Central Synagogue - New York City

 
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Central Synagogue
(Reform Jewish)

652 Lexington Avenue at 55th Street
New York, N.Y. 10022
http://www.centralsynagogue.org


Organ Specifications:
652 Lexington Avenue (since 1872):
IV/63 Casavant Frères, Op. 3813 (2002) – Gallery
II/11 Casavant Frères, Op. 3812 (2001) – Bimah
III/26 Geo. Kilgen & Son, Op. 5905 (1937) – burned (1998)
III/45 George Jardine & Son (1872)
Ludlow Street (1846-1872):
• unknown




Central Synagogue, today one of the nation's leading Reform congregations, began as Congregation Ahawath Chesed, founded in 1846 by German-speaking Bohemian immigrants on Ludlow Street in the Lower East Side. By 1870, the membership of Ahawath Chesed had prospered and grown, and a decision was made to move farther uptown. Henry Fernbach, New York's first prominent Jewish architect, was commissioned to design the new synagogue, which was built in 1872 and seated more than 1,400 individuals. Fernbach created an elaborate and intricate interior with Moorish designs whose contours were stenciled onto the sanctuary walls and then hand painted. For the sanctuary floor, a space of nearly 4,000 square feet, Fernbach ordered more than 20,000 encaustic tiles from England and alternated that pattern with bands of brown quarry tile. The sanctuary was illuminated with gas-fired chandeliers that hung from arches beneath the galleries, as well as by 12 double-story stained-glass windows. The exterior, an interpretation of the Tabac-Schul (Dohány Street) Synagogue in Budapest, features decorative stone with three entrance portals and two side-aisle entrances, surmounted by a great rose window and twin 122-foot gilded-copper onion domes each topped with a five pointed star. The cost of the original project was $300,000.

In 1886, the building was damaged by a fire, during which most of the original decorative stencilings were lost. In 1898, Shaar Hashomayim, a German-speaking congregation which had been established on Attorney Street in 1846, merged into Ahawath Chesed. The combined congregations became known as Central Synagogue in 1915.

Central Synagogue (ca. 1949) - New York City (NYC Architecture Images website)  
Modernist Interior, ca. 1949
 
In 1946, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Ahawath Chesed congregation, Central Synagogue was subject to a $300,000 Modernist-inspired restoration. Architect Ely Jacques Kahn, who abhorred historicism, significantly altered the 1886 Moorish-revival wall decorations, replaced stained-glass windows with windows of abstract design and removed the chandeliers, substituting Art Deco sconces as light sources.

  Central Synagogue following August 1998 fire (photo: NYC Architecture Image website)
In 1995, the synagogue's building committee elected to launch a five-year restoration plan to improve seating, acoustics, functionality, and to install air conditioning. On August 28, 1998, three days before the air conditioning was to be turned on, Central Synagogue nearly burned to the ground. The fire destroyed most of the building, including the roof. Fortunately the ark, and the torahs (sacred scrolls) were saved.

Central Synagogue - New York City  
The congregation committees were almost unanimous in electing to recover the original 1872 interior and exterior design. They were also free to fantasize and request significant changes that would reflect changes in contemporary worship. One request was a sanctuary floor plan that would accommodate both the large, formal services of the high holidays, and the more intimate, informal sabbath sessions of the summer months. Following a $40 million historical restoration by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates, the building was reopened with great fanfare on September 9, 2001, two days before the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.

Central Synagogue is the oldest synagogue building in New York still in use by the congregation which built it. In 1966, Central Synagogue was designated by the New York City Landmarks and Preservation Commission, and in 1975 was named as a National Historic Landmark.
           
 

Casavant Frères Gallery Organ, Op. 3813 (2002) in Central Synagogue - New York City

Gallery Organ

Casavant Frères, Limitée
St. Hyacinthe, Québec, Canada – Opus 3813 (2002)
Electro-pneumatic key action
Movable 4-manual drawknob console
4 manuals, 71 registers, 46 stops, 63 ranks



The Gabe M. Wiener Memorial Organ at Central Synagogue was built by Casavant Frères of Québec, Canada in 2001 and 2002. It replaces a 1937 Kilgen organ that was destroyed in the fire that damaged the synagogue in August 1998. There are actually two organs: The Bimah Organ (Opus 3812), installed in time for the rededication of the synagogue in September 2001, and the Gallery Organ (Opus 3813), dedicated in April 2002. The Gallery Organ is visible and controlled by a movable four-manual console that can also play the Bimah Organ.

The Gallery Organ contains two imitative stops created specifically for Central Synagogue: a Trompette Shofar, that replicates the sound of the traditional shofar, used for services on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur; and a Klezmer Clarinette, that reproduces the sound of a klezmer clarinet with great brilliance and clarity, believed to be the first such organ stop in the world.

Gallery Console - Casavant Organ, Op. 3813 (2002) at Central Synagogue - New York City (photo: Shane Murphy)  
Gallery Organ Console  
The organ was designed by Pierre Dionne, President of Casavant Frères, and Jacquelin Rochette, Associate Tonal Director, in conjunction with George B. Stauffer and Shelly Palmer, who served as organ consultants for Central Synagogue.

A special Reverberation Enhancement System helps to create an acoustical environment favorable to a concert organ. It incorporates four small microphones hung from the ceiling to pick up sound generated within the room, process it, and feed that sound back into the sanctuary as additional reverberation.
               
Grand Orgue (Manual II) – 61 notes, unenclosed
16
  Violonbasse
73
1 1/3
  Fourniture IV ranks
244
8
  Montre
61
1/2
  Cymbale III ranks
183
8
  Bourdon
61
16
  Bombarde *
8
  Violon (fr. Violonbasse)
8
  Trompette
61
4
  Prestant
61
4
  Clairon
61
4
  Flûte conique
61
    MIDI  
2 2/3
  Quinte majeure
61
* 1-12 from PED Bombarde; 13 up from G.O. Trompette
2
  Doublette
61
               
Récit (Manual III) – 61 notes, enclosed
16
  Bourdon
61
1 3/5
  Tierce harmonique
61
8
  Diapason
61
2
  Plein-jeu V ranks
305
8
  Flûte harmonique
61
16
  Basson
61
8
  Viole de Gambe
61
8
  Trompette harmonique
61
8
  Voix céleste (TC)
49
8
  Hautbois
61
4
  Octave
61
8
  Voix humaine
61
4
  Flûte octaviante
61
4
  Clairon harmonique
61
2 2/3
  Nazard harmonique
61
 
  Tremblant  
2
  Octavin
61

  MIDI  
               
Positif (Manual I) – 61 notes, unenclosed
8
  Montre **
61
1
  Cymbale V ranks
305
8
  Flûte à cheminée
61
8
  Cromorne
61
4
  Prestant
61
    Tremblant  
4
  Flûte à fuseau
61
    Chimes [enc. in Récit]  
2
  Doublette
61
 
  MIDI  
1 1/3
  Larigot
61
 
   
1
  Piccolo
61
    ** 1-12 common with Flûte à cheminée, plus 12 ind. pipes at 4'
2 2/3
  Sesquialtera II ranks
122
   
               
Solo (Manual IV) – 61 notes, unenclosed
8
  Trompette-de-fête
61
8
  Klezmer Clarinette
61
8
  Trompette Shofar
61
    MIDI  
               
Choeur (floating expressive division located on left gallery side of Bimah)
8
  Montre  
1
  Plein jeu III ranks  
4
  Prestant  
8
  Hautbois  
2
  Doublette       Tremblant  
               
Echo (floating non-expressive division located on right gallery side of Bimah)
8
  Flûte à cheminée  
2
  Piccolo  
4
  Cor de chamois       Tremblant  
2 2/3
  Nazard          
               
Echo Pédale (located on right gallery side of Bimah)
16
  Bourdon          
8
  Flûte à cheminée          
               
Pédale – 32 notes
32
  Basse résultante
derived
2 2/3
  Mixture IV ranks
128
16
  Contrebasse
44
32
  Contre-Bombarde
68
16
  Violonbasse
GO
16
  Bombarde (fr. 32' CB)
16
  Soubasse
44
16
  Basson
RÉC
8
  Octavebasse (fr. C-basse)
8
  Trompette (fr. 32' CB)
8
  Violon
GO
8
  Baryton
RÉC
8
  Bourdon (fr. Soubbasse)
4
  Clairon (fr. 32' CB)
4
  Octave
32
4
  Soprano
RÉC
4
  Flûte
32
    MIDI  
10 2/3
  Théorbe III ranks ***
    *** 10 2/3' from PED 16' Contrebasse; 6 2/5' & 4 4/7' from G.O. 16' Violonbasse
           
Couplers (Gallery Organ)
    Grand Orgue to Pédale 8'   Récit to Positif 16', 8', 4'
    Récit to Pédale 8', 4'   Solo to Positif 8'
    Positif to Pédale 8', 4'   Pédale to Positif 8'
    Solo to Pédale 8'   Positif to Récit 8'
    Récit to Grand Orgue 16', 8', 4'   Solo to Récit 8'
    Positif to Grand Organ 8'   Grand Orgue / Positif Reverse
    Solo to Grand Orgue 16', 8'   Récit / Solo Reverse
               
Couplers (Bimah Organ)
    Choeur to Pédale 8'   Echo on Positif 8'
    Echo to Pédale 8', 4'   Choeur on Récit 8'
    Choeur on Grand Orgue 8'   Echo on Récit 8'
    Echo on Grand Orgue 8'   Choeur on Solo 8'
    Choeur on Positif 8'   Echo on Solo 8'
               
Adjustable Combinations (128 levels of memory)
   
Grand Orgue Pistons 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 (thumb)
Récit Orgue Pistons 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 (thumb)
Positif Orgue Pistons 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 (thumb)
Solo Orgue Pistons 1-2-3 (thumb)
Echo Orgue Pistons 1-2-3-4-5 (thumb)
Choeur Orgue Pistons 1-2-3-4-5 (thumb)
Entire Bimah Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4-5 (thumb)
Pédale Orgue Pistons 1-2-3-4-5-6 (thumb & toe)
Pédale & Pédale Couplers Pistons 7-8 (thumb)
Bimah & Gallery Organs Pistons 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12-13-14 (thumb & toe)
  Divisional Cancels (in name plates)
  Cancel – Bimah (thumb)
  Cancel – Gallery (thumb)
  Cancel – General (thumb & toe)
               
Reversible Pistons
    Grand Orgue to Pédale (thumb & toe)   Récit to Positif (thumb)
    Récit to Pédale (thumb & toe)   Resultant 32' (toe)
    Positif to Pédale (thumb & toe)   Contre Bombarde 32' (toe)
    Solo to Pédale (thumb)   Clochettes (toe)
    Récit to Grand Orgue (thumb)   Full Organ – Bimah (thumb & toe)
    Positif to Grand Orgue (thumb)   Full Organ – Gallery (thumb & toe)
    Solo to Grand Orgue (thumb)   Tutti – both organs (thumb & toe)
               
Key Cheek Buttons (with indicator lights)
    Bimah Organ Only (also toe)   Both Organs On (also toe)
    Gallery Organ Only (also toe)   Signal
               
Balanced Pedals
    Crescendo (4 modes, programmable)  
    Récit Expression      
               
Accessories
    Wind-on indicator light – Bimah Organ   Tutti indicator light
    Wind-on indicator light – Gallery Organ   MIDI IN/OUT with control panel
    Digital (numeric) crescendo indicator   Clochettes (10 bells)
    Full Organ indicator light – Bimah Organ   Transposer (+ - 7 semi-tones)
    Full Organ indicator light – Gallery Organ   Chimes volume control (inside organ)
             

Bimah Console - Casavant Organ, Op. 3812 (2001) at Central Synagogue - New York City (photo: Shane Murphy)

Bimah Organ Console
Bimah Organ

Casavant Frères, Limitée
St. Hyacinthe, Québec, Canada – Opus 3812 (2001)
Electric slider key and stop action
Detached movable 3-manual drawknob console
2 manuals, 11 registers, 9 stops, 11 ranks


The Bimah Organ is installed in chambers on both sides of the Bimah on the side gallery level behind grill cloth. A movable three-manual drawknob console that can also play the gallery organ has a walnut shell and bench, with interior of oak.
               
Chœur (Manual I) – 61 notes, unenclosed
8
  Montre
61
8
  Hautbois
61
4
  Prestant
61
    Tremblant  
2
  Doublette
61
    MIDI  
1
  Plein Jeu III ranks
183
       
               
Echo (Manual II) – 61 notes, unenclosed
8
  Flûte à cheminée
61
2
  Piccolo
61
4
  Cor de chamois
61
    Tremblant  
2 2/3
  Nazard
61
    MIDI  
               
Echo Pédale – 32 notes
16
  Bourdon *
8
    MIDI  
8
  Flûte à cheminée
EC
   
* 1-4 resultant; 5-up ext.
               
Couplers (Bimah Organ)
    Choeur to Pédale 8'   Choeur to Manual III
    Choeur to Pédale 8', 4'   Choeur Unison Off
    Echo to Choeur 16', 8', 4'   Echo 16', 4', Unison Off
    Echto to Manual III 8'    
         
Couplers (Gallery Organ)
    Pédale to Pédale 8'   Grand Orgue to Echo 8'
    Grand Orgue to Pédale 8'   Récit to Echo 16', 8', 4'
    Récit to Pédale 8', 4'   Positif to Echo 8'
    Positif to Pédale 8', 4'   Solo to Echo 8'
    Solo to Pédale 8'   Grand Orgue to Manual III 8'
    Grand Orgue to Choeur 8'   Récit to Manual III 8'
    Recit to Choeur 16', 8', 4'   Positif to Manual III 8'
    Positif to Choeur 8'   Solo to Manual III 8'
    Solo to Choeur 8'    
         
Adjustable Combinations (128 levels of memory)
   
Choeur Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4-5 (thumb)
Echo Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4-5 (thumb)
Pédale & Pédale Couplers Pistons 1-2 (thumb & toe)
Entire Bimah Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4-5-6 (thumb)
Bimah & Gallery Organs Pistons 1-2-3-4-5-6 (thumb & toe)
Bimah & Gallery Organs Pistons 7-8-9-10-11-12 (thumb)
  N.B. The Gallery Organ Generals are fixed for the stops, but adjustable for the couplers
  Cancel – Bimah (thumb)
  Cancel – Gallery (thumb)
  Cancel – General (thumb & toe)
         
Reversible Pistons
    Choeur to Pédale (thumb & toe)   Grand to Choeur (thumb)
    Echo to Pédale (thumb & toe)   Récit to Choeur (thumb)
    Grand Orgue to Pédale (thumb & toe)   Positif to Choeur (thumb)
    Récit to Pédale (thumb & toe)   Full Organ – Bimah (thumb)
    Positif to Pédale (thumb and toe)   Full Organ – Gallery (thumb & toe)
    Echo to Choeur (thumb)   Tutti (thumb & toe
         
Key Cheek Buttons (all with indicator lights)
    Bimah Organ Only (also toe)   Both Organs On (also toe)
    Gallery Organ Only (also toe)   Signal
         
Balanced Pedals
    Crescendo (4 modes, programmable)    
    Récit Expression    
         
Accessories
    Wind-on indicator light – Bimah Organ    
    Wind-on indicator light – Gallery Organ    
    Digital (numeric) crescendo indicator    
    Full Organ – Bimah Organ indicator light    
    Full Organ – Gallery Organ indicator light    
    Tutti indicator light    
    Transposer (+ - 7 semi-tones)    
    MIDI IN/OUT with control panel    
             
  Geo. Kilgen & Son Organ, Op. 5905 (1937) in Central Synagogue - New York City
Previous organ in present location:

Geo. Kilgen & Son
St. Louis, Mo. – Opus 5905 (1937)
Electro-pneumatic action
3 manuals, 30 registers, 24 stops, 26 ranks



After more than sixty years of service, the 1872 Jardine organ was replaced in 1937 by an entirely new three-manual electro-pneumatic instrument built by the Kilgen firm of St. Louis. Kilgen retained the original Jardine case that was 34 feet wide and 7 feet tall. The following specifications were recorded by organ curator John Klauder on January 20, 1992. Mr. Klauder noted that the two decorative arches on the sides were 9 feet wide by 20 feet high and each contained (7) 16' non-speaking pipes. The center flat had (36) pipes from 4' to 8' length, and there was a wooden band decorating the front of the pipes. Kilgen did subsequent work or made repairs on this organ, as Op. 5905-A and Op. 5938. The organ included a Shofar stop (possibly Op. 5905-A) built by Kilgen and sold by Julius W. Bakos, local representative for Kilgen. No further information is available for the Shofar stop, such as number of pipes or from which division it was played, but we have shown it in the Choir Organ.

On August 28, 1998, the Kilgen organ and synagogue interior were destroyed by fire.
               
Great Organ (Manual II) – 61 notes, enclosed
8
  Open Diapason
73
    Mixture III ranks
183
8
  Harmonic Flute
73
8
  Tromba
73
8
  Gemshorn
73
8
  French Horn
73
4
  Octave
73
    Tremulant  
4
  Flute (fr. Harm. Fl.)
    Chimes  
               
Swell Organ (Manual III) – 61 notes, enclosed
8
  Geigen Principal
73
2
  Flautino
61
8
  Stopped Flute
73
8
  Oboe
73
8
  Viole d'Gamba
73
8
  Vox Humana
73
8
  Voix Celeste
73
    Tremulant  
4
  Flute Traversiere
73
       
               
Choir Organ (Manual I) – 61 notes, enclosed
8
  Open Diapason
73
4
  Flute d'Amour
73
8
  Melodia
73
8
  Clarinet
73
8
  Dulciana
73
    Tremulant  
8
  Unda Maris
73
8
  Shofar
4?
               
Pedal Organ – 32 notes
32
  Resultant
8
  Flute (fr. 16' Bourdon)
16
  Major Bass
32
8
  Stopped Flute
SW
16
  Bourdon
56
4
  Flute (fr. 16' Bourdon)
16
  Echo Bourdon (ext. SW)
12
       
               
Couplers
    Great to Pedal 8', 4'   Swell to Choir 16', 8', 4'
    Swell to Pedal 8', 4'   Great 16', Unison Off, 4'
    Choir to Pedal 8', 4'   Swell 16', Unison Off, 4'
    Swell to Great 16', 8, 4'   Choir 16', Unison Off, 4'
    Choir to Great 16', 8', 4'    
         
Adjustable Combinations
   
Great Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4-5-6 (thumb)
Swell Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4-5-6 (thumb)
Choir Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4-5-6 (thumb)
Entire Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4-5-6 (thumb)
         
Pedal Movements
    Balanced Choir Expression Pedal   Great to Pedal Reversible
    Balanced Great Expression Pedal   Sforzando Reversible
    Balanced Swell Expression Pedal    
    Balanced Crescendo Pedal    
             
Original organ at present location:

George Jardine & Son
New York City (1872)
Mechanical action
3 manuals, 41 registers, 39 stops, 45 ranks


For their new synagogue, an impressive organ was built by the Jardine firm of New York City. Jardine installed the three-manual organ in a Moorish-style case located in the east gallery. An article in the December 7, 1872 issue of The New York Weekly Review described the new organ:
"The foundation stops are grand and solid, rich, deep, sonorous, and fill to its utmost the needs of the building, rolling almost as a solid body even to its furthermost ends. It is in its fine Diapasons that this organ excels and in the crowning merits of its manufacture. The mixtures are brilliant, and the fancy stops varied and beautiful in character, and are introduced with great care and most successfully. Some of the stops are of unsurpassed beauty, and from their positive indviduality are not only admirable in solos, but in combinations, where their characters stand out and are not absorbed one into another. They do, indeed, form combinations as positive as beautiful, and far more varied than can be provided by a full orchestra. This noble instrument has successfully assessed its grand and brilliant powers, and took its rank by general consent among the finest organs in the country."
               
Great Organ (Manual II) – 61 notes
16
  Double Open Diapason
61
4
  Night Horn
61
8
  Grand Open Diapason
61
3
  Twelfth
61
8
  Stopped Diapason
61
2
  Fifteenth
61
8
  Gamba
61
    Grand Mixture 3, 4 & 5 ranks
244
8
  Melodia [bass grooved]
61
8
  Trumpet
61
6
  Gross Quint
61
4
  Clarion
61
4
  Principal
61
       
               
Swell Organ (Manual III) – 61 notes, "balanced expression"
16
  Bourdon
61
2
  Piccolo
61
8
  Open Diapason
61
    Cornet of 3 ranks
183
8
  Stopped Diapason
61
8
  Cornopean
61
8
  Dulciana
61
8
  Hautbois
61
8
  Vox Celleste [sic]
61
8
  Vox Humana
61
4
  Principal
61
    Tremolo  
4
  Echo Flute
61
       
               
Choir or Solo Organ (Manual I) – 61 notes
8
  { Stopped Diapason
61
4
  Violino
61
8
  { Lieblich Gedackt
4
  Walde Flute [sic]
61
8
  Claribella [sic] (bass grooved)
61
2
  Flageolet
61
8
  Salicional
61
8
  { Cremona (treble)
61
8
  Clariance, or Viol d'Amour
61
8
  { Bassoon (bass)
               
Pedal Organ – 30 notes
16
  Double Open Diapason
30
8
  Violoncello
30
16
  Double Stopped Diapason
30
4
  Octave
30
12
  Grand Quint
30
16
  Trombone
30
               
Coupling Stops (operated by pistons knobs)
    Swell to Great   Swell to Pedals
    Swell to Choir   Great to Pedals
    Choir to Great   Choir to Pedals
        Bellows Warning
Pedal Movements
    Forte Pedal to Great    
    Piano Pedal to Great    
    Forte Pedal to Swell      
    Piano Pedal to Swell      
    Balanced Swell Pedal      
             
Sources:
     Bakos, Peter G. Electronic correspondence (Sept. 6, 2013) regarding the Shofar stop on the Geo. Kilgen  & Son organ, Op. 5905 (1937).
     Casavant Frères, Ltée. Factory Specification of Casavant Frères organ, Op. 3812 (2001). Courtesy Stanley Scheer.
     Casavant Frères, Ltée. Factory Specification of Casavant Frères organ, Op. 3813 (2002). Courtesy Stanley Scheer.
     Casavant Frères, Ltée. website: http://www.casavant.ca/
     Central Synagogue website: http://www.centralsynagogue.org
     Dolkart, Andrew S. and Matthew A. Postal. Guide to New York City Landmarks (Third Edition). New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2004.
     Glück, Sebastian. "The American Synagogue Organ: A Brief Account, Part I (The Jacksonian Period to the Progressive Era," The Tracker, Vol. 50, Nos. 3 & 4 (Summer/Fall 2006).
     Klauder, John. Specification (Jan. 20, 1992) of Geo. Kilgen & Son Organ, Op. 5905 (1937). Courtesy Barry Kloda.
     McFadden, Robert D. "Fire Heavily Scars Landmark East Side Synagogue," The New York Times (Aug. 29, 1998).
     New York Architecture Images website: http://www.nyc-architecture.com/UES/UES004.htm
     "The Organ," The New York Weekly Review (Dec. 7, 1872): Specification of Jardine & Son Organ (1872). Courtesy Larry Trupiano.

Illustrations:
     Central Synagogue website: http://www.centralsynagogue.org
     Murphy, Shane. Consoles of Casavant Frères Organs, Op. 3813 (2001) and Op. 3812 (2000).
     New York Architecture Images website. Exterior; interior.