Crown Jewel of St. John’s Chancel
The musical range and majesty of the pipe organ in the St. John’s Episcopal Church – Georgetown sanctuary was showcased and dedicated on Sept. 29, 2012
The Right Reverend Mariann Budde, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, presided over the special service, marking another historic event in this 216-year-old parish with a history that has often intersected with the nation’s leaders and prominent personalities.
The dedication coincided with the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels – an event that traditionally celebrates the pomp and heraldry associated with angels.
The dedication music was chosen by Sam Carabetta, Organist and Choirmaster at St. John’s. Works by composers Bach, Howells, Dering, Mulet and Near that celebrate and interpret God’s angelic messengers wasl featured.
The selections demonstrated the dynamic tonal qualities of the pipe organ, which required weeks of painstaking installation and tuning of its 2, 262 wooden and metal pipes by highly skilled workers from the Casavant Fréres Pipe Organ Co. of Quebec, which built it. The company recently installed one of its organs at the Kennedy Center.
It took about a year for Casavant Fréres organ builders to construct the instrument, which is designed specifically to fill the two-story space in the church’s chancel.The smallest of the pipes is about the size of a pencil. The largest, which produce a deep bass sound, are 16-feet long. Installation into the chancel and tuning the instrument took place between it arrival on July 3, 2012, extending into early September.
Acquiring the new instrument was a goal of the parish for more than a decade as its second-hand, century-old predecessor became virtually unplayable because of repeated water damage from roof leaks and deterioration of delicate components over the years.
The new organ was donated by John and Dariel Van Wagoner, members of the congregation for 60 years. According to church documents, this is the third St. John’s organ. The first was purchased in 1839.
Installation required extensive construction work that was funded with $1.8 million capital campaign launched in May 2011. That work included roof replacements and upgrades to the mechanical and electric systems.