When St. Mark’s church was built in 1869, it contained an organ of fairly good size – two manuals and 28 stops – built by the distinguished New York firm headed by the English-born George Jardine. This instrument served the congregation well until 1911. This first instrument was operated my means of a directly controlled or “tracker” action.
During the general remodeling of the church, financed by Mary Packer Cummings, the Jardine instrument was replaced by the three manual Austin organ presently in use. The Austin organ has an electro-pneumatic action that was state of the art for its day. A few sets of pipes were reused from the Jardine organ, but the Austin was essentially a new instrument in 1911. The Austin is a period piece, designed more for its instrumental sound than for leading congregational singing.
Except for routine tuning and maintenance, the organ remained as it was installed until 1975. In that year, extensive mechanical repairs were made to the actions and wind chests. In the early 1990’s a new console replaced the original and a new action-current rectifier was installed.
In the winter of 1996-1997, a storm damaged the roof over the organ chamber and some water damage was done to the interior. The plaster ceiling had become powdery and some plaster had fallen into the pipes. Although pipes in the swell organ were spared some damage due to their protected position inside the swell box, dust had circulated inside the wind chest and eventually got into the interior pipes as well. In addition, the softened plaster of the ceiling began to absorb the sound of the organ instead of reflecting it out into the nave of the church.
Due to this situation, the parish has undertaken an extensive organ restoration project. In May of 1999, every pipe, all 1,600 of them, were removed by volunteers from the parish under the supervision of Mr. Ray Brunner, a noted Lancaster County, Pennsylvania organ builder. The pipes were taken to Mr. Brunner’s Silver Spring, Pa. shop where they were cleaned and refurbished. In October 19, 1999 the cleaned and refurbished pipes were returned to the church and re-installed. Wile the pipes were gone, the plaster ceiling of the organ chamber was replaced to restore its tonal qualities. Repairs were also made to the actions as needed and the swell shade motors were replaced.
Now that the repairs have been completed, 8 new ranks of pipes will be added and several of the existing ranks will be re-voiced. The new instrument will more closely resemble the tonal qualities of the original organ and will be better suited for leading congregational singing as well as for playing a broader range of music.
Click here for an audio sample of the organ.
On July 4, 1876 the original bell of St. Mark’s church was cracked during the celebration of the centennial of American
independence. Instead of simply replacing the cracked bell with a new one, the parish embarked on a plan to install a chime of nine bells.
The firm of Jones & Co. of Troy, New York was commissioned to cast the bells for the chime. Mr. Octavous Jones supervised the installation of the bells in October of 1876. This was no mean feat. The bells first had to be raised from the street level to the courtyard of the church, a distance of roughly thirty-five feet. Then they were raised nearly one hundred feet to the belfry of the tower. According to a newspaper account, the installation of the bells and the ringing apparatus took about one week. (Right: The bell tower viewed from street level)
The chime first rang on Sunday, October 27, 1876. The Rev. Marcus Alden Tolman officiated at the service of dedication assisted by the Revs. Samuel Marks and Charles E. Betticher. As each bell was named, it was rung for the first time.
In the September of 1998, the vestry signed a contract with Chime Master Systems of Lancaster, Ohio to add automated control to the chime. Included in the contract is the replacement of the existing mechanical keyboard with a new MIDI keyboard. The new system is controled by a microprocessor and can be set to play concerts at any desired time. The system memory contains several hundred hymns and has the capability for the chimer to record many more into memory for future playback. Installation of the new system was completed in December of 1998, just in time for the Christmas season. St. Mark’s chimes will enter the new millennium ringing as they have since 1876.