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Celebrating the pipe organ, the King of Instruments

Mailbag: “Glass, bamboo, plastic”

April 27, 2006

Dear Michael
I am wondering if you can answer a question that has been sticking in my brain for several months. Have organ builders ever built pipes made from non-conventional materials? For instance, has anyone ever tried to make a pipe from glass, bamboo, plastic, etc.? Would a pipe from such materials even be possible?

Paul Gray

Dear Paul,
Yes, indeed, organ pipes have been made with non-conventional materials. Perhaps the most remarkable of these is the historic Las Pinas Bamboo Organ in the Philippines http://bamboo.diegocera.com/…also do a ‘Google’ search for “The Bamboo Organ” and you will come up with some other informational websites.

This instrument is the creation of an Augustinian monk, Fr. Diego Cera de la Virgen del Carmen, who built it at the Church of Saint Joseph in Las Pinas City between 1816-1824. The German firm of Klais restored restored the organ in 1972-74. Several recordings have been made on it, which may be available through www.ohscatalog.org .

The immense Aeolian-Skinner organ at the Riverside Church in New York City for many years sported a 32′ Violon stop with resonators made of flexaust. At the Meissen porcelain factory in Germany they have made a small instrument with a rank of porcelain facade pipes. The Compenius Organ in Denmark features all pipework made of rare woods. At the last national convention of the American Guild of Organists I saw pipes made out of stained/leaded glass. You can make a functioning organ pipe out of cardboard. Somewhere there is an ‘fire organ’…where the rush of flaming gass through heat-resistant metal pipes creates the sound.

I’m just rattling off stuff from the top of my head…but if others have more specific reports, by all means send them in.



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