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The Cathedral Organ Fund

A Message From the Music Director


Dear Friends of Cathedral Music,


The work of music ministry is largely invisible. You may not see the Cathedral Choir members faithfully using their rehearsal tracks at home or our children mustering up their courage to sing out loud. You may not see members of our community sacrificing precious moments of their holiday season to spend at Christ Church. What you will see and hear is the living, breathing result of hours of preparation as an offering to the glory of God and as a ministry to each of you in the pews.


There is no doubt that technology has transformed the arts. While our culture is increasingly marked by instant gratification and on-demand entertainment, places like our Cathedral continue to create music the “old-fashioned way” - with great effort, consistency, and intentionality. At Christ Church Cathedral, your donations fund efforts like the preservation of a true pipe organ, the continuation of choral music, and the music education of our children - all vital parts of the life of our congregation. It is not an exaggeration to say that our budget cannot support these initiatives without your additional giving.


This fall, we are making a specific request for donations to our organ fund. As many churches move to electronic organs or pianos, Christ Church’s leadership continues to prioritize the preservation of our pipe organ. While the maintenance of the instrument is largely invisible to the congregation, the Cathedral incurs about $5000 of maintenance costs annually. In addition to regular maintenance, our organ will eventually require specialized work to deal with the current technical challenges of the chambers’ layout. If these issues go unaddressed, an increasingly large portion of the organ will become unusable. 


Please consider making a donation to our organ fund by returning the attached envelope, or visiting our website to give electronically. We are deeply grateful to you for your support.


Elizabeth Bemis-Gatter



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.


Please support our historic organ by contributing to the Cathedral Organ Fund.

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The 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 interior 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 worship. Most importantly, it accompanies our songs of praise and gives voice to our prayers. We now turn our eyes to the future of this instrument.

Pipe Organ Database: A Project of the Organ Historical Society

The Organ By The Numbers

1841 Henry Erben:  $2,600


1857 Henry Erben (50 stops):

Paid $6,000 Valued at $10,000


1907 Hook & Hastings (39 stops):

Paid $10,500


1987 Steiner-Reck rebuild of

Hook & Hastings with additional pipes

 (57 stops):  Paid $228,771


The 2017 replacement cost of our pipe organ is $1,800,000.

Organ  Apr  2015_41.JPG
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