Pipe Organs

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Pipe organs have been a major passion in my life. I'm a lousy organist but have had lots of fun doing rebuilding, restoration, listening and making friends in the organ world. Pipe organs are by no means confined to churches but make their way into theaters and people's homes. Theater pipe organs are amazing fun: you've never lived until you've heard a silent movie accompanied by a really great organist.

This page includes a wide variety of images. There's a series on the little Wicks that was in our home, some images of Dick Kline's remarkable home instrument, a tour of Eastern Organ Pipes, and some views of the Berkeley Community Theater Wurlitzer.

 

This image is of Wicks Op. 1652, 2/3 in my living room. Note the 8' Diapason mounted horizontally. The blower is in a crawl space under the living room. Click here for more photos and details of the instrument. Unfortunately this instrument was sold some years ago and is now in a church in South Carolina. I had mixed feelings when it left the house.

Dick Kline Residence

This next series of images is from Dick Kline's residence in Thurmont, MD. Dick has a 4/37 Wurlitzer, most of which was from the Fox/Capital Theater in Washington, DC. He has lovingly restored and expanded it over the years until it is one of the finest residential theater organs in the world.

On the left is the facade of the Fox Theater on F Street in Washington. It's now the National Press Club building. Next are two views of Dick at home.

These are some views of the pipe chambers.

Here's the late Ray Brubacher at the console of the Wurlitzer, in one of the chambers, and playing the small tracker pipe organ at the other end of the music room. Yes, Dick has two pipe organs in one room!

There is a Weber DuoArt reproducing piano that is playable from the Wurlitzer console.

These are some views around the listening room. The one one on the left is from a concert program done in the 1970s. I'm at the console in the far right image.

 

National Cathedral, Washington DC

Here are a couple of views of organs in the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. The first image is a small-ish Aeolian Skinner in the Bethlehem Chapel in the crypt and a portable Reuter that usually lives in the nave. Next are two views of the big 4/185 mostly Skinner and me at the console.

 

Eastern Organ Pipes

Now for a tour around Eastern Organ Pipes. The first few shots are of the exterior. This building was once occupied by the M.P. Moller organ company and you can get an idea of the size of the operation. Eastern Organ Pipes occupied only a small fraction of that space. Note the erecting room in the middle. This was a very large space in which pipe organs were completely assembled and tested prior to shipping. After a fire EOP closed.

The first step in making a metal organ pipe is to prepare the appropriate mixture of lead, tin, zinc and other metals. Different combinations of metal produce different sounds and it's quite an art to get to the right composition. The metals are mixed in the casting room and then spread out on a flat table while still molten.

Here are some of the patterns used to lay out the pipe components. These were purchased along with many of the tools when Moller went out of business and the tools were auctioned off.

Some of mandrels for round pipes and conical pipe feet.

Note the traditional pipe making techniques and tools.

Pipes that are undergoing final finishing and voicing.

Berkeley Community Theater.

This performing arts space is home to a large 4/41 Wurlitzer which is maintained by the NorCal chapter of the American Theater Organ Society. These images were made with a pocket camera and aren't of the highest quality. Look at the web site for some better pictures.

The console originally came from the Center Theater organ in Rockefeller Center. Before coming to Berkeley the organ played in the American On Wheels skating rink in Alexandria, VA. It was owned by Jimmy Boyce and I used to go there, lean on the console, and watch him play. The first image below was sort of what it was like.

Now a view down from the stage house and the big 32' diaphones on the back of the stage. There are only 6 of these pipes but they play a full octave by a trap door on top that shortens the length of the pipe. No, you can't play C and C# at the same time.

 

Yeah, this is a really big picture but you need to see the plaque.

Some of the pipework:

 

 

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