Aeolian-Skinner Opus 1309
Notes by Thomas Brown
The Auditorium organ was built by the Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company of Boston, Massachusetts. Immediately after its installation in 1959, the organ became—and remains—perhaps the most important example of the company’s work from the period. The commanding display of exposed Great, Positiv, and Pedal pipework forms the visual centerpiece of the massive conference chamber which seats nearly 5,800 people. The main organ is framed by nineteen acoustical clouds suspended above and in front of it, and by choir seating and the large rostrum beneath it. The entire room is covered by a huge dome, culminating in an oculus rising some 100 feet above the floor.
G. Donald Harrison, President and Tonal Director of Aeolian-Skinner and one of the twentieth century’s most influential organ builders, was responsible for the organ’s initial design and specification in the mid-1950s. Following Mr. Harrison’s untimely death in 1956, Joseph Whiteford was appointed Tonal Director and, in collaboration with consultants Catharine Crozier and Harold Gleason, finalized the design and formulated the organ’s pipe scales.
The Auditorium organ is a superb example of the "American Classic Organ," a concept and design developed by Aeolian-Skinner that mingles the colors and textures of both German and French organs from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with twentieth-century voices developed or adapted by the builder. This scheme was conceived to allow the performance of a wide body of the organ literature.
The organ’s tonal foundation is based on a 32’ Principal, a stop that speaks nearly an octave below the lowest note on the piano and provides a tremendous gravity to the organ’s ensemble. In reality, the longest pipe in this stop is nearly forty feet long and stands in the center left "tower" of the façade. In contrast, the smallest pipe is about the size of a lead pencil and speaks nine octaves higher. The entire organ is played from an elegant, solid walnut four-manual console located on a platform just above the rostrum.
An antiphonal organ of three divisions is located at the opposite end of the conference chamber. It may be played from its own two-manual console in the rear balcony as well as from the main console. A dramatic feature of the Auditorium organ is the Trompette en chamade, a bold voice of horizontal trumpets mounted atop the antiphonal organ.
Several ranks have been judiciously added to the organ over the years to increase its flexibility and scope. These stops were designed, made, and voiced in Aeolian-Skinner style, in some cases by former Aeolian-Skinner employees. The instrument now employs solid-state relays and combination action, and utilizes a MIDI system, which includes a digital record/playback system, allowing a performance to be recorded and immediately played back exactly as performed.
This noble organ contains nine divisions, 113 ranks and 6,334 pipes. Read more about the organ specifications.