seminary
Meditation on Draw Us in the Spirit’s Tether
Preludes on Nettleton, Somerset Hills,  Playford, Bayhead, Hyfrydol. Slane
An Evocation of Urbs Beata Jerusalem
A Paraphrase of St. Elizabeth
A Fancy for Two to Play: Duet for Organ
A Laredo Fanfare
Fantasy on St. Denio
Fanfare on Antioch
Trumpet Flourishes for Christmas
Holy Week (suite)
Toccata for Organ

**** 4-star Review in Choir & Organ Magazine. Writes Rupert Gough:
Here in music (and a wealth of written notes) we have a comprehensive celebration of the work of an organist who left an indelible mark on American church music . . .

Writes David Dewar in Organists' Review, p. 65

Dr. Gerre Hancock (1934-2012) was organist of St Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, New York, for some 33 years until 2004. He left a towering reputation as organist, improviser, and choir trainer; his work as a composer, however, has received less attention. The accompanying notes to the present collection make the point that, over that long sojourn at the same church, his style in improvisation and composition developed symbiotically with the Arents Memorial organ at which he presided. The interesting quesiton of how his invention and technique might have evolved in such close relationship with another instrument must, however, remain unanswered.

Hancock's influence on the American organ world and through his visites to the UK has been highly significant. (I recall one stimulating demonstration by him on an RCCO residential school at Oxford in the mid-90s.) In those contexts, therefore, the insightful performances in this anthology are greatly to be welcomed. Compositional style is, as noted in the booklet, rooted in the Baptist hymns familiar to him from his youth, and in mid-American culture. Hancock pursued studies in Paris, with Nadia Boulanger and Jean Langlais, and his harmonic style was thus "further enhanced with elements of Jazz and the twentieth-century French school." All these influences and inspirations are translated in the organ works into music of lyricism and excitement.

Todd Wilson, Director of Music at Cleveland's Trinity Epsicopal Cathedral and Head of the Organ Department at The Cleveland Institute of Music, was first influenced by Gerre Hancock's service playing whilst he was studying at the University of Cincinnati. The empathetic nature of these performances illustrates a long association with this music which makes a persuasive argument for Hancock's organ compositions. That they also show off the resources of the Arents organ in the church's magnificent acoustics is an added and welcome bonus. Wilson's sometime student, Kevin Kwan, also deploys similar virtuosity in several items -- both duet and where two organs are needed. (Using also the Loening-Hancock Gallery organ.)

The CDs are accompanied by comprehensive notes on the compositions and their contexts, notes on the two instruments, biographical notes on the performers, and a message from Judith Hancock.

Gerre Hancock's reputation and influence are lasting -- it is thereforme welcome that these recordings provide an opportunity to view his work comprehensively. This set, handsomely produced but not expensive, is, I feel, warmly to be recommended.

Writes James Hildreth in an extensive review in The American Organist:
". . .  It us truly a treasure to have the complete composed works recorded on this instrument and preserved for posterity. The recorded sound . . . successfully captures the full spectrum of sound of both organs in the ambience of the spacious nave. . . . Todd Wilson's . . . playing captures Hancock's spirit in every way; it could very well be Uncle Gerre himself playing."

The Organ Music of Gerre Hancock
by Brian Preston Harlow

Dr. Gerre Hancock left an indelible mark on church music and the organ profession in America. Lauded for his skills as an organist, improviser, and choir trainer, his contributions as a composer have been somewhat overlooked in comparison. A request or commmission usually was required to persuade him to commit ideas to paper. Apart from the early Air, all of the organ works were composed for specific occasions, people or anthologies. This body of music offers a window into the mind of this renowned improviser and teacher; his written work is remarkably consistent with his treatise on improvisation, Improvising: How to Master the Art, in its treatment of themes, harmonic language and musical style. An analysis of his organ music reveals many similarities with his improvisations. His improvisation students will remember his relentless attention to counting and phrase length. Simultaneously strict in form yet free in harmony and expression, these works also reflect his varied background. Born in Lubbock, Texas, in 1934, Uncle Gerre’s charismatic personality and musical style was always rooted in mid-American culture and the Baptist hymns of his youth. Studies in Paris with Nadia Boulanger and Jean Langlais further enhanced his harmonic language with elements of Jazz and the twentieth-century French school.

For thirty-three years, Dr. Hancock presided over the Arents Memorial Organ at Saint Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue in New York and maintained a symbiotic relationship with an instrument that surely influenced his improvisational and compositional style. In many ways, his style of playing was perfectly suited to this organ, though it is impossible to know whether his style might have developed differently with a different organ at his disposal. As an historical document and for the demands of the music itself there is not a better instrument on which to record this repertoire. During the prelude to his own Solemn Requiem on February 4, 2012, as several of these compositions were played on the Arents organ, it felt almost as if he were at the console once more. Todd Wilson’s wonderful recording ensures that this historic pairing of music and instrument will be available for future generations to discover and enjoy.

The Music
We begin with Air: A Prelude for Organ, his earliest, and perhaps his most popular, work for organ. Composed in 1960 and dedicated to Judith Eckerman, whom he married the following year, the piece contains stylistic traits that would be developed throughout his oeuvre. Hancock’s organ compositions can be divided into three groups: the Hymn Tune Prelude, Variation Form, and pieces in other forms, including Song Form. In Air he employs the simplest version of Song Form as described in his improvisation textbook, ABA form. The two halves of the initial A section are distinguished by a change of register in the solo melody, while the second A section employs canon at the fifth. These devices of register shift and canon recur throughout Hancock’s music. The B section develops the opening phrase in imitation and then develops the third phrase of the melody. The many seventh chords and parallel open sonorities throughout this section build tension and are typical of his harmonic language. Other characteristic features already in evidence in his first organ work include imitative development of motives and the use of complex chords at important cadences, such as the dominant thirteenth just before the recapitulation. In the coda, the raised fourth scale degree provides a Lydian inflection, a favorite of Hancock.

Variation Form
It is hardly surprising, given Dr. Hancock’s lifelong devotion to work in the church, that the majority of his organ compositions and improvisations were based on hymn tunes. Hymns were fundamental to his musical personality, and generations of parishioners and church musicians recall the magic he created through them during a church service. In Improvising: How to Master the Art, treatments of hymns and the hymn preludes are the first subjects addressed following introductory chapters. He describes five models of hymn preludes: 1. the ornamented hymn prelude; 2. the organ hymn prelude (presenting the tune in long note values); 3. the interpolation prelude; 4. the point of imitation hymn prelude; and 5. the hymn fantasy. All five models share a clear organization based on the phrases of the tune divided by interludes and can be expanded with introductions and codas, within the interludes, or by linking multiple treatments in succession.

Hancock composed several variation sets that are essentially sets of short chorale preludes. Each variation contains one statement of the tune, sometimes with an introduction and coda. Occasionally the tune is varied or obscured while retaining the underlying phrase and harmonic structure. Three sets of variations composed between 2000 and 2001 demonstrate this approach: Variations on Palm Beach, an original hymn tune by Hancock, Variations on Coronation and Variations on Ora Labora. Each set contains a straightforward statement of the theme, a scherzo variation, a slow movement, and a final toccata. Variations on Ora Labora also contains a duo. The slow movement is always a lush aria, of which the fourth variation of Variations on Ora Labora is a particularly beautiful example. 

The remaining two variation sets are large-scale, continuous works that present multiple variations linked by interludes, concluding with a fugue and toccata. Fantasy on Divinum Mysterium (1973) is Hancock’s earliest extended work. It is a composition of great variety, progressing from the initial statement in the pedal with bold interjections, through a variation in canon at the third with double pedal accompaniment, a melismatic second variation over a pedal ostinato, a lively fugue, and finally a powerful toccata. The coda takes up the plainsong “Amen” and a final statement of the first phrase played by the right foot rings out over a tonic pedal, often the coup de grâce at the end of his improvisations.

Prelude and Fugue on Union Seminary (1982) is a yet more ambitious work with complex textures. The composition is unified through the opening four-note theme and rhythmic pattern, which are integral to the first statement, the interludes, the first variation, and the fugue subject, then appear beneath the final chord. The interludes, while all based on the same material, are varied each time. It is fascinating to compare them with the introduction and interlude of the simpler and later Meditation on Draw Us in the Spirit’s Tether (1998), in which the same melodic incipit yields quite different results. Prelude and Fugue on Union Seminary uses the same extended variation form as Fantasy on Divinum Mysterium. Treatments of the tune include a tuba solo in the tenor, a canon at the octave, melodic inversion, rhythmic transformation in the fugue, and a brief two-part canon in the pedals towards the end of the toccata (a device he also uses in the Toccata for Organ). Considerable rhythmic complexity is generated by the fugue theme, which includes triplets, dotted rhythms, and sixteenth- and eighth-note patterns; it is very much like the fugues that Hancock improvised regularly.

Hymn Preludes
Four modest hymn preludes are found in the three volumes of The Bristol Collection of Contemporary Hymn Tune Preludes for organ (1973-1975), assembled by Lee Hastings Bristol Jr., president of Westminster Choir College from 1962-1969 and an organist and composer himself. The Prelude on Nettleton is notable for the unification provided by a motive based on phrase three of the hymn. Prelude on Somerset Hills is a study in textures, the voices increasing at each statement of the tune from two to three, four, and then five voices; the final statement of the tune is a canon at the octave between the soprano and the pedal. The Preludes on Playford and Bayhead employ canon at the fourth, florid melodic figures, inversion and various types of imitation.

The Prelude on Hyfrydol (1979) is in two continuous sections. A textbook interpolation prelude is followed by a crescendo to a second uninterrupted statement of the tune in the pedal. Unity is created by basing introduction and interludes on the third phrase of the hymn tune. Variety is supplied by variations in tonality. Changes of register in both parts of the piece highlight the repetition inherent in the hymn tune and the harmonies, full of seventh chords in parallel motion, are again in Hancock’s characteristic style. The opening melodic phrase is used to bring the piece to a conclusion on a jubilant major seventh chord.

An Evocation of “Urbs beata Jerusalem” (2009) is another interpolation prelude featuring stately interludes filled with warm harmonies. Faster motion becomes more prominent as the piece progresses. Unusually, Hancock asks for a different solo reed color for each phrase of the plainsong melody, assuming quite a large instrument with plentiful reed stops.

A Paraphrase of “St. Elizabeth” (1975), like the Prelude on Hyfrydol, is built around two statements of the hymn tune, in this case without interludes between phrases but with a longer introduction, coda, and central interlude. The phrases in the gentle first statement are unified by subtle rhythmic alteration to the melody, giving the beginning of each phrase the same rhythm. The second statement builds in intensity and a striking climax is created by a deceptive cadence and a recollection of the first phrase. The climax breaks off on a dominant thirteenth chord, leading to a tranquil coda based on the last phrase of the tune. The work concludes with the first six notes of the hymn in the pedal under a chord with an added second.

Hancock was “asked to write a ‘reasonable facsimile’ to the recorded improvisation” on the tune St. Denio on his 1990 CD Fanfare. (Adam Micah Ward, 2009. From Imagination to Improvisation to Realization: A Study of Pieces by Four Organists, p. 16, DMA diss., University of North Carolina at Greensboro.) The result, Fantasy on St. Denio (2006), is really a new piece. Never one to perform the same piece in the same way twice, Hancock simplifies and slows down the scale patterns from his original improvisation. Dotted rhythms are smoothed out into flowing eighth notes and there are fewer flights of fancy in the accompaniment. While the actual notes are simpler in the composed version, the form is, ironically, more improvisational. The improvisation uses a symmetrical ABA form, modulating from G major to B-flat major for the middle section. The melody, only suggested in the outer sections, is played on a 4' reed in the pedals in the middle section. The manual registration throughout is on gentle flute stops.

The composed piece modulates to a more adventurous A-flat major for the middle section, featuring a decorated melody in the left hand and open fifths in the pedal. Following that, it deviates sharply from the recorded improvisation, building to full organ through imitative, chromatic passages and dying away to a coda with the opening passagework. Thus, the composed piece is more rhapsodic and dynamic, but less unified in some ways than the original improvisation. As with Prelude and Fugue on Union Seminary and Meditation on Draw Us in the Spirit’s Tether, differing expositions of a single theme offer a glimpse into Hancock’s restlessly creative mind and result in a pair of beautiful settings.

Prelude on Slane (1986), dedicated to his former teacher Robert Baker and published in The AGO 90th-Anniversary Anthology of American Organ Music is a wonderful example of the point-of-imitation prelude with long note values, as outlined beginning on p. 94 of Improvising: How to Master the Art. The composed piece goes one step further than the examples in the improvisation book because the second voice in each point of imitation is an inversion of the first. Following the working out of the point-of-imitation prelude and a cadence on a V9 chord is a free statement and interpretation of the tune in regular note values over a large crescendo and diminuendo. The coda returns to a point of imitation, this time without inversion, and works its way back to the tune in long note values. Beneath the final added-sixth chord, the pedal plays an abridged statement of the first phrase of the hymn tune. The serene conclusion of this prelude evokes the voluntaries improvised by Gerre at the end of Sunday Evensong at Saint Thomas Church, weaving together elements of the anthem and other music of the day, and often ending on the softest stops of the organ, as in a benediction.


Several occasional fanfares recall Hancock’s legendary improvisations, particularly the final minutes of postludes and the Fugue-Finale form, typically the last movement of his symphonic improvisations. Hancock’s incredibly fluid technique enabled him to play very difficult and fast passages of sixteenth notes on manuals and pedals simultaneously. A Laredo Fanfare (2006), commissioned for the inauguration of the Sharkey-Corrigan Pipe Organ at Texas A & M International University, is strongly in the improvisational vein while again making use of the Lydian mode at times. Two quite different Christmas fanfares were published in anthologies. Fanfare on Antioch (1995) is typical of Hancock’s festive hymn introductions. It begins with an almost obsessive imitation of the first four notes of the tune in three parallel canonic phrases, each moving up a third, before finally introducing the second phrase. The final section exploits the rhythm of the fourth and fifth phrases, “and heaven and nature sing.” The conclusion combines several phrases at once, including his signature final statement of the first line in the pedal. This brief piece is a window into Hancock the liturgical organist, especially the way in which he unified improvisations with motivic development. The virtuoso showpiece Trumpet Flourishes for Christmas (1978) was conceived for the new Trompeta Majestatis at The Riverside Church. A series of free fanfares introduce the first seven notes of Mendelssohn (“Hark! the herald angels sing”), after which these distinct elements are combined and developed. The concluding section introduces a new fanfare motive on the solo trumpet above sustained chords carrying the full first phrase of the hymn. A fanfare on the melody of “Glory to the newborn King” leads to a coda of fast octaves and alternating chords in both hands and pedal in a texture reminiscent of the end of his improvised symphonies, as well as the Toccata for Organ. This is no simple Christmas postlude!

For Two Organists
A Fancy for Two to Play: Duet for Organ
(1991) is, like Air for Organ, an example of simple Song Form. The structure is perfectly divided into three sections of twenty bars, with the addition of a four-bar cadenza for two solo voices before the recapitulation. As with Air, the return of A is varied, in this case through melodic decoration and variation. Each player plays a solo line on a separate solo stop as well as elements of the accompaniment in manuals and pedal. The two solo lines are imitative and at first sound as if they are in canon, but are only freely imitative. The B section provides contrast in several ways: tonality, centered on the mediant; texture, with the solo lines on new registrations and now in strict canon; and harmony, with Lydian and Mixolydian inflections. The work concludes with a particularly complex major chord, with an added second, sixth and seventh. Throughout, the texture is rich and rhythmically interesting, exploiting the many possibilities of four hands and four feet.

Holy Week (2007) is a suite in three movements based on Gregorian chant themes and is for two organs. The first movement, Palm Sunday, is based on the hymn Vexilla Regis. Dramatic open fifths with initial trills and dramatic diminuendos in one organ accompany free declamatory figures in octaves in the other organ depicting the “almost hysterical drama of Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday.” The organs trade roles after which the chant appears harmonized in a neo-medieval style with both perfect and augmented intervals, foreshadowing the crucifixion. The remainder of the movement extensively develops the first three notes of the chant, moving through a number of keys.

The second movement, Maundy Thursday, is based on the hymn Pange lingua and is in ABA form. In the middle section, the theme alternates between the two organs and from tenor to soprano register. The chords accompanying the last two phrases become more dissonant, foretelling “the unthinkable events to follow on the next day.” The outer A sections employ harmonies that are simultaneously lush and unsettled, capturing the ambiguous emotions conjured by the Maundy Thursday liturgy. The opening melody and initial harmonies are unmistakably similar to the Andantino moderato theme from George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. The two are even in the same key. Rhapsody in Blue dates from that period in music history with which Hancock’s harmonic language has so much affinity and this theme was used to accompany a montage of black and white images of New York in Woody Allen’s 1979 film Manhattan, an homage to the city in the heyday of John Andrew & Gerre Hancock’s tenure at Saint Thomas Church. Given that Hancock was not afraid to play the tune Easter Parade beneath the hymn “At the Lamb’s high feast” on Easter morning, this might very well be an intentional tongue in cheek reference.

Movement three, Easter Day, is a joyous toccata on the Easter sequence Victimae Paschali using most of the long melody. According to the numbering in The Hymnal 1982, Hancock uses stanzas 1, 2, 4, 5, and 8. The entire movement is a moto perpetuo crescendo, with full organ (on both organs!) finally blazing forth in the last two pages.

Original Themes
Toccata for Organ
(2003) is one of four pieces composed on original themes rather than a hymn tune or chant melody. (The others are Air: A Prelude for Organ; A Laredo Fanfare; and A Fancy for Two to Play.) It is based on two themes, the first angular with accented syncopations, constructed of half-steps and minor thirds; the second legato, comprising larger intervals and employing his favored scale degrees of the raised fourth and lowered seventh. The two themes combine beautifully and are easily distinguished because they differ in profile and character. This toccata does not follow the figuration patterns or forms suggested in the improvisation book, which is aimed at producing toccatas with a hymn tune cantus firmus and using the form of a hymn prelude. Instead, this toccata is in a modified sonata form in B minor, though the first appearance of the second theme occurs after quite an extensive treatment of the first theme and leads immediately into the development of the two themes together. The recapitulation is more clear-cut, with the first theme in the tonic and the second theme in the tonic major, followed by an extensive coda based on the opening of the first theme. A pedal cadenza leads to a three-note chord in the pedal and a final unadorned B-major chord, unusual in its lack of added tones. Toccata for Organ is one of Hancock’s finest organ compositions, a powerful, exciting work that demands a relaxed technique.

Thank you, Uncle Gerre, for blessing us with your generosity in living, teaching, performing, creating, and composing! ©2013 Brian Preston Harlow

NOTE: Todd Wilson plays the works without the use of suboctave and superoctave couplers, reflecting both Gerre Hancock’s preference and the absence of those couplers during his tenure at Saint Thomas Church.

Todd Wilson
Todd Wilson is Director of Music and Worship at Cleveland’s Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, and is Head of the Organ Department at The Cleveland Institute of Music, where he has taught since 1990. He is Curator of the E. M. Skinner pipe organ in Severance Hall, and is House Organist for the restored Aeolian organ at the Stan Hywet Home and Gardens in Akron, Ohio.

Wilson won several competitions, including the Grand Prix de Chartres and the Fort Wayne Competition. He has served on juries for competitions around the world, including Nürnburg, Toulouse, St. Albans, Dublin, Calgary, and the AGO Young Artists Competition.

Wilson performs with major orchestras including those of Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Atlanta, and more. He has performed in Japan, Europe, and extensively throughout the United States, including numerous national and regional conventions of the American Guild of Organists. He holds Guild’s Fellow and Choirmaster certificates.

Wilson studied organ with Wayne Fisher at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, where he earned both BM and MM degrees (and where he was first influenced by the service playing of Gerre Hancock). He then studied with Russell Saunders at the Eastman School of Music.

Previously, he was Director of Music & Organist at the Church of the Covenant (Presbyterian) in Cleveland for nineteen years. Before moving to Cleveland, he served at Organist and Master of the Choristers at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City, New York. In New York he taught on the faculties of Adelphi and Hofstra Universities and was organist of the George Mercer School of Theology.

This recording for Raven is Todd Wilson’s fifteenth commercial recording, the earlier ones having appeared on the labels FY/Solstice, Delos, and JAV.

Having grown up in the men and boys choir of Trinity Church in Toledo, the choirs and music of the Anglican tradition constitute an important part of Todd Wilson’s musical life. In 1978-79, he served as a visiting assistant in music at Canterbury Cathedral under Dr. Allan Wicks. At the Cathedral of the Incarnation, Wilson directed a choir of men and boys that remains among the longest in continuous existence In the United States. He frequently presents workshops on English choral and organ music, as well as service playing.

An active interest in improvisation led to his popular improvised accompaniments to classic silent films.

Kevin Kwan
Kevin Kwan is the Organist and Director of Music at Christ and St. Luke’s Church in Norfolk, Virginia.  A native of San Francisco, he studied with Todd Wilson at the Cleveland Institute of Music, while serving at the Church of the Covenant. After a year as organ scholar at Gloucester Cathedral, in 2008 he became Assistant Organist at Saint Thomas Church  where he worked daily with the Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys until his 2012 appointment in Norfolk.

The Arents Memorial Organ

by Lawrence Trupiano

The story of the Arents Memorial Organ began on February 7, 1955, when a contract between the Æolian-Skinner Organ Company and Saint Thomas Church, New York City was signed by Walter C. Baker, church treasurer, and Joseph Whiteford, vice-president of Æolian-Skinner. Funds were given by George Arents in memory of his wife.

The original specifications were the work of G. Donald Harrison, Æolian-Skinner’s president, and William Self, organist of Saint Thomas. The organ was partially finished by Harrison who wanted “this organ to be a monument to his career.” Unfortunately, Harrison died just days before the organ was to be publicly exhibited by Pierre Cochereau at the Sixtieth Anniversary National Convention of the American Guild of Organist on June 25, 1956.

The organ was completed tonally by Æolian-Skinner employees, and in October of 1957, Marcel Dupré made two recordings of the instrument on the Mercury Living Presence label. The people who engineered the recording were the dynamic team of C. Robert Fine and his wife, Wilma Cozart Fine. Their talent and skills made this vinyl presentation of the organ and its environment sound far better than it was in reality.

The 1956 Saint Thomas instrument was actually a massive rebuild of a 1913 instrument. Harrison elected to retain most of the 1913 Ernest Skinner windchests, which had been refurbished in 1953, but started to have issues as early as 1960. Much correspondence between Bill Self and A-S discusses the leather issues facing New York City instruments and theoretical solutions. By 1964, two former employees of A-S became the curators of the Saint Thomas instrument: Anthony Bufano and Gilbert F. Adams, who had formed the short-lived partnership known as the Adams-Bufano Organ Company. Adams and Bufano did much mechanical and tonal regulation in the first year they were engaged at the church. Bill Self wrote to the rector, Dr. Frederick Morris, “that the organ is now in better condition in terms of tone and regulation than any time since [its] installation.”

In 1965, the Church decided to act on a proposal from Mr. Adams to replace the failing chests in the chancel Grand Choeur with new slider chests. Upon completion of that project, the church soon moved to replace the the Swell windchests, which had sustained water damage in April, 1965, with new Adams slider chests. In addition to the new wind chests, significant re-voicing of the principal chorus ensued and, eventually, the Harrison reeds were replaced.

Self’s enthusiasm for the organ’s recent modifications was shared by a member of the church vestry, Edward C. Weist, a successful banker who had studied music and was enchanted with pipe organs. Weist corresponded with several organ builders during the 1930s, in particular Harrison and Walter Holtkamp. He spoke fluent French and was intrigued by anything French, including treatises on French music and organ building. Self had a strong ally in Ed Weist!

The next significant changes occurring in the organ were revoicing the Trompette en Chamade and a complete rebuilding of the Harrison Positif organ. Work on the Positif included creating two separate divisions, a French Positif and a German Oberwerk (which later would be renamed Vorwerk), each playable from its own manual; and new slider chests, with significant revoicing of existing ranks and new pipe work, including new Trompettes and a Cromorne. It was during 1967, with the installation of this new equipment, that the Positif division lost its ability to be “expressif.” Work on the pedal reeds and revisions to the Principal choruses of the Grand Choeur and Great were also undertaken.

These modifications were so dramatically different from the 1956 instrument, that a letter dated March 21, 1968, arrived on Bill Self’s desk and noted that “the Officers of the Company would be greatly pleased if you would be good enough to help us continue to honor the work of the late G. Donald Harrison by removing his personal nametag from the console… We are in no way commenting on the present tonal characteristics of the St. Thomas organ, except in all honesty to say that its character is not recognizable as the work of Mr. Harrison, or the Æolian-Skinner Company for that matter.” Bill Self responded in April, “The request from the officers of the Company concerning the nametag of G. Donald Harrison is indeed well understood. The truth is that we have given this some consideration ourselves [and to] honor your request, we have proceeded accordingly.”

Comprehensive revisions continued in the Arents Organ until the retirement of William Self in June 1971. The Antiphonal organ (which was partially expressive) was removed prior to the completion of the new (1969) Loening Memorial Organ in the east gallery, leaving the Swell as the only division remaining under expression.

As with so many things at Saint Thomas Church, Ed Weist was instrumental in hiring Gerre and Judith Hancock, who both attended Union Theological Seminary and returned to New York after serving at Christ Church, Cincinnati, Ohio. During Gerre Hancock’s tenure as Organist and Choirmaster, he oversaw the tonal finalization of the Grand Choeur and Great, along with Weist and Adams. Through good times and bad, the Hancocks made music on the Arents organ for 33 years at the Church.

In 1974, Ed Weist, who had retired with his wife to Vero Beach, Florida, wrote to Dr. Hancock and Gilbert Adams, “As George Arents foresaw, his organ will never be ‘finished.’ Internal renewal and improvement will continue to take place in the years ahead. Things will wear out. Mistakes or expedient compromises will be corrected. New technologies will be invented, or rediscovered. Tastes will change. The present tonal design may be corrected, or changed, or abandoned; but it will be difficult to transcend.”

The specifications of most of the organs serving the congregation of Saint Thomas Church since 1825 may be viewed online at the New York City-AGO website; New York City Organ Project (NYCOP), Steve Lawson, editor.

The Arents Memorial Organ, Saint Thomas Church, New York, Chancel
1969 Gilbert F. Adams, New York, and 2005 Mann & Trupiano, New York
rebuilt from 1956 Æolian-Skinner Op. 205-A, 1948 M. P. Möller Op. 7000, 1945 Ernest M. Skinner & Son, 1913 Skinner Organ Company Op. 205

4 manuals, 119 stops, 160 ranks, electropneumatic action

Great Man. I
16        Principal
16        Bourdon
8          Principal
8          Flûte harmonique
8          Gedackt
8          Violoncelle
5-1/3    Gross Quinte
4          Octave
4          Rohrflöte
3-1/5    Terz
2-2/7    Gross Septime [sic]
2-2/3    Quinte
2          Octave
V-VII   Mixture
IV        Scharf
Great 16 4
Positif to Great 8
Vorwerk to Great 8
Choir (Vor & Pos)
to Great 16 4
Swell to Great 16 8 4
Grand Choeur to Great 16 8

Positif Man. II
16        Quintaton
8          Montre
8          Bourdon
8          Viole
8          Dulciana
4          Prestant
4          Cor de nuit
2-2/3    Nasard
2          Doublette
2          Quarte
1-3/5    Tierce
1-1/3    Larigot
1-1/7    Septième
1          Piccolo
IV        Fourniture
III        Cymbale
16        Basson
8          Trompette
8          Cromorne
8          Clarinette
4          Clairon

Vorwerk Man. II
8          Spitzprincipal
8          Gedeckt
4          Prinzipal
4          Koppelflöte
2-2/3    Quinte
2          Oktave
2          Blockflöte
1-3/5    Terz
1-1/3    Quinte
1          Schwegel
IV        Scharf
III        Terz-zimbel
V         Cornet de Récit [g2-d5]
16        Rankett
8          Voix Humaine
Choir 16 4 (Vor & Pos)
8          Trompette en Chamade
Swell to Choir 16 8
Grand Choeur to Choir 8

Swell Man. III
16        Bourdon
8          Principal
8          Flûte harmonique
8          Bourdon
8          Viole de gambe
8          Viole céleste
8          Flûte douce
8          Flûte céleste
4          Prestant
4          Fugara
4          Flûte à fuseau
4          Dulciana
4          Unda Maris
2-2/3    Nasard
2          Doublette
2          Octavin
1-3/5    Tierce
IV        Fourniture
III        Cymbale
16        Bombarde
8          Trompette
8          Hautbois
8          Vox Humana
4          Clairon
Swell 16 4
Vorwerk on Swell, off Choir

Grand Choeur Man. IV
32    Principal [1-12 Ped]
16    Montre
8    Montre
8    Bourdon
4    Prestant
3-1/5    Grosse Tierce
2-2/3    Nasard
2    Doublette
2    Quarte
1-3/5    Tierce
V    Fourniture
IV    Cymbale IV ranks
V    Grand Cornet [c3-c5]
16    Bombarde
8    Trompette
4    Clairon
Great to Grand Choeur 8
Vorwerk on Grand Choeur, off Choir

32    Contrebasse [ext.]
32    Bourdon [ext.]
16    Contrebasse
16    Principal
16    Bourdon
16    Bourdon [Gt.]
10-2/3    Grosse Quinte
8    Octave
8    Spitzflöte
8    Gedeckt
6-2/5    Grosse Tierce
5-1/3    Quinte
4-4/7    Grosse Septième
4    Super Octave
4    Flûte
3-1/5    Tierce
2    Blockflöte
IV    Fourniture
III    Cymbale
32    Bombarde [ext.]
16    Bombarde
16    Posaune
16    Rankett [VW]
8    Trompette
4    Clairon
4    Rohr Schalmei
2    Zink
Great to Pedal 8
Positif to Pedal 8
Swell to Pedal 8 4
Grand Choeur to Pedal 8
Grand Choeur Pistons 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10
Swell Pistons 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10
Choir    Pistons 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10
Great    Pistons 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10
Pedal    Pistons 1-2-3-4-5
General Pistons 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-
Sequencer Controls
+ (Next) piston to left of divisional piston no. 1 for each manual and toe stud at right of Swell Pedal
- (Prev) and + (Next) pistons below Swell and Choir manuals (right side) and toe studs at far right

Loening-Hancock Gallery Organ
1996 Taylor & Boody Organbuilders, Op. 27

2 manuals, 25 stops, 32 ranks, mechanical action

Hauptwerk Man. I
16    Bordun
8    Principal
8     Rohrflöte
4     Octave
4     Spielflöte
2-2/3    Quinte (prep)
2-2/3    Nasat
2    Superoctave
V-VI    Mixtur
16     Trompet
8     Trompet

Oberwerk Man. II
8    Gedackt
8    Quintadena (prep)
4    Principal
4    Rohrflöte
2    Octave (prep)
2    Gemshorn
II    Sesquialtera
IV-VI    Scharff
8    Dulcian

16     Subbass (poplar)
8     Octave [C1-F6 HW]
4     Octave
16    Posaune
8    Trompet (HW)
     Spare slide

Manuals 54 notes
Pedal 30 notes

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