The organ of Saint Luke's Episcopal Church.

The organ of Saint Luke's Episcopal Church.

The Organ

St. Luke’s is home to a beautiful pipe organ, dubbed “Cecilia,” that was constructed by master organ builder Pieter Visser and acquired by St. Luke’s in 2001. Central to worship at St. Luke’s, this “king of instruments” is superior to all other instruments in its ability to express an immense range of timbres, dynamics, and affects––from passages of quiet serenity to eruptions of thundering fortissimo. Considered the most sophisticated technology from the 17th through the late 19th century, the pipe organ remains a marvel of human invention, and in today’s ever-changing world, its glorious sound reminds us that the beauty of sacred music is enduring. - Kate Weber-Petrova, current organist and choirmaster

The History of the Organ

When Saint Luke’s congregation began worshiping in its new nave on All Saints Day in 1970, the dream of a fine pipe organ to lead the congregation’s song seemed like just that – a dream.  Money was tight, and the church’s aged electronic had to suffice for a couple of years, when the organist and choirmaster at that time was engaged to build a pipe organ which was completed in 1973.  The instrument which resulted, while serviceable, had nothing of the visual grandeur and elegance one usually associates with pipe organs, many tonal modifications had to be made almost immediately, and the organ was a maintenance nightmare.  By 1995, although everyone had more or less gotten used to the inelegant assemblage of leaning pipes, plywood and PVC conduits in the rear of the nave, it was clear that something had to be done.  The room’s lively acoustics are an ideal home for the best pipe organ possible, and the 1973 instrument, fondly (?) known as “Augustus”, was just not up to the task.

1995 saw the formation of an organ committee, whose task at that time was simply to plan and carry out the rebuilding of the existing instrument.  Under the guidance of consultant Geoffrey Simon and after meetings with various builders, it became increasingly clear that rebuilding was not the wisest course of action.  About the same time, under the visionary leadership of then-rector Neal Goldsborough, the parish acknowledged the need to pay off the existing mortgage and install an elevator, as well as to provide for future musical needs.  A successful capital campaign culminating in the May 30, 1999 consecration of the building provided funds to accomplish these goals, and the wise decision was made to sell Augustus and obtain an entirely new instrument.

The original plans of the nave included provisions for a mechanical-action instrument, one in which the linkage between keys, pedals and pipes is made by wooden “trackers” rather than electrical connections.  This type of action is not only sensitive to the player but historically very durable, often lasting for centuries.  Committee members visited organs in the Washington area and elsewhere; a trip to Chicago brought about a visit to an instrument by Pieter Visser which led to his choice as builder.  The new instrument, dubbed “Cecilia”, arrived in Alexandria on November 18, 2001, and was heard in church for the first time on December 9.  The dedication recital was performed on May 5, 2002 by Mark Laubach, organist at St. Stephen’s Pro-Cathedral in Wilkes-Barre, PA and 1984 winner of the American Guild of Organists National Young Artists’ Competition in Organ Performance.

Visser and Associates’ Opus 127 speaks many languages and ably represents numerous historical periods.  Of course, an organ of this type shines in the performance of French and German Baroque literature, but romantic music of England and France and the best of contemporary organ literature are equally at home.  Most importantly, the organ supports congregational and choral singing admirably, and the elegant cherry case, designed for the room, makes the organ a feast for eye as well as ear. - Jane Bourdow, former organist and choirmaster

Specifications of Visser & Associates Opus 127

Installed November 18 - December 12, 2001

Manual 1              Coupler

Manual 2             Great

                Bourdon 16'                       61 pipes               wood

                Principal 8'                         61 pipes               75% tin Façade

                Chimney Flute 8'             61 pipes               20% tin               

                Octave 4'                             61 pipes               20% tin               

                Nachthorn 4'                     61 pipes               20% tin

                Twelfth 2 2/3'                   61 pipes               20% tin

                Octave 2'                             61 pipes               20% tin               

                Seventeenth 1 3/5'          61 pipes               20% tin

                Mixture V                            305 pipes            70% tin

                Trumpet 8'                         61 pipes               70% tin

Manual 3             Swell

                Gedeckt 8'                          61 pipes               20% tin

                Salicional 8'                       61 pipes               20% tin

                Céleste 8'                            56 pipes               20% tin

                Principal 4'                         61 pipes               20% tin

                Harmonic Flute 4'           61 pipes               20% tin

                Recorder 2'                        61 pipes               20% tin

                Mixture IV'                         244 pipes            70% tin

                Dulzian 16'                          61 pipes               50% tin

                Chalumeau 8'                    61 pipes               50% tin



Bourdon 32'                      32 notes             

(from 16’, bottom octave electronic)

                Bourdon 16'                       32 pipes               wood

                Diapason 8'                        32 pipes               70% tin Façade

                Stopped flute 8'               12 pipes               wood                    

(from Bourdon 16')                       

Choralbass 4'                    32 pipes               20% tin                               

                Bombarde 16'                    32 pipes               wood

                Trumpet 8'                         32 pipes               50% tin

Great/Pedal; Swell/Pedal


Mechanical key action, electric stop action

SSOS combination action with 8 memory levels

4 pistons per division plus 8 general pistons, Tutti, General Cancel