Mention “St. Paul’s Chapel” to most New Yorkers and they will think you are referring to the downtown church associated with Trinity Church, near the site of 9/11. There is another St. Paul’s Chapel, and this is uptown on the Columbia campus. Organist Gail Archer will play a fine program of contemporary American music there at 7:30 this coming Wednesday, Jan. 25: Tower, Persichetti, Barber, David Noon, and a Hayes Biggs premiere. (This is the first in a series of American music concerts by Archer at several locations – more info at her website.) There is a wonderful Aeolian Skinner organ in the Columbia chapel. I know it first hand from my days as a music minister for the Catholic Campus Ministry at Columbia. Here is a shot of the current console, a 1997 installation, but looking similar to the console I experienced about a decade earlier.
Among the delights of the instrument is a dome division, with a very powerful reed stop as well as speakers for an electronic 32′ pedal stop. I would reserve the use of that reed (what is called the “crown trumpet” in the stop list – see the link above) for special occasions. I remember using it to intone the last hymn of a big Easter Vigil service, and hearing somebody at the back of the chapel cry out in shock, pinned to the wall by the sound – although a joyous delirium brought on by beauty and length of the service as well as the strict Paschal fast may have also been factors in that reaction. More about my Columbia classmate Hayes Biggs here and here; my experience with organs here. Paul Dinter, Catholic chaplain at Columbia during my time there, has a memoir worth reading.