To the average Cathedral visitor, the consoles of our 1938 Skinner organ and the 2023 Walker digital organ look remarkably alike – four stacks of keyboards, a spray of wooden foot pedals and a series of knobs and buttons to summon the distinct sounds of a pipe organ.

The console for the Cathedral’s new, temporary fully-digital organ.

The main difference? Our aging pipe organ uses compressed air flowing through a dizzying array of pipes. The digital organ uses computers to mimic the sound of a pipe organ; instead of pipes, the sound is transmitted through a network of speakers.

In its most basic form, imagine several of the nicest, custom-built electronic keyboards you’ve ever seen, strung together, all finely tuned, calibrated and “voiced” to fill the unique acoustics of the Cathedral. Connect them to some really big speakers, and you’ve got a digital organ.

From 2024-2028, the Cathedral will deploy a digital organ provided by the esteemed Walker Technical Company in Zionsville, Pa. This new digital instrument ensures that the Cathedral is never without a functioning organ. Speakers are placed strategically throughout the nave.

Walker has worked on some of the most prestigious organs in the United States, including the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City; Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif.; Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; David Geffen Hall of the Lincoln Center in New York City; and the U.S. Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis, Md.

In fact, the Cathedral’s organ already included digital components, and it’s not unusual for massive pipe organs to contain some form of “digital voice enhancements,” usually because there’s not enough room – or money – for additional pipework.

The wooden console for the pipe organ is nestled within the Great Choir; the console for the digital organ is located in the nave, near the altar used for Sunday services. When the project is complete, the Cathedral will have two movable consoles for the renovated pipe organ: one in the Great Choir, and an identical console in the nave, where the current digital console is located.