Worcester Chapter of the American Guild of Organists
Central Massachusetts Pipe Organ Specification Collection


The original Edifice of The Mother Church, constructed in 1894, was furnished with a fine three-nanual organ built by the Farrand and Votey Organ Company of Detroit. The organ facade, made of curly birch was designed to be in keeping with the Romanesque Renaissance architecture of the church. Special features of the instrument included electro-pneunataic stop and key actions (not commonly found until somewhat later), and newly developed automatic combination action. There were 35 ranks, 2,042 pipes.

A survey of the organ in 1948 determined the necessity of complete renovation. Since the organ in the Extension of The Mother Church was in similar need, it was decided to replace both instruments. The Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company of Boston was contracted to build the organs.

From the time the Extension was built, the organ chamber of the Original Edifice projected into the Extension organ loft. Therefore, in 1950 the Original Edifice organ was relocated to a specially prepared chamber in the ceiling over the rear balcony. All pipework and mechanical components were replaced, with the exception of thirteen ranks retained from the Farrand and Votey. Though the facade is unchanged, the pipes are no longer functional; likewise, the original appearance of the mechanically modernized console has been preserved. The organ now has 44 ranks, 2,692 pipes.


In 1906 the Hook and Hastings Organ Company of Boston built one of its great organs for The Mother Church Extension. The four-manual console was placed at the right side of the readers' platform. The organ had a total of 80 ranks, 4,590 beget. Later, in 1928 the Readers' platform was enlarged so the console could be placed at the front of the platform just inside the marble railing. At that time Hook and Hastings supplied a new four-manual console of more modern design, replaced many of the reed stops, and added 477 pipes to the instrument. By classical standards, however, the tone of this organ was quite opaque and not well suited to organ literature from many periodfs.

In 1950 the Aeolian-Skinner company, which had been contractacted to build a new organ for both edifices, designed an instrument which contains the finest elements of organ building and voicing from pre-Baroque to the present. This instrument is also considered a masterpiece of organ building, and an excellent example of what a termed the "eclectic" organ building and voicing, and is suited to the performance of organ literature from all periods, pre-Baroque to the present. Construction began in January 1951, upon completion of the Orginial Edifice organ, and it was first used for services in June 1952, it is the largest organ ever built by the Aeolian-Skinner company. In fact, it is one of the largest church organs in the world.

There are eight divisions in the organ: Great, Hauptwerk, Swell, Choir, Positiv, Bombarde, Solo, and Pedal. Each has an individual character and tonal color, with the Hauptwerk and Positiv especially suited to Baroque music. Except for the Solo, the organ is installed across the front of the auditorium in one large loft approximately seventy-five feet wide, ten feet deep, and sixty feet high. The facade towers about fifty feet above the floor of the loft. The Solo is located in a chamber high in the northeast tower of the,building, and is heard through the circular opening which pierces the center of the pendentive area to the left and well above the main organ. This division is highly useful as an echo-solo-stcing- antiphonal organ. Directly behind the pendentive grill-work, and is front of the Solo expression shades is located the brilliant Cor des anges (Angels' Horn) - a rank of hooded reed pines which dominate the full organ.

These eight divisions, played from a four-manual console, comprise 237 ranks, of which 200 are made up of flue pipes and 37 of reed pipes. There are 173 speaking stops, including borrows and extensions; a total of 13,595 pipes ranging in length from half an inch in their playing parts to 32 feet, and covering 9 1/2 octaves.

The instrument includes several special features: 1) The unprecedented number of mixtures and other compound stops. 2) The unique adoption of key chambers to the wind chests - chambers placed between the valve hole and the foot of the pipe, or pipes of a compound stop. Pipes speaking on key chambers have greater ease of speech, and sound together in finer cohesion than pipes speaking directly over independent valve holes, as is customary in normal pitman chests. These key chambers were used for all compound stopst principal choruses, and certain other ranks. 3) A completely adjustable crescendo pedal with five separate crescendo setups available through the use of a five-button selector. Even though there are 151 independent speaking stops on the Extension organ, none of them are exactly alike. Each stop contributes its own unique character to the organ, while still blending with the ensemble.

Most of the old facade pipes were retained in the new facade, with about 300 new ones added to the display. There are now 377 burnished tin and gold-leafed pipes visible across the front of the organ, of which 212 are speaking. The four-manual solid mahogany console has 200 drawknobs, 36 tilting tablets. In volume, the materials forming the pipes include some 10,000 pounds of zinc; 7,5OO pounds of tin; 8,000 pounds of lead; and enough clear white pine to frame a house. A 30-horsepower blower supplies the wind the organ need, aided by a small booster blower for the hooded trumpet added in 1978. In 1976, after 4 years of careful study, Dr. Thomas Richner, organist, and John Near, his associate organist recommended a number of important refinements and tonal corrections. This work was completed in 1979 with the result that the organ now has much greater clarity of tone -- is noticably more "articulate, well-groomed, and precise."  It is capable of fire and brilliance and a much greater range of color. The quality of the reed stops has been strengthened, and there is a choice of new trumpet stops -- most notably the "Cor des Anges." The 1979 tonal revisions, were made by J. H. Steinkampf Jr., reed voicer, and Jason C. McKown, flue voicer. The organ now has a total of 237 ranks, 13,588 pipes. Both organs can be coupled together and give the organist a total of 16,280 pipes to call upon.

A Christian Science publication describes the organ as 237 ranks, 13,595 pipes, but only mentions revisions made in 1979. The revisions to bring the instrument to 238 ranks may account for the differing pipe count listed.

Subsequently new manual keyboards were supplied and an SSL capture memory.


1999 Region I AGO Convention

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