Galilee's Pipe Organ Project

The Project

The History and Future

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Construction Details

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Galilee has contracted with Quimby Pipe Organs of Warrensburg, Missouri to restore and rehome an exquisite vintage pipe organ for our church. The long hoped for organ project is the final piece of the puzzle, completing the comprehensive renovation of our beautiful sanctuary, and enhancing our music in worship for generations to come.

This particular pipe organ was built in 1924 by the esteemed E.M. Skinner company as their Opus 459, the 459th instrument in the history of the Skinner firm. This absolute gem of an instrument was set to be demolished at a church in Massachusettes, but once properly restored, it will be renewed to reliably serve Galilee for another century. Opus 459 will be sympathetically restored to the same 1924 golden standards of Ernest Skinner, updated with modern industry-standard controls and equipment, and tonally expanded, making it one of the largest, most unique, and most exciting organs in our region.

Our new (to us) instrument: E.M. Skinner, Op. 459
In June of 2022, a gorgeous vintage instrument came available through Organ Clearing House, a company that exists to rehome fine pipe organs. Built by E.M. Skinner in 1924 for St. John’s Methodist Church in Watertown, MA, this 4-manual pipe organ has been meticulously maintained and served the church well for the past century. Due to closures, the church was forced to put the Skinner up for sale.

Skinner organs were (and still are) status symbols for large churches, cathedrals, and universities. Some pipe organ companies today try to replicate Skinners–but just like you can’t re-create a Stradivarius, you can’t quite replicate a Skinner. Organs being built during this era had an unparalleled capability to encompass a room with their warmth and breadth of tone, and Skinners in particular were known as being the best “orchestral” instruments, containing many of the signature sounds heard in a symphony orchestra, including French horns, tubas, harps, clarinets, oboes, all sorts of flutes and strings, harp, and chimes. They are great for all kinds of repertoire, accompanying other instruments, and most importantly, are easy to sing with.

Our new pipe organ will actually be more than just this magnificent Skinner – We are also taking the best parts of our old pipe organ in the chancel and fine vintage pipework from an 1891 Roosevelt organ to form a chancel division of the organ, enabling us to lead music in both the chancel and balcony.
The console of E.M. Skinner Op. 459 in Watertown, MA before removal and restoration.
Behind the grillwork to the right of the altar is the chancel organ chamber.
Finding an organ like this was exciting, not least from a cost perspective. A new pipe organ of similar size and scope to our new organ would cost about $4 million. The cost for this project at Galilee is about $1.7 million, and we’re already about 2/3 of the way there!Due to the necessary rush of getting the organ out of Boston to save it, we quickly assembled an organ committee of dedicated church members from across all three services to begin the work of assessing Galilee’s needs. We sought and received five proposals from top organ builders in the field, and are very proud to say that Quimby Pipe Organs has been selected to do the work of fully restoring and retrofitting this absolutely gorgeous instrument to like-new condition for our space. Michael Quimby and his firm are among the most respected organ builders in the country, have decades of experience restoring and rebuilding historic Skinner instruments like ours, and have a vast stockpile of vintage Skinner pipes and parts. Our project is unique, and Quimby is uniquely positioned to help Galilee realize this project to its fullest potential.


One More Thing...

Additionally, Quimby has in their inventory a unique piece of history that will pair perfectly with this instrument in our space: a vintage Skinner bat-wing console!
Michael Quimby of Quimby Pipe Organs being interviewed by organist Carol Williams’ “On the Bench” video series.
The bat-wing console with wings extended out.

While the Skinner’s original console (the set of keyboards where the organist sits and controls the instrument) will be restored and located along with the bulk of the instrument in the balcony, we told Quimby we will also need a console for the chancel, allowing us to control the entire organ from the front of the church. However, we are already tight on space in the chancel… that’s why this bat-wing console is exciting. Because of its unique design, its “wings” can be folded up and it will fit in the chancel alcove, only being brought out when needed. A very small number of Skinner consoles with this unique design were built, and there are only two left – this one, and one at UVA’s Cabell Hall.
The bat-wing console with wings folded in.

Both consoles will be able to control the full resources of the organ, and having this second console will give us the flexibility to have choirs sing from the chancel when desired, collaborate more easily and fully with the contemporary worship, hold Evensongs, concerts, and more with the chancel organ. A new console would cost at least $250K and would have to be custom designed to fit in our space. This console is not only a perfect fit for us, but also extremely historically significant!So, the pipe organ we’re going to install will be historic, unique, and it will be an organ that other musicians will want to come play; but most importantly, it will be an organ that enhances our worship, encourages people to sing, and glorifies God.