History of the Cathedral Organ
As early as 1841, a pipe organ by renowned New York builder, Henry Erben, was in use at Christ Church, Mobile. In 1857, the famed builder returned to Mobile when a rival company, Jardine and Sons, intended to install a grand instrument in the city's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Erben, not wanting to be outdone, offered to buy Christ Church's existing organ as long as the congregation promised to buy a new one for the cost of $6,000. When building commenced, however, Erben found he had underbid the job but he completed it at cost. Thus Christ Church was furnished with a $10,000 pipe organ, many proclaimed it the finest in the South. This instrument was "made famous" by the playing of Madame Kowalewski, and served as a centerpiece for fine music.
Disaster struck in 1906 when a hurricane sent the steeple crashing through the roof. The organ was destroyed, as was much of the church. The ladies of the church raised funds to buy a new organ, and in 1907, a fine instrument was purchased at a cost of $10,500 from the Hook & Hastings Company of Massachusetts . This instrument was altered and damaged in the 1940s, but the organ remained in faithful service for around 80 years. The Deagan Chimes of the organ were given in memory of fallen soldiers of Christ Church during the Second World War. The chimes were dedicated and first used during the midnight service on Christmas Eve of 1946. These chimes are still in use today.
As early as the 1970s, is was recommended a restoration be undertaken of the Hook & Hastings organ. As is often the case, it took until 1987 for a new iteration of the organ, built by the Steiner-Reck company of Kentucky, to come to fruition. While originally, it was recommended that the organ be restored to its original state (pre-1940s), plans grew to make Christ Church's organ a premier concert instrument in Mobile. A restoration became a rebuilding, and the overriding goal was that the organ of Christ Church should be able to present organ repertoire authentically regardless of the historical period or school of organ building. Hence, the Hook & Hastings pipework of 1907 was married with new pipework of the 1980s, French-style reeds were introduced along with German mixtures, and the organ took on new life.
In 2009, a Trompette en Chamade (horizontal trumpet) was added to the organ and seems to usher in our "Cathedral era". Today, the organ stands as one of the largest in the city of Mobile and at the heart of our music ministry and outreach. It sounds during weddings, funerals, diocesan events, and regular services. Most importantly, it accompanies our songs of praise to our Creator and gives voice to our prayers. We now turn our eyes to the future of this instrument.
For nearly two centuries, Christ Church has enjoyed beautiful organ music within its walls. Over the years, four different pipe organs have occupied this space. Ours is an organ tradition we can be proud of and must maintain. Our pipe organ has been the “voice of our space,” and with continued maintenance it can play this role for generations to come. This is the statement found in the Cathedral Organ Fund booklet published annually in the early summer. Donations are received throughout the year.