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William C. Carl became the church's first organist in 1892. He quickly instituted a full music program and recruited a choir to back a professional quartet. Carl's Motet Choir, recitals, and Sunday evening Oratorios drew audiences of more than a thousand.
A succession of distinguished musicians followed William Carl. First was Willard Nevins, a music columnist for the New York World Telegram, who took over after Carl's death in 1936 and remained until 1957. John Huston, formerly of Holy Trinity in Brooklyn and Temple Emanu-El, was at First Church from 1957 until 1975. He was followed by Robert Baker, former dean of Union Seminary's School of Sacred Music and Professor of Organ at Yale. On Dr. Baker's retirement in 1988, a former student of his, Dr. William F. Entriken, left neighboring St. Luke's to become First Church's organist and choirmaster.
Since Alexander Chapel was built for the 1892 South Wing of First Presbyterian Church, the dream of a pipe organ remained elusive. In recent decades, an electronic substitute went virtually unused, and the situation looked bleak.
Mrs. Betty Jones thought otherwise, and in memory of her late husband Rees, donated a pipe organ to realize his lifelong dream. Four American organbuilders were invited to bid on the project by Dr. Willliam F. Entriken, Organist and Choirmaster, and Glück was chosen for the visual elegance, historically inspired stoplist, and compact engineering of their design. The chapel cried out for one of our custom studio organs, so suited for situations like this. Alexander Chapel has taken on new life, being used for evening Vespers, life cycle events, teaching, and practice.
While gracefully framing the stained glass window, the instrument makes no physical intrusion or attachment to the physical fabric of this historic room. The jewel-box Tudor chapel comfortably seats about sixty people, and features low ceilings and limited floor space. Its gilded ceiling, oak-paneled walls, and slate floor provide a live and telling acoustic despite the small space.
Our smaller instruments are built and voiced with the same fine materials and artistry as our monumental ones. The pipework is fashioned of red oak, poplar, walnut, planed 50% tin, and flamed copper for the basses of the 8’ Dulciana which flank the main soundboard. The 16’ Double Dulciana utilizes free reeds in the manner of a 19th century French harmonium, with a seamless transition to the bottom octave. An unusual tonal feature is the 4/5’ Choral Bass, which when drawn with the 4’ and 2’ flutes, provides a horn-like, reedy cantus firmus voice. The organ’s pipework is unenclosed, but the keydesk features a balanced expression pedal for practice purposes.