Corpus Christi Catholic Church - New York City (photo: Steven E. Lawson)

 

Click on most images to enlarge

Corpus Christi Church
(Roman Catholic)

529 West 121st Street
New York, N.Y. 10027
http://www.corpus-christi-nyc.org


Organ Specifications:
Present building (since 1936)
III/29 Holtkamp Organ Company, Job 1692 (1956)
• II/ Hammond Musical Instrument Co. (1936)
First building (1907-1936)
• Estey Organ Company, Op. 990 (1912)

The church also houses a Positive by Taylor & Boody (1987).


Original building (1907-1936) of Corpus Christi Catholic Church - New York City  
   
In the early twentieth century, as the number of cultural, educational and religious institutions increased in Morningside Heights, the parish of Corpus Christi was established to serve the Catholic community in the area. The first Masses were held on May 6, 1906, in a temporary chapel on the corner of Broadway and West 121st Street, and on November 11 of the same year the cornerstone was laid for a permanent church. Architect F.A. de Meuron designed a parish building that would include the church, school and rectory, and the new church was dedicated on June 30, 1907, by Archbishop John Farley. The parish school opened the following September.

In 1934, Father George Barry Ford, the Catholic chaplain of Columbia University, was named pastor of Corpus Christi Church, and the church became the center of Catholic religious activities for the university. Under Father Ford's pastorate, construction began on the present building, culiminating in its dedication on October 25, 1936. The neo-Georgian building was designed by Wilfred E. Anthony, and contains the Cardinal Newman Chapel (specially subscribed for by university alumni) on the first through third floors, with the school and convent in the three floors above the church proper. The chapel includes galleries in the rear and on both sides, and contains many beautiful liturgical objets d'art.

Corpus Christi Catholic Church - New York City (photo: Steven E. Lawson)  
   
Corpus Christi Church has a long-standing dedication to traditions of liturgical music—distinguished by its use of Gregorian chant, Renaissance polyphony, Baroque, and early Classical choral music—and has commissioned contemporary works of sacred music. The church also hosts "Music Before 1800," an early music concert series.

Thomas Merton, the American spiritual writer who was converted to Catholicism while a student at Columbia, wrote in his autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, that the church of his baptism has a "seventeenth-century, Oratorian character about it, though with a sort of American colonial tinge of simplicity. The blend was effective and original. . . ."
             

Holtkamp Organ (1956) at Corpus Christi Catholic Church - New York City (photo: Steven E. Lawson)
Holtkamp Organ Company
Cleveland, Ohio – Job 1692 (1956)
Electric key and stop action
Setterboard combination action
3 manuals, 23 stops, 29 ranks


The organ in Corpus Christi Church was designed by Walter Holtkamp, and was installed in 1956, making it the first Holtkamp organ in Manhattan. It is believed that the choice of organbuilder may have been influenced by organist Vernon de Tar of the Juilliard School, at the time located a few blocks from the church.

An open chamber at the chancel end of the left gallery contains the free-standing pipes, and the console is located in the choir room below. The organist and choir hear the organ through a Japanese teak grill in the ceiling of the choir space. On the wall behind the console is a setterboard for the combination action.
               
Great Organ (Manual II) – 61 notes
8
  Principal
61
2
  Superoctave
61
8
  Gedackt
61
1 1/3
  Mixture IV ranks
244
4
  Octave
61
8
  Trumpet
61
               
Swell Organ (Manual III) – 61 notes, enclosed
8
  Gamba
61
4
  Spitzflöte
61
8
  Voix Celeste (GG)
54
2
  Nachthorn
61
8
  Lieblich Gedackt
61
2 2/3
  Sesquialtera II ranks
122
               
Positiv Organ (Manual I) – 61 notes
8
  Copula
61
1 1/3
  Quinte
61
4
  Rohrflöte
61
1
  Zimbel III ranks
183
2
  Principal
61
8
  Krummhorn
61
               
Pedal Organ – 32 notes
16
  Subbass
32
4
  Choralbass
32
8
  Octave
32
16
  Fagott
32
8
  Flauto Dolce
32
       
               
Couplers
    Great to Pedal 8'       Swell to Great 16'  
    Swell to Pedal 8'       Swell to Great 8'  
    Positiv to Pedal 8'       Positiv to Great 8'  
    Positiv to Pedal 4'       Swell to Positiv 8'  
               
Adjustable Combinations (setterboard)
   
Great Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4 (thumb)
Swell Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4 (thumb)
Positiv Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4 (thumb)
Pedal Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4 (toe)
Entire Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4 (thumb & toe)
  General Cancel (thumb)
               
Reversibles
    Great to Pedal (thumb & toe)   Positiv to Pedal (thumb)
    Swell to Pedal (thumb)   Full Organ (toe)
               
Expression
    Balanced Swell Pedal      
    Balanced Crescendo Pedal      
               
Holtkamp Organ (1956) at Corpus Christi Catholic Church - New York City (photo: Steven E. Lawson)
 
Setterboard of the Holtkamp Organ (1956) at Corpus Christi Catholic Church - New York City (photo: Steven E. Lawson)
             
 

Pre-1956 interior of Corpus Christi Catholic Church - New York City (architect's drawing)

Hammond Musical Instrument Company
Chicago, Ill. (1936)
Tone-wheel generators
2 manuals


Pre-1956 interior of Corpus Christi Catholic Church - New York City (undated postcard)  
When the present church was opened in 1936, pipe facades were installed on the right side of the chancel. Behind the dummy pipes were the speakers of an electric instrument built by the Hammond Musical Instrument Company of Chicago, who had patented an electric organ only two years earlier, in 1934. This instrument served the church until the Holtkamp organ was installed in 1956. Pictured are an undated postcard and architectural drawing of the present Corpus Christi Church that show the organ facade in the northeast corner of the present church. This facade existed several years after the Holtkamp organ was installed.
             
Organ installed in first church:

Estey Organ Company
Brattleboro, Vt. – Opus 990 (1912)
Electro-pneumatic action
2 manuals


The Estey Organ Company's Opus List shows that their opus 990 was installed in Corpus Christi Church in 1912. Specifications of this organ have not yet been located.
             
Sources:
     "Aid New Catholic Chapel. 400 Columbia Alumni to Pay for Corpus Christi Church Work," The New York Times (July 5, 1936).
     "Cardinal to Bless Church. Corpus Christi Ceremonies Will Be Held Next Sunday," The New York Times (Oct. 18, 1936).
     "Chapel to Be Dedicated. Dr. Butler and Cardinal Hayes to Attend Columbia Service," The New York Times (Sep. 20, 1936).
     Corpus Christi Church web site: http://www.corpus-christi-nyc.org
     Dolkart, Andrew S. Morningside Heights: A History of Its Architecture & Development. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.
     Dunlap, David. From Abyssinian to Zion: A Guide to Manhattan's Houses of Worship. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.
     The Estey Pipe Organ web site: www.esteyorgan.com
     Plogsterth, Ann. Archivist of Corpus Christi Church.

Illustrations:
     Corpus Christi Church web site. Photo of original church building.
     eBay.com. Postcard (<1956) and architectural drawing of present church interior.
     Lawson, Steven E. Church exterior, interior, and Holtkamp Organ (1956).