closeup photo: a few of the 4,500+ pipes in the Æolian-Skinner pipe organ in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The Great Organ

St. Andrew’s Cathedral Æolian-Skinner Organ

More about: music at the Cathedral — also see:
Restoration of the Cathedral Organ
Stops in the Cathedral Organ
Policy on use of the Great Organ

As a prerequisite to traveling to Hawaii, Bishop Staley made provision for an organ for the as yet un-built Cathedral. Since that day St. Andrew’s has been the home of significant examples of the King of Instruments. The current organ is primarily an Æolian-Skinner, built in 1961, the largest organ in the State of Hawai‘i and ranked in size amongst the top 50 in the world. Not only is it the ultimate accompaniment to liturgy in the Anglican tradition, it is also the foundation for music outreach into the community and the world, attracting internationally recognized organists for recital and recording opportunities, and accompanying non-liturgical performance.

Hawai‘i’s Largest Pipe Organ

The Cathedral Organ is among the largest and most valuable assets and high-profile treasures of the Cathedral and requires significant expert maintenance in a tropical environment lacking constant temperature and humidity control. It is an asset whose future must be carefully managed.

For most of the twentieth century the Æolian-Skinner Company of Boston was considered the Rolls Royce of the organ-building world. Notable Æolian-Skinner instruments are found in Boston Symphony Hall, the Mormon Tabernacle, Riverside Church, and The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, New York City. Here in Honolulu, St. Andrew’s Cathedral is privileged to have its own Æolian-Skinner. With nearly 5000 pipes, it is the largest pipe organ in Hawai‘i.

In the 1990’s, under the care of Canon John McCreary, the Organ Completion Fund was begun. The original console was replaced in 1994 by Roger Colby of Tennessee. At that time, preparations were made for adding additional stops. In one year, enough had been collected to begin the first of three phases of the completion. In 1995, 28 stops were added by the Walker Company of Pennsylvania. Included were room-shaking 32’ stops for the Pedal division and colorful orchestral stops for the Solo division. In 1996, 27 stops were added, completing the Antiphonal, Pedal, and Choir divisions. The final phase brought the completion of the Swell division and added the Grand Choeur, which can speak from the front, middle, or back of the nave. For these additions, pipes from other Æolian-Skinner organs were “sampled,” that is, digitally mapped. These new sounds take very little room, use no air, and never need tuning. The organ as it exists today is, thus, the work of many hands.

The Organ Restoration Project

Can you imagine the Cathedral of St. Andrew without the sound of its magnificent pipe organ? The organ has harmonized hymns, resonated through the bodies of those attending worship and concerts, unified a community, and inspired countless people for generations. Under the stress of six decades of heavy, continuous use and various assaults ranging from a leaking roof to termites, the organ is in serious disrepair.

Soli Deo Gloria!