Christ Church Episcopal Parish, Kensington Maryland was founded in 1898 and moved into its current beautiful structure in 1958. The church had ongoing problems with its non-Allen pipe/combination organ which had been installed in the late 1970s. It was a three manual lighted draw knob console with 6 ranks of pipes. The current Organist/Choirmaster, Mr. James R. Catlette, had a desire to re-invigorate the music program of the parish with a choral scholars program incorporating a truly Anglican instrument. Today the parishioners are thrilled with their new first-class digital custom Allen organ.
Mr. Catlette is a fine organist but his greater love is choral music so he enlisted the help of his longtime friend and colleague Mr. Albert Russell to act as consultant for the organ project. Mr. Russell has had a wonderful career which has spanned many decades. For nineteen years he was the organist and choirmaster at St. John's Lafayette Square, often called "The President's Church", situated directly across the street from the White House. Albert Russell is often referred to as "the Prince of Organists". For example, even as a young man he served as Virgil Fox's assistant at Riverside Church, New York. His successive appointments before St. John's were equally impressive.
The Allen representatives from Allen Organ DC took Jim and Al to hear several installations including Christ Church, Georgetown where a splendid Allen custom organ had been installed early in the decade. The Organist/ Choirmaster is Mr. Michael Lindstrom who has been at the church for some thirty years had known both Jim and Al for many years but they had never heard the Allen custom organ which had replaced a sixty-nine rank M.P. Möller. As with most high profile organists, Al had not been exposed to "that which technology hath wrought". During the demonstration of the Custom Allen, Al approached Ken Saliba, the Allen representative and repeatedly said "I'm so sorry, I didn't know, I just didn't know". To say that Al was impressed was an understatement.
Mr. Russell set about the business of designing a stunning English specification for Christ Church, Kensington which included a floating Solo Division. Jim and Al had seen the handsome French console that Allen Organ DC had installed in Trinity Episcopal, Manassas, VA and wanted that style console. By the time Al and Jim were finished, there wasn't an inch of real estate left on the console. The five Divisions of the Main Organ using thirty-two tone cabinets are spread across three chamber locations at the front of the Church with a Choir Antiphonal in the rear Balcony. Al regularly practices there now and joined Dr. Kyle Babin as one of the principal recitalists at the dedicatory program performed in late October.
Al and Jim worked diligently with Ken Saliba during the voicing of the instrument and the result is a truly marvelous English Cathedral Organ capable of delivering the greatest tenderness and moving to the stunningly grandiose. It has been a great honor to have worked with these marvelous musicians-and the result, as they both quickly say is "stunning."