J.H. & C.S. Odell, Pipe Organ Builders

More than 150 years building distinctive and refined instruments for worship

Brothers John Henry and Caleb Sherwood Odell founded the organ building firm of J.H. & C.S. Odell on the bustling corner of West 42nd Street and 9th Avenue in New York City in 1859. Odell was immediately successful and built more than 500 pipe organs at that location before relocating to Westchester, New York in the 1930s.   Odell remained active in the Greater New York Metropolitan area well into the 1970s, but after the death of the principal of the firm, William H. Odell in 1979, decided to dissolve the firm after completing obligations to then-current clients.

In the pursuit of a long sought vision, the Odell company was re-established by Caleb Sherwood Odell's  great-great grandson Edward Odell, in 1999 -- this after garnering more than twenty years of organ building experience -- both on his own and with other well-established national firms. With more than three decades of full-time work in the trade, Edward is now a respected and credentialed professional as a Colleague member of the American Institute of Organbuilders.  The new Odell firm has been active in a modern shop in central Connecticut for more than 15 years.

Since re-establishing the firm, Odell has successfully built many exciting new pipe organs, executed meticulous historic restorations and performed vastly complicated repair projects. With our team of carefully recruited artisans, Odell performs all its own millwork, joinery, fabrication, voicing and finishing. Further, unlike many firms today, Odell casts its own pipe metal and makes its own organ pipes.

Timelessness, musicality and an unflinching commitment to quality are our foremost concerns as pipe organ builders. We possess a profound dedication to our work;  clients quickly learn  that when they partner with Odell, they work directly with people who -- given the opportunity  --  will design and construct their instrument from raw materials with passion and exactitude. Our ever-present goal is to develop nuanced solutions and create pipe organs that will serve their congregations with reliability and grace for generations to come.

Project update: St. Luke's, San Antonio

3D render for the model of the console by Brad Gawthrop, using Rhino.

Above are renderings of the new console design for St. Luke’s in San Antonio.  This is the model Brad and I developed together for a curved terrace design based on my existing four-manual model.  The sides of the carcase are substantially thicker, and to offset the outsize width curved terraces otherwise require, the cheeks of the case are angled in.  Now that the final layout has been determined, I’m moving on to the shop drawings.

The final specification can for the organ be found here.  A few notes about this:

The new nomenclature is Anglo-American.  In developing this, Russell Jackson and I wanted to be careful to make sure the the names were chosen with due consideration to what the stops actually are, or will be after rescaling and revoicing.  We also wanted to be sure the the names used were consistent within their own idiom; nomenclature abuse is a pet peeve we share.

There are some significant changes. After the organ was dismantled in May,  there began some discussion about relocating the Positive division, which I mentioned in this earlier post.  Physically we knew this relocation was possible, but I had misgivings.  A Positive is not a Choir, most especially this Positive. A transformation of the division was off the table.  There were other problems:   the move would make it necessary to essentially remake the Principal 4’, since pipes 1 to 46 are in the gallery rail facade.  Further, the division was voiced for the gallery rail position, and even with the new console location, moving the Positive would by definition require adjustment. (Won’t someone think of the poor choristers?)  As a builder there were just too many things I did not like about the idea.  

The single greatest tonal deficit with the organ has always been the Swell.  The issue of how to add anything in that tightly-packed enclosure was vexing.  There wasn’t even room for a bass octave for the 8’ string (it was borrowed from the  8’ Gedeckt).  The only solution was to entertain the possibility of a second Swell manual windchest. If the Positive was kept in the original location, our 77” long major-third chest scale would fit in the first level space with room to spare.  I took the idea to Russell; he was thrilled. 

The decision made, the only question that remained was what would be added and how to sensibly reallocate the division’s resources. The 3 new stops are the 8’ Geigen Diapason and a proper set of strings, full compass for the unison and GG compass for the undulant. The stops will be arranged so that the lower Swell will contain the entire principal chorus and the new strings on a new Odell slider chest.  The reeds and flutes, along with the original Gemshorn (Baarpijp) and its Celeste (Zweving) will remain.  The expression for each enclosure will be independent, and the lower Swell will have the ability to also ‘float’ to Manual I.

Lots to do. I better start casting.