The Riverside Church
Riverside Drive at 122nd Street
New York City
The Nave Organs
Built by Aeolian-Skinner Organs, Boston, Massachusetts
The Provision of an ideal organ for The Riverside Church offered a unique challenge to the designer and builder of the instrument because of the great variety of the musical requirements of the various services.
First, the organ had to be capable of adequately supporting and leading the singing of a vast congregation.
Secondly, it had to be planned so as to form a suitable accompaniment for the choir during the singing of anthems and oratorios, many of which call for great tonal variety and flexibility.
Thirdly, the tonal structure of the instrument had to form an ideal medium for the authentic rendition of the inspired composition of the organ of all periods.
In the planning there was also the problem of how to use advantageously the many excellent pipes from the old instrument without in way compromising the final result. These various requirements demanded a very complete instrument incorporating a great variety of tonal effects and a build-up and ensemble of considerable complexity and brilliance.
The plan, as carried out, comprises two organs controlled by a five-manual console located in the apse with the choir. The main organ, housed in the chambers flanking the apse, comprises a four-manual instrument having Great, Swell, Choir, Solo and Pedal Organs, together with an unenclosed Bombarde (Celestial) division placed in the triforium of the apse. The Antiphonal Organ comprises a very complete two-manual instrument located in chambers at the rear of the church. In this location a comprehensive Echo Organ has also been installed.
The reader will be interested to learn that on the request of the designer a complete survey of the acoustical properties of the church was made before the organ was built. This investigation resulted in the treatment of the ceiling of the apse and two bays of the Nave so as to remove the original absorbent qualities of these surfaces and convert them into sound reflectors., thus adding life to the acoustical environment of the building and thereby greatly enhancing the effectiveness of not only the music, but also the spoken word.
G. Donald Harrison, President
Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company