After weeks of anticipation, the parish community of the Cathedral of the Incarnation and neighbors throughout the Diocese of Nashville were able to enjoy the beauty of music coming from the newly installed pipe organ during an inaugural concert, featuring the Cathedral Choir and Brass Ensemble on Sunday, Sept. 17, at the church. The concert came one week after the organ was blessed and dedicated by Bishop J. Mark Spalding at the start of the 11 a.m. Mass on Sunday, Sept. 10.
“I’ve heard it said that music is the voice of the angels,” said Carl Neuhoff Jr., who has been a parishioner of the Cathedral for more than 30 years. “Music speaks to people in a way that can’t be done verbally.”
This new organ is only going to prove that, he said.
“It’s a night and day difference. It’s completely different,” Neuhoff said. “I couldn’t believe the difference when I first heard it. The old one, it would be distorted and muffled, and this one is crisp and clear. It’s absolutely beautiful.”
The 40-stop pipe organ, built and installed by Goulding & Wood Pipe Organ Builders out of Indianapolis, Indiana, includes 2,300 pipes, a significant upgrade from the 19-rank pipe organ that was originally installed in 1914, and later renovated to include 22, and then 25 ranks. While the old organ was able to serve its purpose for more than 100 years, when the Cathedral’s 2015 Capital Campaign started ramping up, it was clear that this was the time to purchase a new organ.
“The thoughtful design of the new organ maximizes the limited space in the rear gallery to house an organ more than twice the size of the original Pilcher instrument,” according to the background printed in the inaugural concert program. “The tonal language can probably best be described as in the English tradition, representing a school of organ building closely tied to the vocal forms, congregational song and choral music, that are the backbone of modern Liturgical worship.
“Generous scales give depth and warmth to encourage full-voiced assembly sing. The pallet and slider wind chests utilize the most time-tested methods for giving voice to the pipes while reliable, modernized mechanisms will ensure smooth function for decades to come,” the write-up continued. “The noble physical design of the organ case blends beautifully with the Cathedral architecture, giving the impression it might always have been in place.”
“I’m just thankful for this magnificent accomplishment and for all who’ve made it possible, for all the great generosity that has been put forward to make this come to fruition,” said Father Eric Fowlkes, pastor of the Cathedral of the Incarnation. “This is something that will enhance our worship for the glory of God and our gathering together as a community not only as the Cathedral parish, but as the mother Church of our diocese.”
The inaugural concert was not just significant for those that simply came to listen, but a big moment for those members of the choir who sang with it for the first time, as they performed multiple pieces, including “I Beseech You Therefore, Brethren,” “Give Me the Wings of Faith to Rise,” as well as traditional hymns like “Praise to the Lord,” “O God, Beyond All Praising,” and “‘Tis the Church Triumphant Singing (Worthy the Lamb).’” Additionally, several organ solos were played throughout by organist Dawn Seidenschwarz and guest organist Douglas Murray.
“It’s absolutely unbelievable,” said choir member and regular cantor Kevin Raymond. “You spend a huge amount of money on a new organ, and you think, ‘Is it really going to make much of a difference,’ but it’s night and day.
“Everything is so clean and clear, and there are so many more sounds and stops that open up things in the pipe system that we’ve never had before, like two sets of chimes instead of one. It’s crazy,” he said. “It’s so personalized, it’s unbelievable.”
“The Cathedral is the protectorate of the arts as we try to save things and do all this amazing sacred music and salvage what we’ve had during the course of history,” Raymond continued. “It’s really nice to know that we’ve got an instrument that will enhance that and do that for us now. It’s a really cool thing.”
Other members of the choir included Miriam Barrett, Meghan Berneking, Becky Cortner, Jonathan Cortner, Jane-Coleman Cottone, Casey Cuba, Sadie Dunn, Caitlin Fisher, Kristina Gleissner, Grace Greenwood, Bridget Kresta, Eli Kresta, Sarah Lecuyer, Ina Lee, Cindy Lybarger, Ryan Lynch, Emily Neely, Stefan Neely, Neuhoff, Josh Osmanski, Tori Price, Benton Quarles, Justin Santopietro, Robert Sims, Dee Thompson, and Gabe Wateski.
While the inaugural concert was a huge success, it is only the beginning, said Jackson Schoos, director of music for the Cathedral of the Incarnation.
“It’s time to get to work. It’s time to keep the organ serving the people of God and serving the liturgy, which is the main reason that it’s here,” Schoos said. “Concerts are great, and recitals are great, and we love to participate in the broader community in those ways, but the purpose of all of this is for the beauty of the liturgy, and for the glory of God.”
That was made evident in the official prayer of blessing that hundreds both in person and via livestream heard Bishop Spalding pray on Sunday, Sept. 10.
“My dear brothers and sisters. We have come together to bless this new organ, installed so that the celebration of the liturgy may become more beautiful and solemn,” Bishop Spalding prayed. “The purpose of music in the liturgy is above all to give glory to God and to lead us to holiness. Thus, the music of the organ wonderfully expresses the new song that scripture tells us to sing to the Lord, to sing this new song is to live rightly, to follow God’s will eagerly and gladly, and, by loving one another, to carry out the new commandment that Jesus gave us.
“Lord God, your beauty is ancient yet ever new. Your wisdom guides the world in right order and your goodness gives the world its variety and splendor. The choirs of angels join together to offer their praise by obeying your commands,” the bishop continued. “The galaxies sing your praises by the pattern of their movement that follows your laws. The voices of the redeemed join in a chorus of praise to your holiness as they sing to you in mind and heart.
“We, your people, joyously gathered in this church, wish to join our voices to the universal hymn of praise. So that our song may rise more worthily to your majesty, we present this organ to your blessing. Grant that its music may lead us to express our prayer and praise in melodies that are pleasing to you.”