Buzard Opus 28

St. James Church
Newport Beach, California
Completed 2002
Two manuals and pedal

Sometimes things are "meant to happen." This would certainly be the case with this new pipe organ, installed in this lovely new worship space. My assistant met The Rev. David Anderson at our exhibit at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Denver, almost three years ago. Father David took my business card and we offered him a few compact discs of our organs.

Then, a few months later, I received an email from a colleague congratulating us on receiving the commission for this new organ. But, I hadn't actually heard from the Church, nor had I been in touch with Father David, except to send a letter of thanks to him following the Convention. The next thing I knew Cindy Drennan was inviting me out to beautiful Newport Beach to look over the architect's plans for the worship space.

The result is this new pipe organ, the 28th instrument we have completed since opening our doors back in 1982. Every individual instrument and space for its installation presents challenges to us, and we try to learn from every situation. In this organ we were challenged to install an instrument of 28 ranks of pipes in a very small space behind the choir. Because of limited ceiling height, and the requirement that the organ stay completely out of the field of the rose window, we had to install the two manual divisions of the organ a bit lower than we would have otherwise. The pedal pipes and the façade are located on the casework band above the choir screen, serving to provide the visual interest of the largest metal flue pipes interacting with the window and the roof line.

Because this organ is located in a seismic area, we took extra steps to make the organ's structure and the pipe racking more substantial than would normally be required. Similarly, the tuning of this organ is accomplished by rolling scrolls wound from the pipe metal, and flaring the open ends of the small pipes with inverted cones, rather than more typical movable sleeves. Our thinking was that even a small rumble could loosen tuning sleeves, but with cone tuning there is nothing to move. The result is such electrifyingly tight tuning, that we are considering tuning some of our upcoming organs in this manner.

The organ's tonal style is inspired by the great English cathedral organs of "Father" Willis, Hill, and the French instruments of Aristide Cavaille-Coll. There needs to be warmth and singing nobility in organ pipe sound, but there also needs to be a sense of urgency, éclat, and fire. This is the inspiration for all our work, and is certainly apparent in this instrument.

The pipes are made of various mixtures of pure tin and lead, as well as copper for the horizontal Major Tuba, and wood for some of the flutes. Part of the Great Organ is housed in an expression box, to give this modest instrument greater flexibility for accompanying.

The organ's slider and pallet windchests are electrically operated, and the console sports a multiple-memory level combination action, and a sequencer, so that the organist can actually record him or herself playing, and can then actually play the organ back!

The casework is made of stained and finished red oak, and the façade pipes are made of 75% polished tin, to catch and reflect the beautiful colors of light shining through the rose window.

- John-Paul Buzard