Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help
George S. Hutchings, Opus 410, 1897
Henri Lahaise & Son, 1968
W. Catanesye & Co., LLC, 2020
There has been much restorative work done on the great Hutchings organ over the past few years. The original static regulator was severely damaged by water and could not be restored to a reliable state. We designed a new static regulator and OSI of Erie, PA built it to our specifications. With three regulator tops, the new regulator could easily be carried upstairs in pieces to the upper level of the tower where it was then assembled.
Why have three regulator tops? The benefit of this is that in the future; releathering is accomplished by un-bolting the tops and bringing them back to the shop.
Right, 2nd photo down: The new static regulator installed and adjusted. Note that the church had the water leaks repaired and re-plastered the room. These are the organ's lungs, it's imperative that they be located in a clean area
Let this be a lesson: In 2019 we were called to the church because the organ was not functioning as it should. It was discovered that contractors did work near the blower and all that dust and debris that fell down got sucked into the organ, its pipes and mechanism. in February 2020 we signed a contract to clean the organ. This work includes:
Because all the pipework was removed, it gave an opportunity to, at no additional cost or expense, to put stops back where the were originally located in the original 1897 specification. This has included:
The organ occupying the gallery at the Basilica was built in 1897 by the firm of George S. Hutchings of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Widely respected as one of the premier builders of the time, Hutchings' only real competition was the Hook and Hastings Company of Boston, Massachusetts. Dedicated on September 26, 1897 it was regarded as the finest instrument in the country. World renowned French organist Alexandre Guilmant was invited to give a recital on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, playing two different programs on December 8 and 9 , 1897. This program included the U.S. premiere of his Sixth Organ Sonata.
Two organ builders who would have a lasting influence on organ building in the United States worked for Hutchings during the construction of Opus 410: Ernest M. Skinner and Carlton Mitchell. Skinner is credited with many design elements and mechanical innovations such as the “bat-wing” console and electro-pneumatic action. Hutchings was so impressed with Skinner's talent that he sent him to England where, in exchange for information on Hutchings electro-pneumatic action, Skinner received technical specifications for the celebrated Willis reeds. The reed stops in Opus 410 are likely a result of this exchange. Skinner went on to start one of the most influential organ companies in the United States; his organs are known as “Symphonic” because the stops tend to imitate a symphony. One stop in Opus 410, the Swell 4' Shawm (originally called 8' Saxophone), looks remarkably similar to to Skinners Bassoon stops.
Carlton Mitchell, an organbuilder from England, worked for Hutchings for a short time and was known for his fine string voicing. Although Mitchell did not stay with Hutchings for long, the remarkable string stops in the organ are due to his influence. Mitchell went on to work for the Austin Organ Company of Hartford, CT and later built a few instruments on his own – the most famous being the three-manual organ at Most Precious Blood in Hyde Park, Massachusetts.
The 1968 rebuild by Henri Lahaise and Son with Charles B. Fisk as consultant resulted in the loss of several stops, most notably the 8' Tuba, the pedal 16' Open Diapason and much of the Choir foundation stops. While innovative for 1897, the original action was still experimental and had shortcomings; it was decided to place the organ on slider chests at this time, patterned from the original Hutchings toeboards. One 1897 manual chest from the Choir still exists, unused and unrestored. The primary from this chest, pictured at left, clearly shows one of the earliest examples of Skinner's maple-cap magnet design.
In 1997 the Choir division was reinstated and some other tonal changes made. The original Solo 8' Tuba was repaired and revoiced into a fiery 8' Trompette with "Duck Bill" shallots by Jeremy Adams.
Today, the organ remains as one of the most important and respected instruments in New England; the splendid acoustics of the Basilica play no small role in this. Very rare in the United States, the acoustics of the Basilica are unparallelled, reminiscent of the great European churches. The unique convening of talents in the original design in addition to respectful modifications make Opus 410 both an instrument of the highest caliber and a historic treasure.
16' Double Diapason
8' 1st Diapason*
8' 2nd Diapason
8' Doppel Flöte
4' Harmonic Flute*
2 2/3' Twelfth
2' Spindle Flute
1 3/5' Tierce
8' Voix Celeste*
4' Flauto Traverso*
2 2/3' Nazard
1 3/5' Tierce
8' Vox Humana
8' Trompette (unenclosed, 6" wind)
16' Contra Dolce (preparation)
8' Open Diapason
8' Geigen Principal
8' Concert Flute
4' Chimney Flute
8' Tuba Mirabilis (12" wind)
32' Contra Bourdon
5 1/3' Quint
4' Super Octave
The original wind chests were Rosevelt style electro-pneumatic wind chests with side mounted pneumatics and a metal arm with the valve attached.
In 1968 the wind chests were replaced with slider chests with a Blackington style action
Stop motors are electro-pneumatic except for the 1997 chest added for the Choir foundations which uses Laukhuff solenoids
Wind is provided by a Spencer blower utilizing a 10hp Woods 3-phase motor
The Great, Swell, Choir (1997 chest) and Primary Action bellows are all original, double-rise regulators.
The upper Choir chest is winded by a single rise regulator.
Upper Choir 2.3"
Lower Choir (1997) 3.5"
Tuba Mirabilis 12"
The original 3 manual "Batwing" console was replaced in 1968 by a 3 manual Reisner console. The original console still exists, stored inside the lower part of the organ.
Manual Compass: 61 notes
Pedal Compass: 32 notes
Single level electro-mechanical remote combination action
Keyboards are Ivory and Ebony
Console is constructed of White Oak and stained to match the faux grain on the casework
Built by Geo. Hutchings
Rebuilt by Henri Lahaise & Son
Reinstatement of Choir foundation stops Henri Lahaise & Son
Cleaning & Tonal reinstatements
W Catanesye & Co., LLC
* denotes original pipework restored and returned to original positions in 2021