The Basilica of Saint Mary
July 22, 2017
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The Basilica of Saint Mary
We are located on Hennepin Avenue between 16th & 17th Streets in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Phone: 612.333.1381
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· Weekly Newsletter
  January 16, 2014
· Parish Bulletin
  December 27, 2013
· BASILICA Magazine
  December 6, 2013
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Basilica Organ

The Basilica organ, as it now exists, has been the object of a unique process of evolution in sight and sound. The organ that exists today varies tremendously from the first instruments that were housed in this great Masqueray edifice. In fact, there exists very little clear evidence of the first Basilica organ.

The present Basilica organ was installed in 1949 as Wicks Opus No. 3047. The instrument includes several stops that were scaled and designed by Henry Vincent Willis IV of England as one of a few larger Wicks instruments installed throughout the United States in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Contemporary descriptive material by Wicks points out that the firm was aware of post-war trends and the organ was, in their view, trending that way with the inclusion of such stops as the Choir division’s Koppelflute 4’, the Great division’s Rohrflute 4’ and complete diapason choruses through mixtures in the Great, Swell and Pedal divisions.

The original Wicks organ was dedicated in 1949 by Mario Salvador who was, at that time, organist of the Saint Louis Cathedral, Saint Louis, Missouri. The inaugural concert, played to a capacity crowd, was televised live on WCCO Channel 5 - in this instance, the Basilica was host to the first remote live television broadcast in the region!

Enlarged by some 26 ranks over the past 20 years, the instrument currently boasts 72 ranks on 4 manuals. The organ has some truly unique tonal qualities including two completely independent cornet registers, of which one is found in the Solo division on 8' of wind, useful for lining out melodies to assist in congregational singing. There is a very large scale 32’ Bombarde in the pedal on heavy wind with an independent blower and reservoir. The en-chamade Herald Trumpet is actually tuba-scale and modeled after the English town hall Willis tubas. Voiced on 25' wind, it is the most commanding such stop in the Upper Midwest.

The instrument has a plethora of quieter string and flute stops of great color and range of amplitude. With over 40 ranks of mixtures and reeds, together with a large number of foundation stops, dynamic gradations from the quietest pianos to truly thunderous full organ effects make the instrument superbly qualified for any liturgical use required and for any demands as a concert and accompanimental instrument.

After undergoing a complete renovation in Winter, 2008, including an entirely new relay and console, the organ will consist of 82 ranks on 4 manuals and pedal. The console will be easily movable and designed in the French terraced-style which will compliment the surrounding Beaux-Arts features of the Basilica interior. The new console will make use of the latest digital technology, using a new system of combination assistance never before built by the Wicks firm. This will allow for the greatest degree of flexibility in the multitude of roles the instrument plays. All of the original Willis pipework will remain unaltered and lovingly preserved, with new registers being added in sympathetic style to the existing tonal scheme of the instrument.

© The Wicks organ »
Sixty-one horizontal “fanfare” trumpets were added to the Wicks organ just before Easter 2002. – Photo by Michael Jensen. [Close]

The Basilica organ has undoubtedly garnered for itself a warm renown through its unique history, tonal beauty and unparalleled acoustical environs. Organists from all over the United States, Canada and Europe have come to play it. It was host to a once-in-a-lifetime national marathon performance series (totaling over 8 full hours) of the complete organ works by the contemporary French organist Olivier Messiaen, played entirely from memory by Paul Jacobs, Chair of the Organ Department at the Julliard School, New York City, New York and aired live on Minnesota Public Radio in 2002. In addition, it has been host to the annual Young Organ Artists recital series, featuring the Graduate and Undergraduate students of long-standing Basilica organist Kim Kasling, instructor of organ and university organist, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, MN.

The Basilica organ has been featured on numerous recordings, available on compact disc, including a recording of organ works by Charles Tournemire titled L’Orgue Mystique, on the Sonus-Luxque label; the Basilica Cathedral Choir recordings All That Have Life and Breath Praise Ye the Lord! and Pax Civitatis: A Basilica Christmas, both on the Basilica Press label. The organ has also played an integral role in the Basilica’s outreach to the greater metropolitan community when it was featured, in part, at the first Twin Cities Aids benefit concert. The organ, in addition to being a thrilling solo instrument, regularly accompanies the Basilica Cathedral Choir, directed by Teri Larson, Director of Music. In addition, international choirs have come to perform with the Basilica organ, among them, the famous King’s College Choir and the choir from St. Paul’s Cathedral, London. The Basilica organ has also been frequently broadcasted on Minnesota Public Radio’s Pipedreams, a weekly radio program featuring the variety of organ music and organs found throughout the world.
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