The King of Instruments

I love pipe organs. Whether it'd be a humble 5-rank chapel organ or a magnificent 5-manual cathedral organ (like the Klais organ at Altenberg cathedral on the left),  I love the way they look and the way they sound.

I learned to play the organ in my youth. There were times, when there was no one I would rather spend the evening with than Johann Sebastian Bach. I became church organist in my hometown of Lindenberg, Germany, when I was 16. It was a small Lutheran church and they were desperate for anybody who could play, but I was thrilled to take the job. . .

When other kids would go to the movies on Friday nights, I would go to the church, leave the sanctuary entirely dark, except for the warm light over the console, and I would practice for hours on end. Filling the dark space with Bach's divine music felt heavenly to me.


At my church home here, the Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, we are blessed to have one of the finest organists alive with Jeffrey Brillhart, as well as a stunning new organ completed in 2005 by the Austrian organ builder Rieger.

Here are three mp3-clips from the organ dedication service in October 2005. Besides the new organ they feature the 100-voice senior choir of BMPC under the direction of Jeffrey Brillhart.

Passacaglia, by Max Reger played by Jeffrey Brillhart

Thou hast been our Refuge, by Ralph Vaughn Williams

Kyrie, by Louis Vierne

Below is a picture of our new organ, as well as other stellar examples of the art of organ building.

Credits: Photos with
* are from the marvelous web site, where one can hear entire programs of organ music, as well as 100's of pictures and descriptions of organs
** come from the rich web sites of Martin Setchell, organist at the large Rieger organ in ChristChurch, New Zealand, and photographer Jenny Setchell
***Bill Kemmerer, member of BMPC
others are from the web sites of the respective organ makers

Our new Rieger organ (2005) at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church***

Glass window at BMPC***

the Wigton organ (1990) in St. Mary's church, Detroit.*

the Riepp organ from 1766, one of three (!) organs in the gorgeous basilika of Ottobeuren, Germany.**

St. Anne in Warsaw, Poland. I have been unable to find out who the builder is.**

organ by Richard,Fowkes & Co at St John's Lutheran Church in Stamford, CT*

Three Helmuth Wolff organs: this one at Foundry United Methodist in Houston

Helmuth Wolff organ at Christ Church Cathedral in Victoria BC

Helmuth Wolff organ at McGill University in Montreal

Here are 6 more Rieger organs: this one (1997) in Dinkelsbuehl, Germany. 58 stops on 3 manuals

The Rieger Organ (1969) in St Augustin, Vienna, Austria.

The Rieger Organ (1977) in Ratzeburg, Germany

The Rieger organ (1997) in Christchurch Town Hall, New Zealand**

The Rieger organ (1987) in Wangen, Germany. This small, but charming city is only 10 miles from Lindenberg, my hometown**

The large Rieger organ (1996) in the Dom of Fulda. 72 stops on 4 manuals.

the magnificent Klais organ (1980) in the Dom of Altenberg, Germany.

the 1993 Meier organ in the Stifts Kirche in Lindau im Bodensee*

Jaeckel-organ (2005) at Emory University in Atlanta.

Sandtner organ (1980) in St Ulrich in Augsburg, Germany.

My cousin Michael Volpert was an apprentice at Sandtner at this time and helped build this beautiful organ in this delightful church. This is the church in which my father grew up, my godfather Manfred Volpert was altar boy, and several of my relatives married

Large Rieger organ (1969) in St.Jakob's church in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. 69 stops on 4 manuals. A magnificent organ in a magnificent church. Also famous for a wooden altar (1505) by the master of all wood carvers, Tilman Riemenschneider.

Grand Organ in the Town Hall of Sydney, Australia. Built in London by William Hill and Son it was installed in 1890. It was then the largest organ in the world and is still the largest ever built with tubular-pneumatic action. Its 126 speaking stops and 14 couplers are spread over five manuals (Choir, Great, Swell, Solo, Echo) and pedals. There are approximately 8,700 pipes.**

finally, here is Philadelphia's famous Wanamaker organ. It is the largest operational organ in the world with 6 manuals, some 370 stops and over 30,000 sounding pipes










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