Posted by: rbbadger | August 12, 2010

Aaron Copland on the State Trumpet

One thing which all large organs have is an impressive array of reed stops.  These stops, which sometimes sound like trumpets, horns, and the like contain a small metal reed within the pipe itself.  Spanish organs, such as those in the great cathedral of Seville, were the first to place the trumpet stops in a horizontal manner sticking out from the organ case.  Often, these reed stops are on higher wind pressure than the other stops on the organ are.  One of the most celebrated examples is the State Trumpet stop in the organ at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine (Episcopal) in New York City.

This organ was built by Aeolian-Skinner, the same company which made the famed Tabernacle Organ in Salt Lake City.  That organ is rightly acclaimed as perhaps the magnum opus of G. Donald Harrison, a very great English organ builder and theorist in organ design.  (While a few ranks of the original 1850s Tabernacle Organ still are a part of the instrument, the bulk of it was built in the 1940s under the direction of G. Donald Harrison.  Previous organs, built by Austin and Kimball respectively had long since been removed.  Among the original 1850s pipes are the large pipes on the front of the organ case.)

The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine is a massive church.  In fact, it is considered the largest cathedral church in the world.  The bulk of the organ is located in the front of the building, in the sanctuary.  However, along the back wall, high above the entrance is a rank of extremely high pressure reed stops sticking out horizontally.  These pipes are about a city block away from the rest of the instrument.  Most organ stops can play on a few inches of wind pressure.  However, these stops play on fifty inches of wind pressure!   In other words, these are extremely loud.

Here is a video of Bill Randolph, associate organist of the Cathedral, performing an arrangement of Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man using the State Trumpet stop. 



  1. I believe this was played (by a high school band) at a certain coronation consecration I witnessed in Philadelphia.

    • Yes, common! Dead common!

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