Hear the “Highland Cathedral
The Visser-Rowland (Opus 87) organ is a 4-manual, 51-stop, 74-rank tracker organ made by Visser-Rowland Associates of Houston, Texas. The console, or keydesk, is detached from the organ case, allowing greater flexibility and ease of choral conducting.
Notes are played by tracker key action, so named because of the long, narrow wooden trackers, which give direct mechanical linkages from the keys to the valves in the windchests. The stop action, by which the organist selects the sets of pipes to be sounded, is electric and activated by solid-state relays. An electronic combination system permits the organist to change groups of stops simultaneously.
The design was conceived by Pieter Visser. After being built in Houston under the supervision of Patrick Quigley and James Sanborn, the organ was dismantled, packed, and shipped to Stamford. Once here, the organ was reconstructed under the direction of Charles Eames. Finally, scalings were set and voicing executed by Brian Davis, assisted by Patrick Reynolds.
The tonal scheme of the organ is adapted from Dutch organs of the mid-eighteenth century. Such a design calls for firm, bright principal tone, flutes which sound clear and deep, harmonious reed stops, and an abundance of incisive high-pitched stops which reinforce, rather than obscure the foundation tone. An organ of this type is versatile in the types of literature it can perform. It blends well with voices and other instruments, and, most importantly, it excels in leading congregational singing.
Many different woods were used in constructing the organ. Most obvious are the mahogany case and white oak console. The four manual keyboards have ebony naturals and maple sharps, woods selected for their durability as well as appearance. The Zimblestern, which rotates at the top of the case, is basswood. The facade pipes (the largest of which is twenty feel tall) are flamed copper and polished tin and the Trumpet En Chemade is polished copper.