{grid7}In 2012, in the midst of the final stages planning for the restoration of our historic buildings, the Parish was afforded a unique opportunity to acquire a vintage Skinner organ from a closed church in North Adams, Massachusetts. Ideal in size, sound and pedigree, Skinner Organ Co.'s Opus 708 was a welcome and timely solution to the problem of All Saints' failing chancel organ.

(The former chancel organ, Hutchings-Votey Organ Co.'s Op. 1482 from 1902, never seems to have been musically adequate for the needs of the Parish. It underwent a series of well-intentioned but ultimately unsuccessful rebuilds over the course of the 20th century. By 2012, it was only partially playable and could not adequately accompany choral singing.)

Thanks to a generous gift, the Parish was able to acquire and store Op. 708 on site, arranged through organ consultant and parishioner Jonathan Ambrosino, organ restorer Joe Sloane, and the help of many church volunteers. Mr. Ambrosino and his team's restoration and installation were timed to coincide with the completion of the church restoration project in early 2015.

43 Finished trebles 2Skinner organs excel at choral accompaniment—a critical requirement at All Saints, where the chancel organ's primary role is to support the Choir of Men and Boys. Op. 708 was built at the firm's subsidiary plant in Westfield, Massachusetts, in 1929. The construction quality is superb, representing the finest materials and craftsmanship of the period. The instrument was in a remarkable state of preservation when acquired, and its installation at All Saints involved a complete historical restoration, along with the minor re-engineering necessary to make the instrument conform to the space available in Ashmont's chancel organ chamber.

The organ's original 20 stops and 23 ranks are in three divisions and a pedal, with the Swell and Choir under expression. The console is fitted with a number of assists that enhance its function and flexibility as a fine accompaniment instrument. The Skinner joins the Centennial Organ—C.B. Fisk's Opus 103—which leads congregational singing and provides a fine instrument for solo literature. This two-organ arrangement creates an ideal environment to support the Parish's ambitious music program.

All Saints' is grateful to the many donors from both within and outside the Parish who made this project possible. In 2014, a generous challenge grant from the Joseph G. Bradley Foundation along with an additional anonymous challenge grant and a benefit recital by noted organist William Porter at Harvard University's Memorial Church (also home to a Skinner and a Fisk organ) generated the remaining funds needed to complete this important project.

Photography: Ruth Godderz (top), Jonathan Ambrosino{/grid7}{grid5_last}

William Porter in recital

playing Skinner Organ Co., Op. 708

Tu es Petrus, by Henri Mulet

Pascha nostrum - Improvisation by William Porter, on the Fraction verse 'Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.'