The Sanctuary Instruments
The sanctuary contains three keyboard instruments: a historic tracker organ rebuilt by Jacob Hilbus in 1817, a large two-manual custom Allen Digital Organ installed in 2006, and a Kawai Digital Piano.
Jacob Hilbus Pipe Organ
The pipe organ has an interesting history.It is a chamber organ that was built in England in the latter half of the 18th century.It was among the effects of Nicholas King when he emigrated from Yorkshire to the US in 1794. King became Principal Surveyor of the federal city. His sister, Elizabeth Jane Stone, survived him by 80 years and in 1890 gave the organ to the St. Paul’s Rock Creek Sunday School.
Elizabeth was the daughter of John Lenthall, who was Clerk of the Works during the construction of the capitol building. He died tragically when a marble keystone fell from an archway under construction, striking him in the head. Her son, Robert King Stone, was an eminent surgeon and President Lincoln’s family physician.He was in attendance at President Lincoln’s death following the shooting at Ford’s Theater.
The organ was given as an “indefinite loan” to St. John’s in 1928 to be retained in perpetuity with the stipulation that it be maintained in good working order and used regularly.The instrument either was built, or underwent a significant refurbishment by the renowned German-American organ builder Jacob Hilbus in 1817, and so it is referred to as the “Hilbus Organ.” The local chapter of the Organ Historic Society is known as the Hilbus Chapter.
Around 1900, some of the pipes were replaced with others that reflected the then-current taste in organ sound. In 1978, the organ was restored to the original tonal design. Major repairs and restorations of the instrument and its case were conducted in 1973, and 1990 by Jim Baird. It is a mechanical-action organ in which linked shafts (tracker rods), hinges and levers, convey the stops (a knob that engages a desired set of pipes) and key depressions to the valves that supply wind to the appropraite pipes. To view detailed pictures of our 2012 restoration of the Jacob Hilbus organ by David Story, click here.
The Thornhill-Ulrich Organ
Our digital organ is a customized Renaissance Quantum 275 digital organ manufactured by the Allen Organ Company, purchased and installed in 2006.It is a 44-Stop instrument across three divisions; Great, Swell, Pedal. To more authentically recreate music of different periods, Quad Suite gives the organist ability to change between four organs: American Classic, French Romantic, Neo-Baroque and English Cathedral. One can access another library of organ stops and other sounds via Midi, and also has the ability to record and playback via a SD card; a truly valuable feature for larger works when conducting in front of the choir is desired. A dedication service was held at services on the morning of Sunday, February 18, 2007, followed by a dedicatory recital at 4PM in the afternoon by Adam P. Koch, who played a wide variety of selections to demonstrate the breadth and versatility of the instrument. At the dedication, the organ was named the Thornhill-Ulrich Organ, memorializing deceased members of the family of the principal donors to the organ fund.
The Kawai Digital Piano
The piano located in the sanctuary is a Kawai Digital Piano (CP 139) featuring wooden keys, and is capable of a wide variety of digital simulations of piano, harpsichord, organ and orchestral instrumentation, purchased in 2013. When conducting in front of the choir is desired or simply layering several different instruments together, also like our digital organ, it is capable of recording and playback via a CD or USB flash drive. It also allows for the use of microphones, which can also be recorded onto CD or USB flash drive.