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Celebrating the pipe organ, the King of Instruments

Mailbag: November 22, 2005

Dear Michael: For many years the Los Angeles, CA Philharmonic Auditorium building, located at 5th & Olive Streets, was owned by Temple Baptist Church. They had a beautiful (unseen, the pipes were hidden behind grills) organ there that I used to listen to when I was a child & young man as I attended church there. Some years ago the church sold the building and moved to the suburbs. Do you know what happened to the organ? Was it taken by the church (now named something else)? Was it left in the building? Who constructed the organ. A man named Hastings was the organist & I can find no recordings by him. Too many questions!

Ken Marshall
Richmond, Utah

Dear Ken: I love answering questions about which I know totally nothing…because I learn from them, too. From what I can uncover (primarily from conversation with Manuel Rosales, who assisted in the de-construction of the organ when it was removed from its building in 1985, and from Orpha Ochse’s excellent history of the Austin Organ Company, published by the Organ Historical Society, this was an Austin pipe organ, the firm’s Opus 156 (IV/78), built in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1906.

The instrument, notable in this company’s early history, is described in some detail on pages 113-115 of Ochse’s book. With 78 speaking stops, it was, momentarily, a landmark installation, Austin’s largest single specification at the time that it was built, an ‘orchestral organ’ which nonetheless boasted an unusual number of stops above the 8′ pitch level, including a Twelfth and Mixture on the Great.

The auditorium building ceased to be used as such, and became Temple Baptist Church, when the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion was built and the LA Philharmonic took up residence there.

According to Ochse, in 1985, when the Temple building was about to be torn down (I believe the space is now a parking lot), the Austin organ was donated to the Pasadena Civic Auditorium organ fund, and individual sets of pipes were sold, many to theater organ specialist David Junchen. The 32′ pedal reed rank was rebuilt for use in the Rosales organ at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Portland, OR.

Such is the sad fate of many such instruments.


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