History of the Grace Church Organ

The Gallery Organ at Grace Church was installed in 1886 by the Hutchings Company of Boston. The black walnut case and stenciled façade pipes have become an iconic symbol of Grace Church. In 1902, the choir was moved from the gallery to the small chancel in the front of the church, and in 1904 the console was moved to the chancel as well. When the new chancel was built in 1912, the Hutchings Co. supplied a small chancel organ to supplement the gallery organ. The present twin chancel organ cases were also installed at that time. In 1923, Casavant Frères of St. Hyacinthe, Quebec built a large new chancel organ of over 1800 pipes, and supplied a new console to control both organs.

In 1959, the vestry authorized a complete overhaul and expansion of both organs. Edward B. Gammons, a member of the National Joint Commission on Church Music served as consultant, along with Grace Church organist Fred Cronhimer, and Lawrence Phelps of Casavant. Much of the Hutchings pipework from 1886 was included in the project, including the 32’ Soubasse. The Chancel Organ was enlarged to 3 manuals and pedal, and a new console was provided to control the entire organ. This project culminated in 103 ranks of pipes (68 in the gallery and 35 in the chancel) with a total of 6,124 pipes.

In 2010, a 4-manual console was designed and built by the firm of R.A. Colby in Tennessee, with the Walker Technical Company supplying over 100 digital ranks of pipes. This project, spearheaded by then-Director of Music Mark Johnson, was intended to compensate for the increasing of number of dead notes in the organ, and the dire need to re-leather the entire instrument.

The organ is currently in a critical state, and it is our hope that we will be able to undertake a full-scale organ project in the near future so that the instrument may continue to be a touchstone for music at Grace Church and the wider musical community in Providence. If you would like to make a donation in support of Music at Grace, or for the restoration of the organ, please find donation envelopes in the back of the church, or contact Director of Music Vince Edwards at vedwards@gracepvd.org or call 401-331-3225, ext 4.

Additional information, including specifications, about the 1923, 1960 and 2010 Grace Church instruments is available here.