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Celebrating the pipe organ, the King of Instruments

[1911 Wanamaker Grand Court Organ at the Macy’s Center City in Philadelphia, PA]
1911 Wanamaker Organ

Big, Bigger, Biggest

If the organ is the king of instruments, then our next Pipedreams program is a showplace for the kings of kings. This week we will compare seven of the world’s largest pipe organs in all of their Olympian splendor. We’ll listen to Peter Baicchi as he plays at the Crystal Cathedral and Fred Swann as he shows off the latest additions to First Congregational Church, Los Angeles. We’ll also visit the Cadet Chapel at West Point, the Mother Church of Christian Science in Boston, and Passau Cathedral, the largest church organ in Europe. And we’ll hear the mightiest of all, the Wanamaker Grand Court Organ in Philadelphia, and Senator Emerson Richards’ still-unrealized dream at Atlantic City’s Boarwalk Hall. It’s Big, Bigger, Biggest, the giants in their homes, this week on Pipedreams.

 

Program Broadcast dates:

  • October 9, 2000

Links and Resources:

Just for the record, here’s an accounting of the size of these behemoths listing the number of manual keyboards, number of ranks and number of pipes, in the order of their appearance:

  • West Point, IV; 325; 20,142
  • Crystal Cathedral V; 293; 17,106
  • First Congregational, LA V; 346; 20,000+
  • Mother Church IV; 238; 13,595
  • Passau Cathedral V; 309; 17,774
  • Atlantic City Convention Hall VII; 449; 33,112
  • and Wanamaker VI; 469; 30,067

These numbers continue in flux as new ranks are added and old counts recounted. On a technicality, the Wanamaker Organ must be accorded biggest playable status, since it has the most ranks of pipes functional of any of the above instruments.

For those who enjoy lists, David Willey and Michael Laird have compiled an interesting, and mostly accurate, listing of pipe organs according to size:

And while we’re talking BIG, on Sunday, October 15, all across the country members of the American Guild of Organists are performing in a nationwide event called Pipes Spectacular! and billed as the World’s Largest Organ Concert. Contact the AGO for information about performances in your neighborhood.

Music played in the program

CHARLES-MARIE WIDOR: Allegro vivace, from Symphony Number 5, Opus 42, #1 –Joan Lippincott (1911 Möller, hugely expanded/West Point Cadet Chapel, Highland Falls, NY) Gothic G49046

J.S. BACH: Chorale-prelude, Wo soll ich fliehen hin, S. 646. FLOR PEETERS: Aria. BRIAN SAWYERS: Rising Sun –Peter Baicchi (1962 Aeolian-Skinner; 1977 Ruffatti/Crystal Cathedral, Garden Grove, CA) High Definition CD-1001

GUY WEITZ: Grand Choeur. JOHN WEAVER: Introduction & Fugue on Saint Denio –Frederick Swann (1932 Skinner; 1969 Schlicker/First Congregational, Los Angeles, CA) Gothic G49118

DARIUS MILHAUD: Pastorale. THÉODORE DUBOIS: Toccata –Thomas Richner (1949 Aeolian-Skinner/Boston’s First Church of Christ, Scientist, Boston, MA) Christian Science Publishing CD-73738

RENÉ VIERNE: Canzona. MAX REGER: Toccata in d, Opus 59, number 5 –Helga Schauerte (1981 Eisenbarth/Dom St. Stephan, Passau, Germany) Syrius CD-141310

J.S. BACH: Toccata in d, S. 565 –Antoni Scott, organ. FRANZ LISZT: Ad nos Fantasy, finale excerpt –Stephen Smith (1932 Midmer-Losh/Atlantic City Convention Hall, NJ) ACCHOS CD-01

EDVARD GRIEG (arranged by Robert Hebble): Romanza. –Keith Chapman (1911 Wanamaker/Grand Court, Macy’s Center City, Philadelphia, PA) Vantage CD-698-002

LÉON BOËLLMANN: Toccata, from Gothic SuiteKeith Chapman (1911 Wanamaker/Grand Court, Macy’s Center City, Philadelphia, PA) Vantage CD-6304

Filler –BRIAN SAWYERS: Rising Sun (see above)