John Speller's Web Pages Sitka Lutheran Church

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Sitka Lutheran Church, Sitka, Alaska

Sitka, on Baranof Island off southwestern Alaska, was the capital of Alaska in Russian colonial times. Though the Russian Orthodox Church was the established church, many of the Russian administrators were Lutherans from Finland or Estonia. It was natural, therefore, that when the congregation of Sitka Lutheran Church wanted a pipe organ in the 1840s they went to an Estonian builder to supply it. The organ was built by Ernst Kessler (1808-1863) of Dorpat (now Tartu), Estonia as his Op. 45 of 1844. It was shipped from the Baltic nearly all the way round the world via South America and was on the ship for over nine months. It was first played in the Sitka church in 1846. After the organ had been moved into the church's third building in 1967, there was a severe fire on 9 December 1993, which damaged the upper half of many of the metal pipes. though fortunately without changing the voicing in any way. The organ was restored by Martin Pasi, and he has many interesting details of the history of the organ, its scaling and restoration on his website here. A video of Diane Bish playing the Kessler organ can be seen here. The stop list is as follows:

Manual: C-f3, 54 notes

Gedackt 8 fuss
Gamba 8 fuss
Principal 4 fuss
Floete 4 fuss
Octave 2 fuss
Nihil (spare stop for symmetry)

The old German Gamba is a very rare survival.
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