The tonal design of Opus 136 evolved over several years and was accomplished in close consultation with Organist & Choirmaster Ben Outen. A defining “moment” in this evolution came in February 2009, when Mr. Outen accompanied Fisk voicers and pipe makers on a twelve-day research trip to France. We visited organs built by seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and nineteenth-century French master builders in some of the most celebrated Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals in France—in Paris, Rouen, Caen, Poitiers, Bordeaux, Toulouse, and even San Sebastián in northeastern Spain. In each case, we enjoyed playing and listening to the instruments in their splendid and reverberant acoustics; inspecting pipe constructions and voicing techniques; measuring and photographing the pipework, wind systems, and key and stop action mechanisms; conferring with the French organ builders who had restored these organs; and subsequently discussing (usually over a glass of wine and a delicious meal) what we had heard and seen each day that might inform and shape the specifications and tonal design of Opus 136.
The final tonal design is the result of thoughtful discussion in many areas of importance—from the musical requirements of the Episcopal liturgy (including both leadership and accompaniment) to the acoustical properties of the newly renovated worship space, to the breadth and flexibility needed to authoritatively perform over 400 years of solo organ repertoire—all within the framework of a three-manual, thirty-seven-stop instrument. Two of the three manual divisions are under expression, offering maximum flexibility to the instrument in its many accompanimental roles.