Of all the big beasts on the Savannah, there is none larger than the Subcontra C of the principal 32’ of the Hofkirche St. Leodegar Organ in Lucerne. Join intrepid explorers Leah and Simon, and their guide Wolfgang Sieber, as they track down the world’s largest organ pipe — a pipe that could swallow you whole.
The Hofkirche in all its Disney glory.
The organ pipe of Damocles suspended above the organist’s head.
I’ve seen postbox slots smaller than this pipe mouth.
Remember dinosaur books with drawings of a man next to a Tyrannosaurus for scale?
Perhaps we should have called the episode “The Theatre Organ”, because the specimens we examine are all American. Pith helmets girded tight, safariers Leah and Simon venture into the wilds of California to study this little-understood animal.
The dubiously named “dump box” tremulant system.
The Trinity Presbyterian Wurlitzer.
Trinity Wurlitzer console—note the horseshoe layout and the many stop tabs.
In our many years of safariing, this is the craziest piece of pipe organ DIY we have ever come across. Brother Jorge’s Organ San Patricio contains parts of dozens of other instruments and has been a lifetime in the making.
The first bamboo rank that Brother Georg constructed.
His stupefying single-mindedness yet again on display, Simon brings us another contender for the world’s oldest organ—this time from the wilds of a Swiss mountaintop. Oldest or not, the organ at the Valère Basilia in Sion, Switzerland is a singularly fascinating beast.
Sion’s Valère Basilica fairly looms over the town.
Of note: the scene of St Catherine on the left panel, and the 19th century sub-bass pipes sticking up behind the organ.
Simon rolls a natural twenty on his charisma check to explain to Leah his visit to the wondrous workshop of the Fratelli Ruffatti, prominent international organ builders. In addition to the D&Desque forges and foundries, we learned about the Ruffatti-Canada connection and some inside stories from the Crystal Cathedral.
Just a taste of the Ruffatti wine cellar… er, lumber store.
The Ruffatti foundry—somewhere between a mediaeval metal works and Moonraker.
We examine a New World species, whose natural habitat is not a cathedral or a hockey arena, but rather it makes its home in the out of doors. The Spreckels Organ in San Diego is the world’s largest outdoor organ, and playing and maintaining it can be quite tricky. Come and visit this American landmark with us.
Special guests Dale Sorenson and Robert Plympton.
Americans don’t do anything small.
The Spreckels Organ under construction in Balboa Park in 1914.
I’m tired of the organ not being popular. We organists play the most complicated instrument—we deserve millions of fans and stardom. So, short of John Walter appearing on the X-Factor, what do we need to do to get the organ back to being a popular instrument? This week we journey to the Johanneskirche in Düsseldorf for some ideas.
The Beckerath organ in their sanctuary is also a beautiful example of an early German Organ Reform Movement instrument. It will be an informative pleasure to tour this organ.
The café in the Johanneskirche, Düsseldorf.
The Beckerath organ in the Johanneskirche, Düsseldorf.
The Norrlanda organ, currently in a museum in Stockholm, is reckoned to be the oldest surviving organ fragments in the world. There is a working replica at the Orgelbaumuseum in Ostheim, Germany—a paradisiacal museum dedicated to the building of organs.
The original Norrlanda organ, in Stockholm.
The peculiar keyboard, with the B-flat key on the lower tier. The upper key in the middle is for releasing wind pressure.