The Cathedral's ambitious pipe organ renovation project is rapidly gaining momentum, and the pivotal first phase of this endeavor involves the removal of the existing organ, setting the stage for a profound renewal.

To make this process seamless, we’re introducing a temporary digital organ from the esteemed Walker Technical Company in Zionsville, Pa. This new digital instrument ensures that the Cathedral is never without a functioning organ, and it will be operational before Christmas.

There was just one problem: the location for the speakers of our digital organ were, up until this past June, filled with two divisions of our existing pipe organ, called the Brustwerk and Positiv. These two divisions were installed in 1961 as the first stage of the last rebuild of the organ, by the Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company in Boston.

To prepare for the installation of the Walker digital organ, the Brustwerk and Positiv divisions (together known as the “Gallery” divisions) were removed and taken to the workshop of Foley-Baker, Inc., in Tolland, Conn. This week-long process involved the removal of:

  • approximately 1,000 pipes, ranging in size from eight feet long down to a few inches
  • several windchests (the wooden boxes which support the pipes and provide air to them and lines (the ducts that provide air to the windchests)
  • reservoirs (wooden boxes with valves that regulate the air pressure.

About half of the removed pipes are going to be reused in the new organ; the others have either become irreparably damaged over the years or don’t fit into the redesigned organ’s tonal philosophy. Removing them now allows for much easier installation of the Walker digital organ that will serve the Cathedral for the next few years while the pipe organ is gone.

The next year or so will see more and more prep work to get ready for the eventual removal of the entire organ during summer 2024 (though enough components of the organ will be removed after Christmas that it will no longer be playable).

After the digital organ is installed this fall, and after our Christmas celebrations, a platform will be constructed over the Great Choir, spanning the entire area some 40 feet off the ground. This elevated platform will allow for the otherwise impossible task of removing the 9,000 or so remaining pipes from the organ — not to mention the myriad non-pipe mechanical components, some of which weigh several tons.

Stay tuned for another update in a few months that will discuss the installation of the Walker organ, which will serve the Cathedral as its primary musical instrument for the duration of this project. In the meantime, please enjoy these photos of the removal of the Gallery divisions.


Tom Sheehan

Organist and Associate Director of Music

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