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.

The Woodruff Memorial Organ, our opus 649, is an instrument of which our firm is very proud. This is the first Odell organ in over 100 years to return to slider windchest construction.

Equally important is that this organ expresses a new unity of artistic vision. All aspects of the tonal design—specification, stoplist, pipe scales, and especially voicing—were conceived and realized entirely by Edward Odell. We think the result is fresh and exciting.

The tonal design of the organ does not easily yield to a classification. For the modern church organ, our intent is to look first to classical design principles. This calls for a complete principal chorus in the Great, scaled and voiced in correct proportion to the space and use, and whose rightful priority is the leading of congregational song. This is complemented by a true 8’ Gamba; which was created from the original Möller Dulciana by increasing its scale several half tones, by careful raising of the cutups, and by slotting. The division also includes 8’ and 4’ flutes, stopped and open respectively, which complement each other extremely well. The 8’ is also available at 16’, with a wooden bottom octave built and voiced in our shop. An appropriately-scaled English-style Trumpet completes the division.

The Swell is also generously outfitted with flutes. The metal 16’ Rohr Bourdon is also available at 8’ with a subordinate scale to the Great 8’ flute and a lightly arched cut-up. The Salicional and Celeste follow, and the compass of the Celeste was increased, as is our custom. As with the flute, the Swell 8’ Principal is scaled slightly subordinate to the Great and voiced with more articulation. Also available at 4’, it forms a lighter secondary chorus that allows the organist great flexibility in choral accompaniment.

Our distinctively-scaled Harmonic Flute further enriches the division; this is adapted from models from our own 19th -century instruments. The flute chorus is completed with a Nazard, Block Flute and Tierce, allowing for (among other effects) the classical cornet decomposée. The division’s reed complement includes the organ’s original Trompette with French shallots; and an entirely new Oboe, which like the Great reed has English antecedents, as the stop has English shallots and dual-taper resonators, and is half-capped.

The foundation of the Pedal is the original Möller Subbass, placed on new chests to allow for better placement and adjustment of power. The 8’ Principal (the tallest 7 of which are in the left façade) is entirely new, and is available at 4’ to support cantus firmus. A 16’ extension of the Great Trumpet rounds out the additions to the division. The Pedal is further filled out through selective borrowing of manual stops.

We would like to thank the members of Orange Congregational Church who made this project possible, including all the donors, the Organ Committee, and the pastoral staff. We would like to most especially thank the church members that worked closely with us and waited so patiently in order to make the project a success: Bradford Elker, Bradford Gesler, Ronald Barber, Minister Stoddon G.N. King and Church Organist Bryan Campbell.

-- Edward Odell, September 2011, East Haddam, Connecticut.

Sanctuary: Historic First Church, Orange, CT

This is the first Odell organ in over 100 years to return to slider windchest construction.

Closeup: organ console

Click here for stoplist: Odell opus 649

          Odell Opus 649, II/21, slider chests

Applying 24 carat gold leaf to one of the facade pipes.

Applying 24 carat gold leaf to one of the facade pipes.