The Vicary Organ at First Covenant
When the newly formed Church of the Covenant was being built in 1929, the congregation commissioned a four manual pipe organ by the E. M. Skinner Company of Boston, Massachusetts. Installed that same year, this organ had many distinctive stops imitative of orchestral sounds, including a French Horn, English Horn, and Clarinet. In addition, the builder had developed a number of shimmering softer voices that were included in this organ. The pipes resided in chambers above and west of the chancel, as well as in enclosed rooms above and behind the balcony.
The Tellers Organ Company, a local firm, rebuilt the organ and replaced some ranks (sets of pipes) in 1959.
In 1982, through a generous gift of Mrs. Margharita Vicary, the Schantz Organ Company of Orrville, Ohio, built a new organ that retained many of the rare and exquisite ranks of the original Skinner instrument. In all, the Schantz instrument retained 49 ranks, including 24 stops of the Skinner organ, and included an additional 54 ranks. The Schantz instrument now boasted five manuals, 103 ranks, and a total of 6,037 individual pipes. The pipes ranged in size from a grand 32 foot bass pipe to a pipe smaller than a pencil.The original pipe locations were retained, with the addition of chests cantilevered from the rear wall of the balcony.
The crowning stop of the organ, the “Trompette en Chamade” is positioned horizontally from these cantilevered chests, allowing the sound to soar about the rest of the organ for regal and festive occasions.
The Vicary Foundation provided a challenge grant in 2002 to spur a technological update to the console and switching systems of the Organ, as well as to complete some repairs on the largest 32 foot pedal pipes. This grant and the support of music lovers of First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant has brought us to the exciting fruition of this project, allowing the Sanctuary organ and the McBrier Chapel organ to be played from the main 5 manual console.
The playing controls of the rebuilt console are greatly enhanced. The console system is now solid-state and multiplexed, and the entire organ of 103 ranks, 6,000+ pipes on 30 chests, 4 swell boxes, chimes, and harp are now controlled through only 24 wires between the console and the pipe chambers.
The Vicary Organ is the largest pipe organ in northwestern Pennsylvania and considered one of the largest pipe organs in the entire state.