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

Distinctive and refined instruments for worship

In a simple red brick church on a charming and unassuming street in Brooklyn Heights, our Opus 178 resides. It is the largest, and last extant Odell tracker organ to be found in New York City.

Virtually unaltered since its installation in 1880, the Odell at St. Charles is a living historical document. It is specifically referenced in Dr. Orpha Ochse's "History of the Organ in the United States" as well as other works on American Organbuilding.

The scaling and voicing provide an excellent example of the work that made the Odells so popular in the late 19th century. The specification includes characteristic Odell stops, including a Clarionet Flute on the Great. The composition of the Swell and Great mixtures (which are identical), includes a tierce. Manual I (named "Solo") includes a 7" Tuba, as well as a Clarionet. Contrary to some anecdotal history, the Tuba is planted on the Solo chest, playing on the same 3.5" of wind as the rest of the organ. One could speculate that the tonal design for St. Charles may have been influenced by organ the Odells were building for William Belden, which had begun one year prior in 1879.

Features of the organ include a reversible Swell to Great coupler, the usual compliment of composition pedals, and a Swell box with two sets of tandem-acting expression shades, one behind the other.

While some churches in this Brooklyn neighborhood are on their third or fourth pipe organ, Opus 178 has been in continuous service for over 130 years. Running from a Kinetic blower, the double-rise wind reservoir long ago lost its crank and feeders. Aside from that, the only other appreciable interior alterations are to the metal flue pipes, which were fitted with coke tin tuning sleeves. Manual keys were unfortunately recovered with acrylic as part of work done by local organ man Louis Mohr in 1966.

Still played every Sunday, the organ at St. Charles remains in need of careful attention. Aside from recent work we have done in the Pedal division, much of the action and coupler mechanisms remain original. With cooperation form the Clergy and Staff of St. Charles, plans are in place for future restoration of the instrument.

Odell opus 178, Church of St. Charles Borromeo, Brooklyn, New York