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Ordained in 2011, Father Friel served for five years as Parochial Vicar at St. Anselm Parish in Northeast Philly. He is currently studying toward a doctorate in liturgical theology at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
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Had the Church never spoken on this matter, it would still be repugnant to our Catholic people’s sense of what is fit and proper in the holiest of places, that a priest should have to struggle through the prayers of the Holy Mass, because of such tunes as “Alice, where art thou?” the “Vacant Chair,” and others of more vulgar title, which, through the carelessness or bad judgment of organists, sometimes find their way into our choirs.
— Preface to a Roman Catholic Hymnal (1896)

Installation of New Pipe Organ on Capitol Hill
published 19 May 2019 by Fr. David Friel

NSTALLATIONS of new pipe organs are significant events. Even as their digital counterparts have grown in popularity, pipe organs have retained a place of unique importance in the field of Church music. New installations require the cooperation and support of the whole parish—pastor, musicians, and faithful—and they are a cause for real celebration.

One recently completed project took place at St. Peter’s Church in Washington, DC. Situated on the House side of Capitol Hill, the parish elected to replace, rather than repair, its previous instrument. The earlier organ, installed in 1940, had been damaged by plaster that fell during a 2001 earthquake in the city. The new organ debuted at this year’s Easter Vigil.

The music program at St. Peter’s is directed by Kevin O’Brien, a respected organist and conductor who holds a DMA from The Catholic University of America. The Archdiocese of Washington’s Catholic Standard featured a nice article on the installation project, including interviews of O’Brien and the pastor.

The new instrument is Opus 162 of Noack Organ Company, headquartered in Massachusetts. It is both modern and traditional: modern in the sense that it is carefully designed to support congregational singing, and traditional in that it uses all mechanical (tracker) action. One of the most interesting aspect of this project is that the organ builders worked around two brick walls in the choir loft area that are integral to the structure of the church. Below are three images illustrating how this was accomplished:

Full specifications of the instrument are found on the organ builder’s website here.

St. Peter’s Church is one of two venues utilized by the excellent Washington Bach Consort. The ensemble performs a Noontime Cantata Series on the first Mondays and Tuesdays of several months throughout the year. In addition to a fine program of Bach works, each concert begins with an organ solo. The new instrument will be specially featured in the upcoming season of the Consort.

Congratulations to St. Peter’s Church on their achievement!