Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Beyond the Door: A Peek at the Antiphonal Division

Note: I originally wrote this as part of a photo challenge on my personal blog. If it has a few odd references to "mysterious doorways," that's because that was the theme of the challenge. . - Karen

There goes the bride--at least in theory
Mysterious Doors

The doors I seem to pass most often without ever going in are all at St. Michael's. This one, for example, the one to the Bride's Room, is mysterious in a couple of ways. What's inside that a bride needs before a wedding? Why is there no "groom's room?" More important, going through that door means that one is about to embark on the much greater mystery of married life itself.

I've never been through that door. There could be anything in there. But I imagine that it's basically a dressing room. There was nothing like that at St. Patrick's in Syracuse when I married John--not that I recall, anyway.

THE mysterious doorBut for me the main mystery door at St. Michael's is just to the right of the main ones that lead into the church itself. It's usually locked and barred, but not on Sunday mornings. Just as Mass begins, Proscovia or someone else opens it and pulls on one of the two ropes inside, setting off the (probably electric) church bells. I always wondered whether there was a real bell pull, or just a button to push. And was the space beyond the door just a closet-sized chamber with the bell controls in it, or something more? It didn't look as if there could be room for more than the bell mechanism, whatever it might be, and maybe a broom or something. Oh, and a fire extinguisher. The red and white sticker in the window says, "Fire exinguisher inside." I don't know how you'd get to that fire extinguisher in a hurry, except when the door is unlocked for Mass. That makes sense, though, because that's when acolytes and deacons and priests are lighting matches, carrying candles and burning incense.

Well, on Sunday, May 22nd, totally by accident, I found out what else was beyond that mysterious door. And it was much more than I could have imagined.

It happened like this. That afternoon, a nationally-recognized organist named Todd Wilson was going to play a concert on the church's Æolian-Skinner pipe organ. This pipe organ rededication performance was to celebrate the fact that the antiphonal section of the organ (the part in the back loft of the church) had been installed by the organ builder and is now operational. I'd been seeing those shiny copper-colored pipes for months, and had tried repeatedly (and unsuccessfully) to get a good picture of them. It's hard to get a good angle on the "choir loft" (except that the choir never goes up there, as far as I know!) from ground level in the rather dark church.

Anyway, I was pretty sure that I couldn't make the concert, but I wanted to get a picture of Todd Wilson for the church web site. So I left coffee hour and Eva's gingerbread and went back into the church. Wilson was warming up with a truly glorious and complex piece that reminded me of a (much simpler) Christmas song I sang in choir many years ago.

I waited a few feet away in an empty pew of the almost empty church until he finished playing. As he played, another man was walking around, checking the openings to the main banks of organ pipes, adjusting doors and the evaporative cooler to control heat and humidity--in short, tweaking. This was the organ builder, Grahame Davis. He's important to the rest of this story, and deserves recognition for his work.

When Mr. Wilson finished his organ solo, I introduced myself as the church webmaster and asked to take a photo of him for the church blog. He recognized me from Mass (I got to read Genesis, Chapter One on Sunday) and graciously posed for me. He's a very nice man, and clearly very talented and dedicated to his craft.

As we chatted about the organ, I mentioned that I'd been trying unsuccessfully to get a good picture of the pipes in the loft. Wilson immediately suggested that I go up and get a closer look at them! Grahame Davis agreed, and immediately took me off on a private tour. And guess how that tour started? Yup: he led me through the mysterious door to the right of the church entrance!



From there we went up narrow wooden steps to the loft where the new Antiphonal division of the organ was installed. From the back of the loft, there's not much to see, at least under normal circumstances. Most of the pipes are housed in a big wooden box structure. The builder explained that this was to help mute the powerful pipes within, so that they can be played softly and still have the proper tone and pitch. When the organist (usually Jane Haman) wants to play them more loudly, foot pedals can be used to open wooden flaps behind and between the pipes, letting more of the sound out. Grahame Davis opened a couple of doors, one in the back and one on the side, and I took a bunch of pictures of this hidden treasure.

Inside the antiphonal section. Inside the antiphonal section.

When I came around to the front of the pretty copper ones, I got to hear at least one of them, up close and personal!

This is the part that can be seen from the church.  But not at this angle!

The last of the interior pictures is of the upper door to the loft, and the completely unimpressive room beyond it. If you didn't pay attention to that long duct-like pipe thing on the floor, and the giant wooden box thing on the right, you wouldn't know there was anything special here.

Inside the antiphonal section.

I didn't take a picture of the tiny room where the bell pulls are. I forgot / didn't have time. Besides, we should preserve a few mysteries!

the door to the second floor - but how would you get to it?Now, the main reason I never knew that door went up to the loft was that I always assumed that this other external door was the way up to the choir loft (except that the choir never goes up to the loft). This door is on a balcony above the main double doors. I don't know how you would even get up to this door to go through it. Perhaps a ladder? And if you do, I'm still not sure what you'd find on the other side. I didn't see that door from inside the loft. Maybe it's where the bells are. Or maybe I just didn't notice it. Either way, the mystery of the upper door remains unresolved. I could ask Father Smith or Alicia, but where's the fun in that?


Sunday, May 08, 2005

Just some pictures

Here are some previously unposted pictures (I think!). I'll try to write something for this page soon.


An open-door policy.

Looking out


Father John Hooker

Choir rehearsal