The Mander Organ
The magnificent pipe organ at St. Ignatius Loyola has become an organ of choice for recitals and recordings, as predicted by historian Barbara Owen in The New York Times in 1993. It may be heard on a dozen CD recordings that feature world renowned ensembles, such as the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the Westminster Choir, and solo performances by artists including John Scott, Kent Tritle, David Liddle and with instrumentalists including the New York Philharmonic’s Thomas Stacy. The organ has proven itself time and again as a versatile and artistically superb instrument. As the largest tracker-action pipe organ in the New York Metropolitan area, it holds special appeal for organists and lovers of organ music. The organist of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, Olivier Latry, personally chose the organ and church as the American site for his acclaimed cycles of Messiaen’s complete organ works in 2000, along with Notre Dame and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.
The organ’s debut on April 27, 1993 coincided with an article by The New York Times writer Glenn Collins, who had spent the previous 6 months following the construction of the 5,000 pipe, 30 ton, 45 foot high instrument. Resulting enthusiasm and interest from ABC, CNN, NPR, CBC and a host of other important media culminated in a pre-recital press conference with the builder, John Mander, the pastor of the church, Fr. Walter Modrys, S.J. and recitalist David Higgs. The concert itself was an historic event, packing nearly 1,800 people (some police estimates were 2,000) into a church that can seat 1,200 at Easter!
The firm N.P. Mander was selected in 1991 to build the new instrument for St. Ignatius Loyola. This would be the largest tracker organ ever to have been built in the British Isles. Other instruments by the Mander firm include those at St. Paul’s Cathedral (London); St. John’s College, Cambridge; Princeton University, and important instruments in Japan (6), Africa (9), Oman (4), and Norway.
The Church of St. Ignatius Loyola is renowned for its acoustics, as Barbara Owen had noted in that initial New York Times story. “The acoustic is awfully good. One of the most important stops on the organ is the room. This is why people sing in the shower and not in the bedroom.” Lincoln Center has presented many concerts at St. Ignatius Loyola by artists including Yo Yo Ma, Dawn Upshaw, Ton Koopman, The Kirov Opera Chorus, Les Arts Florissants, and a host of other international performers. The combination of this splendid acoustic and the N.P. Mander instrument is in great part what makes the organ at St. Ignatius Loyola so special.
The organ is featured in numerous recitals each year, and also takes its place in the church’s “Sacred Music in a Sacred Space” concert series, founded in March of 1990. From Saint-Saens’ “Organ Symphony” to concerti by Rheinberger, Poulenc and Handel, the organ is truly the crown jewel of this acclaimed series of professionally produced choral and orchestral concerts. Most importantly, the organ provides this growing congregation with musical support for prayer at liturgy. It may be heard in worship at the Sunday 11 a.m. Solemn Mass along with the acclaimed Choir of St. Ignatius Loyola. The Mander organ is also played for the Saturday 5:30 p.m. and Sunday 8:00 a.m., 9:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. liturgies. At the Sunday evening liturgy the organ combines with piano and choral ensemble to support a musical aesthetic which combines old and new musical traditions. As the parish’s many ministries continue to grow and flourish, the organ contributes to the worship of children and young people from St. Ignatius Loyola Grammar School, the Interparish Religious Education Program and many area high schools.
The Church of St. Ignatius Loyola was founded in 1851 and entrusted to the Jesuits in 1866. In 1898 the present edifice was built, housing a Hook & Hastings pipe organ. That instrument fell into disrepair and was replaced by an electronic organ in the 1970’s. When the electronic instrument deteriorated, an anonymous benefactor and the Paul Montrone family joined to make it possible for this magnificent pipe organ to once again fill the church with sounds of worship and praise. Above the organ console is carved the Jesuit motto “A.M.D.G.” - ad majorem Dei gloriam - “to the greater glory of God”. Through liturgy and concert this magnificent instrument will inspire hope, consolation and joy for generations to come!
For further information about the Mander Pipe Organ visit the American Guild of Organists webpage for Church of St. Ignatius Loyola.