Cathedral to Celebrate Organ’s 145th Birthday With Special Concert

The Cathedral of the Holy Cross in the South End on June 13 will celebrate 145 years since the dedication of its principal organ, the 101-rank E. & G. G. Hook & Hastings opus 801, on February 23, 1876.

To honor the instrument’s birthday, several of Boston’s notable organists will perform a variety of works by on the historic pipe organ of 5,318 pipes. 

Performers include Dr. Bridgette Wargovich, Corpus Christi Parish, Leo Abbott, Cathedral Director Emeritus, Maks Adach, Associate Director of St. Paul’s Choir School, John Black, Director of Music, Greenwood Church, and Richard J. Clark, Director of Music of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross with Richard Kelley, trumpet. 

Works by Dupré, Vierne, Pott, Reger, and Clark. Tickets are $50 each, $25 for Seniors and Students available online and at the door. Children 17 and under are free.

At 364 feet long, ninety feet wide, and 120 feet high, with a seating capacity of 1,700, Holy Cross Cathedral is New England’s largest church.

Dedicated in December 1875, it was built of locally quarried Roxbury puddingstone and Quincy granite to designs of noted ecclesiastical architect Patrick C. Keely. The advent of cast-iron construction permitted exceptionally slender nave columns supporting the largest wooden vault of its time. An unfashionably remote location—the former site of the town gallows—betrays Anglo-Saxon Protestant Boston’s ambivalence toward waves of “foreign” immigrants, for whom the new cathedral’s completion after nine years of construction was a signal achievement.

The 1875 Hook & Hastings wasn’t the largest organ built in the United States during the 19th Century, but at seventy voices and 101 ranks it is the biggest to have survived unscathed. Built in the early years after Francis Hastings assumed control of the firm from founding brothers Elias and George Hook, Holy Cross’s instrument was the first of several organs intended to generate considerable power in vast spaces.

Fully a quarter of the organ’s resources— 27 ranks—are vested in a blazing Great chorus topped by a Trumpet and Clarion imported from France. With a five-rank cornet in every department, many registers of pure tin, and a ten-inch pressure Tuba built and voiced in the Hook & Hastings shop, here was Hastings’ manifesto on post-Civil War tonal heroism.

In 2015, the Cathedral closed for interior and exterior renovation. The Church was reopened on Palm Sunday, 2019. The biggest change, musically, was the removal of carpeting and sound-dampening material. The new acoustic is glorious, with a five second reverberation.

The Organ was rededicated with a concert by Leo Abbot, now Organist Emeritus, on September 15, 2019.

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