Holtkamp Organ Company
JOB 2080 - Providence College, Providence RI

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Providence College, Chapel of St. Dominic, Provid...
Providence College, Chapel of St. Dominic, Provid...
Providence College, Chapel of St. Dominic, Provid...

Providence College, Providence RI


 The Chapel of St. Dominic at Providence College is a wonderful liturgical space.  Its warm cream walls, lofty central dome, brilliant stained glass windows, and delicate ceiling truss work welcome the worshiper and visitor alike.  The configuration of the chapel, with its expansive octagonal central nave and lower side isles, give it an intimacy that belies its size.  The architectural focus on the altar, crucifix, and other sacred statuary are an inspiration to all who enter.  The acoustic of the chapel is an ideal compromise between the often competing needs of music and the sacred word.  It is warm and reverberant.  It also has the brightness required for the spoken word.  This natural brightness is enhanced with a sound reinforcement system which results in excellent speech intelligibility.


     The pipe organ project at Providence College began with finding a proper location for the organ in the new chapel.  Organ location is a question that has been in the forefront of organ design for nearly a century.  In this well proportioned octagonal chapel there are many possible organ locations that provide excellent projection of sound to the congregation.  This however is not the only question in the organ location debate.  There is also the equally important question of the relationship between the choir, organ and console.  The choir and organ are two musical instruments  that more often than not function as a single ensemble and must be in close proximity. As a result the organ must be located so as to provide excellent projection of sound to the choir.  This was a more difficult requirement to fulfill.  After many initial suggestions the solution was to create a transept to house the organ.  This transept is placed in that portion of the octagonal sanctuary that is ninety degrees to the right of the altar.  The choir is placed between the altar and organ.  This places the choir and cantor in close proximity to the liturgical center of the chapel.  It also provides the best possible projection of sound from the organ to choir. The moveable console provides the flexibility necessary to place the console in the location appropriate to the particular service or concert, or other event.


     The visual design of the organ stems from two sources.  The first is architectural.  The controlling architectural dynamic of the chapel interior is the contrast between the floor, walls and ceiling of the chapel with the windows and furnishings.  The floor walls and ceiling are fairly plain.  Their architectural function is to act as a backdrop for the windows and other furnishings.  The windows, chancel furnishings, Stations of the Cross, statuary, and organ are more ornate and so stand out in contrast to the more plain building structure.  The basic design style chosen for the chancel furnishings is Italian Renaissance.  This is also the design style chosen for the organ.


The configuration of design, specifically a central arch flanked by a broken pediment, has musical considerations.  The specification called for a Choir organ.  Its primary function is to act in conjunction with the chapel choir.  This made it necessary to place it as close as possible to the choir.  As a result the location chosen for the Choir Organ was the lower left quadrant of the organ.  This decision led to the placement of all other divisions in the organ.  The Swell was placed in the lower right quadrant.  In these positions the Choir and Swell project well to the chapel choir, cantor, and the congregation.  The Great and Pedal were placed in the upper left and upper right quadrants.  Being placed on the upper level of the organ allows these two unenclosed divisions to project easily over the façade.  The broken pediment, because of the space provided between it and the central arch, provides the best possible projection of sound from the Great and Pedal through the façade to the congregation.


Follow the question of design style and configuration  are the matters of stature, massing, and detail.  A pipe organ is more often than not the largest single object in a church.  Such is the case in The Chapel of St. Dominic.  While an organ requires a certain amount of space for the pipes, chests, other essential support systems, and access, it is also possible to minimize the mass of the instrument through the details of the design.  This was the approach taken at Providence College.  With the central tower being flanked by the broken pediment the upper portion of the façade is broken into three distinct units.  This separation of the façade into three units results in a design that is light rather than heavy.  An additional benefit of the broken pediment is that it adds a degree of unity to the three units of the façade.  Although it is separated by the central arch, its basic motion is across the central arch towards each other.  They always appear to want to be joined or completed by each other.  The result is a drive towards unity that would not  be present in other configurations.  Other details of the visual design are proportioned to reduce its visual weight.  One good example are the posts of the upper façade which are made as spare as possible to reduce their weight.


The specification of the instrument is a collaboration between the organ committee and the Holtkamp Organ Company.  It was requested that the organ be three manuals.  Space limitations, primarily the depth of the organ transept, defined the size of the instrument at thirty stops, thirty-nine ranks, and ______________ pipes.  The stops were disposed among the different divisions to give them equal balance and widely varying color.  As always in our work the voicing and scaling are somewhat open and singing, allowing for well knit, unified ensembles. 


The Great Organ, being primarily responsible for leading the congregation, is provided with a principal chorus that is full, round and singing.  Its structure contains significant fundamental tone to support the congregation and sufficient high frequency response to lead the congregation.  Its internal balance is even from bass to treble, the result being a color and weight which surrounds and embraces the congregation.  The Great flutes are moderate in timber and weight, bridging the range of sound necessary for the accompaniment of both solo registrations from the Swell or Choir, and the accompaniment of immature or untrained voices.  The 8’ Trumpet is conceived as an ensemble reed with significant fundamental and even balance from bass to treble.  The 16’ Violone is designed to lie evenly beneath the Principal chorus and be a distinct contrast to the Pedal 16’ Principal in both weight and color.


The Swell Organ splits its responsibilities between leading the congregation and accompanying the choir.  It is provided with a small Principal chorus based on an 8’ Viola.  It is naturally more light and bright than that in the Great.  It is topped with a pungent 2’ Piccolo and a bright 1 1/3’ Quinte.  In combination these two stops function as a very effective quasi mixture.  The Quint is scaled to also function as a secondary 2 2/3 Nazard when played an octave down.  The Swell reeds have both fundamental and fire.   The Oboe unit is medium scaled and capped, providing fullness in the bass while still maintaining delicacy in the treble.  The 8’ Trompette is at a volume level equal to that of the Great 8’ Trumpet.  Its color is quite contrasting.  It is not thin, but rather combines fundamental and brightness, with a development that grows to the treble.


The Choir Organ went through the greatest evolution during the creation of the final specification for the instrument.  From the outset we knew that it required the mildest of the 8’ Flutes and its matching Celeste.   Its corresponding 4’ Flute would needed to be open or taperedto blend well with it, and also be a contrast to the 4’ Openflute in the Great.  We arrived at a 4’ Nachthorn with a large scale, high lead content, and narrow mouth.  Because this instrument will be used as the primary concert instrument at Providence College we needed a second Principal chorus to act in contrast to the Great.  It might be assumed that the natural place for this second chorus is in the Swell.  If we had placed the second Principal chorus in the Swell we would have a very well developed Swell and a somewhat diminutive Choir.  This we did not want.  Our desire was three well balanced divisions.  As a result we chose to place the second Principal chorus in the Choir.  In this way the Swell gains its weight and color from its reeds.  The Choir gains an equal amount of weight and contrasting color from its principal chorus.  The entire Choir principal chorus has large scales, narrow mouths, and high lead content.  It is fuller than the Great principal chorus, but not quite as declamatory.  It blends with the other stops in the Choir because of their similar logic and construction.  The result is a Principal chorus that is a fitting contrast to the Great.  It is both more full and more delicate.  The 8’ Cromorne is the only departure to this logic in the Choir.  It is full and bright.  It is very appropriate to the literature for its reed type.  It adds a wonderful shimmer to the Choir when added to the Choir principal chorus.


The Pedal Organ is provided with a wide range of timber and weight.  The 16’ flues are a good example.  The 16’ Subbass is the mildest of the flues available.  It has the body and delicacy to lie beneath the softer of the manual registrations.  The 16’ Violone, borrowed from the Great, has somewhat more body and a more declamatory speech.  It serves well in lighter ensemble registrations.  The 16’ Principal, an independent stop, with its largest scale is designed for the larger ensemble registrations.  These stops are topped by 8’ and 4’ flues that are scaled for maximum flexibility in the many different ensembles that are required in conjunction with the manuals.  The Pedal reed is designed to effect the Pedal chorus with a weight equal to that with which the 8'’Trumpet effects the Great principal chorus.  However, it is both more dark and more heavy.  The resonators and shalots are scaled to gradually brighten from bass to treble.  This results in a timber that is somewhat brighter when used at the 8’ pitch level, differentiating te 16’ Posaune from the 8’ Octave Posaune.


Last but not least is the 8’ Festival Trumpet.  Such reeds have a very wide range of possible timber and function.  On an instrument of this size we choose a reed of moderately dark timber with a weight appropriate to an ensemble reed for the full organ.  In this way it will have the widest possible number of applications.  It has the body and power to act as a solo reed when used opposite the full Swell or Choir.  It also folds well into the full organ, adding to it both gravity and brilliance.


This project has been a true pleasure from its beginning to its end.  My thanks to _______________ for providing such an inspiring space in which to work, and for their invaluable support during the design phase of the organ.  Thanks also to the contractors ______________ who did such an excellent and timely job in the construction of the new chapel.  Lastly, thanks to all the wonderful people at Providence College, their trust and faith in our work.  Without these great folks such projects would never become a reality.



Job # 2080      
The Chapel of St. Dominic    
Providence College    
Providence, RI      
Pedal Organ W.P. 2 ¾”    
1 16’ Principal   32
  16’ Violone   Great
2 16’ Subbass   32
3  8’ Octave   32
   8’ Octave Subbass `   12
   4’ Superocatave   12
4 16’ Posaune   32
   8’ Octave Posaune 12
   8’ Festival Trumpet Great
Great Organ W.P. 2 ¾”    
5 16’ Violone   61
6  8’ Principal   61
   8’ Violone   12
7  8’ Rohrbourdon   61
8  4’ Octave   61
9  4’ Openflute   61
10  2’ Superoctave   61
11  V  Mixture   305
12  8’ Trumpet   61
  16’ Festival Trumpet 0
13  8’ Festival Trumpet 61
Swell Organ W.P. 2 ¾”    
14  8’ Viola     61
15  8’ Viola Celeste   56
16  8’ Bourdon   61
17  4’ Octave Geigen   61
18  4’ Harmonic Flute 61
19  2’ Piccolo   61
20 1 1/3’ Quint   61
21 16’ Oboe Bass   61
22  8’ Trompette   61
   8’ Oboe     12
Choir Organ W.P. 2 ¾”    
23 8’ Flute Principal   61
24 8’ Flute d’Amour   61
25 8’ Celeste d’Aeterna 56
26 4’ Prestant   61
27 4’ Nachthorn   61
28 II  Cornet tc 98
29 2’ Doublette   61
30 IV  Scharf   244
31 8’ Cromorne   61
  16’ Festival Trumpet Great
   8’ Festival Trumpet Great

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