The Great Organ
Historically, cathedrals are known for three important traditions. These have been called the “Chief Glories” over many centuries.
Masterful preaching, inspirational architecture and outstanding music are the three major areas peculiar to cathedrals. Certainly, these items are obvious in St. John’s Cathedral.
The term “Great Organ” describes cathedral organs and has been used for centuries in most of the English Cathedrals as well as in Cathedrals in the Americas.
The first organ in St. John’s was built by The Roosevelt Firm of New York in the 1880’s.It was lost in the “Great Fire” in Jacksonville. The next instrument was built by Hook and Hastings of Boston, followed by a large Moller organ in 1949. Fifteen ranks of pipes were incorporated in the 1983 Austin organ. This stewardship was also included in the 2006 renovation and enlargement by Roger Colby Organ Company and Walker Technical Company. The organ presently includes 76 ranks of pipes and 46 digital ranks in the grand 4-manual (keyboard) console.
The cost of 1983 Austin Organ was $315,000.00. The major refurbishing of the main chancel organ in 2006, including a new console, new pipework, wind chest and re-voicing as well as the splendid West Organ cost $740,000.00.Replacement cost of the complete organ as of 2017 is estimated to be just over $2,000,000.00 according to the various builders.
Much work was done in the main organ located on both sides of the chancel in 2006 and a wonderful new organ situated on the Cathedral’s West Wall. Who hasn’t been impressed with The En Chamade Trumpet horizontally protruding from the West Organ!
The organ is ideal for the French School of organ performance as well as colorful support of the choir and the playing of J. S. Bach’s Music. Leading the congregation in the singing of hymns and service music is perhaps the most important responsibility of the “Great Organ”.
The organ was dedicated in February of 1984 with a program played by Christopher Dearnley of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London. Mr. Dearnley also played for the royal wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981.St. John’s was packed with close to 1,000 people overflowing into the vestibules and sacristy, people sitting on every available space of the floor and over 400 folks having to be turned away!
Since that time, we have hosted concerts with some of the leading organists in the world, two concerts with the Jacksonville Symphony as well as programs by local musicians.
Some of the guest artists included the organists of Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s, London, Gloucester Cathedral, York Minster, Riverside Church in New York, Yale University, Indiana University, the University of the South, the University of Florida and St. Thomas Church in New York.
The organ is presided over by Timothy Tuller, Canon for Music, who does a masterful job in presenting wonderful music on this noted organ.
A fund has been established, known as the Stanly and Claudia Gordon Music Endowment Fund, to benefit innovative programs produced by the music ministry and to provide for the time when major repairs will be required in the years ahead upon the Cathedral’s organ. Friends and members of St. John’s are encouraged to make contributions to this fund!
The care of the organ is entrusted to James Freeman and Associates, organ builders.
Canon for Music, Emeritus
Learn more about the Great Organ