The Organ Project at Grace

In October of 2021, the Vestry of Grace Church authorized the public launch of The Organ Project at Grace. This project will restore, renovate, and expand our existing pipe organ which is a perilous state of complete disrepair. The over 6,000 individual pipes – dating from 1886, 1932 and 1959 – need extensive work to make them sing again. (Currently, the 100 digital or electronic stops added in 2010, mask the need for restoration and renovation. However, even this portion of the organ is failing on a regular basis as well.) The 1959 wind-chests need re-leathering after working hard for 60 years, and the console dating from 2010 already needs replacing.

A brochure detailing this exciting project, with photos of the current state of disrepair, may be found in the back of the church, as well as a proposed stop-list for the restored, renovated, and expanded organ. When complete, this will be the largest and most versatile pipe organ in the state of Rhode Island, with over 7,000 pipes.

We would welcome your financial support – be it a small gift, or a major one – to help make this project a reality.

Please contact the Organist & Director of Music, Vince Edwards (vedwards@gracepvd.org or 203-984-8943), or the Rector, Jonathan Huyck (jhuyck@gracepvd.org or 401-331-3225), if you are interested in helping with this landmark musical project, or if you simply want more information. Videos of the current state of the instrument are available for viewing at www.gracechurchprovidence.org/organproject Thank you!

Below is a brief history of the organs of Grace Church.
To watch a behind-the-scenes tour of the Gallery and Chancel Organs,
or a demonstration of the instruments, please click on the videos to the right!

History of Organs at Grace Church

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 downstairs in the front of the church, and in 1904 the console was moved down to the Chancel as well. When a new Chancel was designed and built by the famous Gothic-Revival architect Ralph Adams Cram in 1912, the Hutchings Co. supplied a small Chancel Organ to supplement the Gallery Organ and to better accompany the Choir from its new location. The present twin Chancel Organ cases (also designed by Cram) were installed at that time. In 1923, Casavant Frères of St. Hyacinthe, Québec, Canada built a larger, new Chancel Organ of over 1,800 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 the then-organist of Grace Church, 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 ever-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 and the State of Rhode Island. 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 rear of the church, or contact Director of Music Vince Edwards at vedwards@gracepvd.org or call 401-331-3225, ext 4.