Cardinal Newman Organ Academy Organ Crawl, Fall 2021

Organ crawls are an important part of any Organ Academy student’s instruction. Classroom instruction comes to life with hands on experience while “crawling” through pipe organs. Terms and definitions the students have been required to memorize and write down as answers to questions, are now physically in front of them. The following is a recap of the 2021 Fall Crawl in Augusta, GA.

Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church: Jardine & Sons Organ Builder, 1868, mechanical (tracker) key action

Organist & Music Director Jose Reyes-Ortiz greeted students in the organ loft high above the nave. The organ was built by Jardine & Sons of New York in 1868 and utilizes mechanical (tracker) action. The parish went through grief trying to have the organ  released from port in Savannah because of the cargo’s high content of metal and pipes, which Northern-controlled port authorities viewed as highly suspicious only three years after the Civil War cessation of arms.

Students explored the organ, even climbing ladders onto the second and third story of pipes high in the air. One can see how the shapes of some of these pipes might have caused Yankee port authorities concern!

Organ Academy Seniors Marshall Seezen and Thomas Blake  were required to explain different functions and features of the organ to beginning  students Gianna Frey (’26), Anastasia Egan (’24), and Adam Reisenauer (’24).

Even Mr. Cochrane got to show off his unbelievable organ technique!

Our host, Jose Reyes-Ortiz, asked the students if they wanted to go into the crypt underneath the church! One of the students exclaimed, “Isn’t that where dead people are?” Mr. Reyes-Ortiz smiled and responded, “Yes.”  So, off they went! Upon entering the crypt, there were many questions, as you might imagine. 

 Next up...

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church: Casavant Frères Organ Builders, 1966, electro-pneumatic key action

Organist-Music Director Keith Shaeffer welcomed us to St. Paul’s Church, established 1750, and shared some of the history of the church and the Casavant pipe organ. The present church was built in 1916 after the great Augusta fire which destroyed the previous church building. Mr. Shaeffer then answered many questions from our inquisitive students.

Mr. Shaeffer “pulled out all the stops” for our students, demonstrating the different tonal resources available. Each of the students had playing time on the organ, and looking straight up to the top of a 16’ tall Trombone pipe.

Next stop...

St. John’s United Methodist Church: Dobson Organ Builders, 2003, mechanical (tracker) key action

Organist-Music Director Jamie Council-Garvey welcomed us to St. John’s Church and shared some of the history of the church and the Dobson pipe organ. All of the students took turns playing for each other on the Dobson.

And then they were off to...

Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church: Schantz Organ Builders, 2003, electro-pneumatic key action

Reid Memorial Presbyterian Music Director S.C. Toe greeted the students and made everyone feel very welcome. Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church is where Cardinal Newman Organ Instructor, Brad Cunningham, was the organist for 10 years. This is the largest pipe organ they visited on the organ crawl, and the second largest in the city. 

After climbing to the second story of the organ, the doors to all of the different divisions of the organ were opened into one another, and the students lined up in the center of the pipes. Students were then advised to remain calm and not to jump or move, while Mr. Cochrane played a full-organ C Major chord with the lowest C pedal, with all of the 32’ organ stops drawn. Our students will never forget the sensation they experienced. One exclaimed that it felt like an earthquake! The walk boards they were standing on and the wooden organ case we were standing in, all shook. It was quite an experience. 

Thank you to Mr. Cochrane and Mr. Loia for approving our field trip, and a special thank you to Mr. Reyes-Ortiz, Mr. Shafer, Ms. Council-Garvey, and Mr. Toe for hosting us. Our students will cherish this experience for years to come! 

If your son or daughter is interesting in learning to play the organ, have them sign up for the Cardinal Newman Organ Academy! Students may join with a little, or a lot, of piano playing experience. If you have questions, please email the Organ Academy Director, Brad Cunningham.