Almost 2 years ago now our discussions began with James Buonemani, the Director of Music at St James’ Wilshire Boulevard, who wanted to build a most interesting chamber organ for the church’s Resurrection Chapel on the north side of the main building.
Many emails and video conference calls eventually defined an instrument that could never have been built at this small size in pipes, or probably with the choice of 8 different split points with many of the stops split between treble and bass. Oh and by the way, there was also a detachable pedal board with a 16 ft bourdon and 4 other stops including 2 small solo reeds set on a tremulant box.
Without doubt the most interesting organ project we have ever worked on. James en route to a holiday in Europe called in to play the instrument in Summer 2022 before we shipped it out and installed it in LA in November.
Our Skinner Style Organ became the topic of conversation
Many things catch people’s eyes on the net and during the course of this journey our digital Skinner instrument also became a topic of conversation with James. It became clear that the St James’ gallery instrument, an elderly Rodgers was approaching an age where it needed replacement and inevitably our conversations broadened to helping James out with this problem.
So on the same trip over, our Skinner instrument has also found a new but temporary home at St James on loan until a permanent solution is devised. The instrument utilises the speaker and amplifier resources of the old Rodgers instrument so the job of connecting up was not too demanding save of course for the lifting up of the console to the gallery.
This work was undertaken by a local specialist piano removals company who hired a large fork lift that only just managed to fit down an alleyway into the church. Indeed the alleyway required angle grinder work to remove a steel security door before that journey was even possible.
A lovely interlude to the work in LA involved attending an organ recital at St James’. The church has a very active and well supported music programme and we were lucky that our trip coincided with an organ event. This was followed by a great dinner afterwards with the recitalist Maxine Thevenot from Canada. You to can enjoy the recital on this link
Linking the Skinner Organ to the Pipe Organ
An unknown we faced was linking the Skinner organ to be played from the pipe organ console and also enabling the Skinner console to power up from an on/off piston on the pipe organ. Both these tasks were eventually achieved with the ancient but effective midi link that was already there. The power up solution did put my basic soldering skills to the test but I eventually managed to reuse a relay in the old Rodgers to achieve the desired result. You will see from the picture that deciding quite which of the many wires to connect to was a challenge.
This effort was finally rewarded when the Skinner powered up and sang out from the gallery high over the nave into the vast space below.
A days voicing by my colleague Richard who was there to do the final voicing of the chamber organ resulted in a magnificent finale to this very short visit. Listen to Richard taking the Skinner all the way from whispering opening strings to a mighty full organ topped by the solo division Tuba just hours before he boarded his plane back home to London.
James was truly delighted. One organ for keeps and one to enjoy until a final decision on the future of the west end instrument can be taken.
Finally, time permitting here you can read all about the wonderful St James Murray Harris pipe organ and also a little bit about ours.
A well travelled Digital Skinner Organ
Can I leave you with a final thought. This Skinner instrument was flown to Dubai for the Papal Mass held there in 2018. A distance of 4300 miles. So now having travelled to Los Angeles this instrument has almost 14,000 miles on the clock.
Could this be the most travelled digital organ in the world? Answers on a postcard please.
I have had a passion for church organs since the tender age of 12. I own and run Regent Classic Organs with a close attention to the detail that musicians appreciate; and a clear understanding of the benefits of digital technology and keeping to the traditional and emotional elements of organ playing.