Music at Transfiguration
Our 10:30 A.M. Eucharist is designed to be inter-generational in nature. Children and teenagers have their own chapel time during the Liturgy of the Word and return for the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The choir generally leads the congregation in the sung parts of the service and also sings anthems which reflect aspects of the days readings. Our hymns, anthems and service music represent a diverse repertoire of chant, Anglican traditional music and newly composed sacred work with a leaning towards inclusive texts.
Transfiguration's Reuter Organ
How it Came to be
Did you ever have a dream that you wanted to build something and then have the dream come true? When I was in the fifth grade, we studied gothic architecture. One of my classmate’s mother was a docent at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. and offered to give the class a tour demonstrating the Cathedral’s Gothic heritage.
It was in the spring of 1938 when the class gathered in the nave amongst the shards of colored light coming down from the stained glass windows on high. As we moved toward the high altar we could hear the unmistakable notes of a pipe organ. Then I saw workmen placing pipes in racks for the cathedral’s Aeolian Skinner Organ. I was completely mesmerized. Unaware the rest of my class had gone down into the crypt, I was still watching and listening when they came back to look for me. I was still in a trance, and my love of the pipe organ had begun.
Years later as a freshman in college, I was assigned to write an essay on the topic of my choice. I chose the development of the pipe organ. I did my research at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C., where I found, much to my chagrin, that many of my references were written in languages I could not read. However, I was able to find enough information for my essay and much more to re-kindle my interest in the pipe organ.
When the plans for our present church building were first presented, a pipe organ was included. When it was realized there was not enough money to purchase the organ, the pipe room behind the choir area was eliminated. It was suggested we could use the Baldwin spinet organ currently being used for the services which were being held in the parish hall. I realized the sound from the spinet would not be adequate for the new building and made arrangements with the Baldwin Organ and Piano Company for a month’s free trial of their new electronic church organ.
The trial was a success and after the construction of two large speaker chambers by Roy Baly, a fundraising campaign was instituted and pledges secured for the purchase price of $4,200. Shortly after the installation of the organ, a concert followed by a reception was planned for the parish and community to hear the new instrument. The Baldwin Staff Organist was six measures into his first selection when it became obvious that there was a problem. The Baldwin Company told us someone had sabotaged the organ. The concert was postponed and we all enjoyed the reception. The rescheduled concert went off without a problem.
Early in the year 1978 we began receiving C.B. and police radio calls through the organ speaker system. All I could think of at the time, was a 40’s movie, ”The Next Voice You Hear Will be God.” With the encouragement of our rector, the Rev. Preston Kelsey, we began to consider the possibility of purchasing a REAL pipe organ!
The spring and summer of 1978 was spent listening to various pipe organs in the bay area. After on-site listening of and inspection, the committee suggested that we focus our attention on the Reuter Organ
The organ committee, consisting of The Reverend Preston Kelsey II, J. Peter Jensen, David Carlisle, Clark Burwell, Alice Burwell, Walter Marcus, Dorothy Wilson, Henry Richards, Robert Pedigo, Dr. Ellsworth Du Bois, John Wittwer, and Karen Key, next decided to initiate a Capital Fund Drive to be completed by July of 1979.
After an anonymous giver donated $50,000, a contract was signed with the Reuter Organ Company on the 26th of November, 1978, and the fund drive was launched to raise the balance of the purchase price.
Specifications indicated that the instrument was to be a straight organ, which would have separate pipes for each division, ie: the Great, the Swell, and the Pedal. It was to be designed for liturgical music, congregational singing, and concert works.
The two manual organ which we enjoy today was designed by Franklin Mitchell, Vice President and tonal director of the Reuter Organ Company, Lawrence Kansas.
The organ contains sixteen hundred pipes with twenty-six speaking pitches. The console, of French design with rosewood keys, is mounted on a movable wagon, built by J. Peter Jensen. It can be moved to the center of the nave steps for concerts. A Maas Rowe carillon unit, a gift from the Carlisle family, was added in 1982. A cymbalstern, a gift from Fred De Boor, organist and choir director, was added in1995. The installation of the organ was done by Alan and David Briggs of Redwood City.
The actual manufacturing of the organ began April 1st, 1979 and the instrument was delivered to San Mateo by truck in October of l979; however, before it could be installed in the church, changes had to be made in the choir area. A blower and pipe room for the swell division was added behind the east wall. The south wall, behind the choir area twas moved out to accommodate the pedal division.
The great division was to be suspended between the two pillars in front of the choir. A member of the congregation, who was a seismic engineer, suggested moving the exposed great organ in front of the east wall where it could be placed on two large ell brackets that would be anchored in the concrete foundation. “You must remember, we live in earthquake country,” he said.
While all this construction was happening, the organ pipes were sleeping on top of the pews in the rear of the church with large DO NOT TOUCH signs.
When the wind chests were ready to receive pipes, many gloved parishioners were conscripted into service and soon the organ was ready to be tuned. A few main stops had been tuned by Palm Sunday, 1980.
Dr. Ellsworth Dubois started the recessional hymn that Sunday on what was left of the Baldwin Organ. There was a pause after the fourth verse at which time , Father Kelsey announced,” and now the new Reuter Pipe Organ.” Dorothy Wilson, organist, played the last verse on the new organ. The following week, Holy Week, was spent tuning the rest of the stops in the Great Division.