St Peter’s Episcopal Church has been home to a 1903 Hook and Hasting tracker pipe organ since 1933. Originally built for First Baptist Church of Talladega, the organ was replaced with a larger instrument, and the Hook and Hastings was relocated to St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.
Though the relocation was sympathetic to the mechanical structure of the organ, the casework and façade suffered from some ill-conceived placement design. During a severe storm in spring of 2008, the organ suffered extensive water damage to the chest and action rendering the organ completely unplayable. Dr. James Dorroh of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Birmingham, Alabama, served as the consultant for the project.
In July 2008, the Hook and Hastings organ was removed and shipped to our facility in Norcross, Georgia, for evaluation and storage. In the months following, pipework was washed, cleaned and inspected. The metal pipework had survived reasonably well but had suffered over time due to dirt and cone tuning. The pipes with tuning scrolls were actually in good condition. The cone tuned pipes were repaired and fitted with slide tuners.
In our work with Dr. Dorroh, the original organ specification was reinstated with two additions. The 8′ Salicional (removed to make space for the new 8′ Trumpet) was reinstalled in the Swell and is a crucial key to the tonal structure of the instrument. The removal of the Salicional left a void in color and volume build up of the ensemble. The original Oboe suffered as someone has tried to make the stop serve as a Trumpet. An 8′ Trumpet was added by another builder, but no provisions were made to return the Oboe to its original state. The Oboe was restored and regulated. This provided for two separate colorful reeds. The final addition was a 2′ Super Octave in the Great to complement the Diapason Chorus. Since the organ received new windchests, we were able install the 2′ Super Octave and the 8′ Trumpet in appropriate locations with respect to proper windchest layouts for tonal egress and service access.
The key and stop actions remained mechanical. We extended the key actions to accommodate the extra depth of the organ chassis for the additions and to allow an extended configuration of the Great and façade into the room.
As we carefully stripped the case of 100+ years of varnish, the details of the quarter sawn oak were revealed. The pipes were stripped and refinished in their original gold. The keys were restored in ivory. The pipework responded beautifully to the tonal finishing. We were careful during the tonal finishing not to alter the color of the original pipe voicers, but simply to return volume and speech to their intended levels. Washing the pipework and careful regulation yielded an organ with many different tone colors that weave together to create a delightful listening experience.
As the Tonal Director, it was exciting to work with and play a Hook and Hasting after having toured Boston to listen to and study some of the significant Hook organs in that area. While Hook was a prominent builder in the New England area, few of their organs actually made it into the southeast, which was one of the driving factors to preserve the organ at St. Peter’s. In doing so, we have an excellent piece of history to study and a marvelous organ for the church to use in worship.
Our gratitude and appreciation goes Dr. Jim Dorroh, the Consultant; Dan Miller, Organist/Choirmaster; and the members and staff of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Talladega, Alabama. The organ was reinstalled in spring of 2009 and was officially rededicated to service on Easter Sunday, April 12, 2009.