Old South Church — Gordon Chapel
Aeolian-Skinner Op. 896, 1933; three manuals, 16 ranks
Revised Casavant 1983 to two manuals, 21 ranks
Gordon Chapel was constructed in 1932 as a part of the parish house project that also replaced the Church's original tower with the present one. The Church contracted with Aeolian-Skinner in 1932 for a new chapel organ of special design. Due to limited space, 14 ranks were carefully installed into inhospitably-shaped chambers. Despite cramped conditions, the organ’s warm and engaging tone was always considered something of a triumph. Dr. McKinley was so delighted that he wrote an article praising the instrument in the May 1933 American Organist.
In 1983 this instrument was rebuilt by Casavant Frères, Ltée. A new, two-manual console was fitted; Great, Choir and Pedal made unenclosed; Choir stops combined onto the Great manual; and several tonal changes made. The organ was releathered at this time, one chest converted to Schwimmer winding, reservoirs overhauled in a manner consistent with Casavant practice, and a few other mechanical modifications carried out. The original three-manual console, gutted but with its original ivory hardware, remains stored on the church premises.
The 1983 work transformed the top end of the organ into something much brighter. The 2007 tonal work was guided by a desire to return all available pipes to their original locations and voicing. This project included removing two added mixtures, replicating the Great/Choir Gemshorn treble and Great Twelfth (thus permitting the original Grave Mixture to be heard), and cleaning and re-regulating the speech of all manual pipework. The organ is now as it was tonally in 1933 with three exceptions: the Great/Choir and Pedal remain unenclosed; the Swell Vox Humana (now in Old South's sanctuary organ) holds the Casavant III Plein Jeu, revoiced and remodelled as a two-rank mixture; and the Choir Dulciana is absent.
For this project, installation and racking was executed by Spencer Organ Company; new pipes were made by Thomas Anderson (former head of the Aeolian-Skinner pipe shop); voicing was by Daniel Kingman; Trompette renovation by Broome & Co.; tonal finishing and project management by Jonathan Ambrosino. Concurrently, Nelson Barden Associates rebuilt the blower, replacing the original D.C. motor with a vintage 3-phase A.C. model.