Join us at 7pm on Friday, August 12th 2022, for a thrilling celebration and re-dedication of our magnificent and meticulously restored 1892 Cole & Woodberry Pipe Organ. Our ceremony will include a recital of organ music by St. John's alumni organists.
Sheet Music Insert
For those curious to learn more about the history of St. John's amazing pipe organ, this video was created to tell you where this incredible instrument originated, how it got to Kirkland, how they got this massive device into the building, and some recent details about its years of painstaking reconstruction, repair, and restoration leading up to this event.
SJK Centennial Re-Dedication of 1892 Cole & Woodberry Organ - Aug 12 2022 @7pm
A Giant Musical Jigsaw Puzzle
St John’s historic organ was originally designed and built in 1892 by James Cole and James Woodberry for the Highland Congregational Church in Lowell, Massachusetts.
When the building was demolished for freeway construction in 1970, the organ was disassembled and put into storage. In 1974, St. John’s Vestry purchased the organ, and the following April a "giant musical jigsaw puzzle" arrived in Kirkland by truck.
The organ consisted of about 10,000 pounds of pipes, chests, and boxes, which took a volunteer crew of 30 parishioners over five months to clean, reassemble, adjust and tune.
The reassembled organ was dedicated at a recital that took place on October 6, 1974.
After 45 years of service, St. John's undertook the restoration of the Cole & Woodberry organ in July 2019. The instrument was again disassembled, cleaned, and extensive repairs were made -- especially to hundreds of the soft metal pipes.
Every effort was made to restore the original "English Romantic" sound of the instrument, including reincorporating two original sets of pipes that had been removed in 1974 and only later rediscovered in a storage room in 2018.
The expert restoration was accomplished by organ builders Jim Stettner and Michael Way of Puget Sound Pipe Organs, Inc.
"The St. John's organ is a pretty unique instrument within the Seattle area in terms of how old it is, and the style in which it is built. It's really an organ of the 19th century and of Romanticism [that] has this very broad, lush [tone] color."
-- Samuel Libra, St. John's organist (2016 - 2018)
Since the 1940s, pipe organ construction has been influenced by a return to Baroque-style sound aesthetics: notes are voiced to be articulate, with a slight, short burst of "chiff" sound to distinguish each and every note. The sound is unmistakable, and many modern organs exhibit some amount of this sonic signature. It is what most of us would expect to hear when we imagine the sound of an organ.
A "Romantic" style organ is designed and built differently, so that the sound produced is "smoother," "warmer," "richer," and notes "blend" together in a way that reminds one somewhat of a symphony orchestra. It is an all-together different mindset and aesthetic, and was popular in 19th century churches in the United States.
Occasionally modern organs will incorporate some of these romantic characteristics, blending both Baroque and Romantic elements to achieve a hybrid sound, and something "new" from an historical perspective. However most newer organs in the greater Seattle area were built after Romantic-style organs fell out of favor.
Therefore, to modern ears, St John's organ offers a unique experience. Ours is a specimen built 130 years ago, restored to nearly period-accurate condition, and its sound offers a rare sensation for the ears and heart, as well as a sonic glimpse into American and Christian musical history.
The fully restored instrument will be re-dedicated in a ceremony on Friday, August 12, 2022 starting at 7:00 pm. The re-dedication will be followed by a concert featuring the works of Bach, Brahms, and Widor, performed by three of St. John's alumni organists; Samuel Libra, Kyle Canady, and Richard Lind.
A reception will follow the concert to celebrate the revitalization of this historic instrument. This event is part of the St. John's Centennial, celebrating 100 years in the Kirkland community.