Memorial Church Debuts New Organ

Memorial Church Debuts New Organ
Wahaj A. Chaudhry, Hojung Lee, Laura K. Reston, and Jennifer R. Rolfes

After five years, thirty-three thousand hours of manpower, and several million dollars, Memorial Church debuted its new pipe organ during an hour-long prelude before Easter service this Sunday.

Assistant University Organist and Choirmaster and musician Christian M. Lane inaugurated the new organ, which was dedicated to the late Reverend Peter J. Gomes and Charles B. Fisk ’49, a Harvard physicist who in his later years channeled his scientific genius into the construction of organs.

Over the last several years, organ builders painstakingly installed the new instrument on the balcony at the back of the Church, exposing the large Palladian window at the front of the chapel.

The majestic organ’s gold pipes and dark wood panels now tower over the church’s central nave.

Before the change, the old organ stood at the front of the chapel. The volume of the music was too loud for intimate services like morning prayers, and yet too soft to reach audiences in the main part of the church during large gatherings.


Memorial Church Organ

Memorial Church Organ

The new organ will supplement a smaller, existing organ disguised by elaborate panels against the walls of the small chapel at the front of the church.

According to Lane, the two organs will now allow musicians to preform for intimate audiences in the chapel using the small organ, and for larger audiences seated in the nave using the larger one.

Memorial Church’s old organ has been given to a church in Texas.

The process of planning and building the new organ took at least five years, Lane said.

Lane noted that organ construction has not changed significantly since the Renaissance, when organs—along with clocks—were among the most complex machines built by man.

But despite the immense effort and expense, Lane said that musicians should resist the temptation to opt for cheaper, digital organs in the future.

The movement of air and breathing of an original pipe organ is “irreplaceable,” he said.

He tested out the new organ’s capabilities as congregants sat spellbound for an hour before the service, listening as cascading music filled church.

The church had commissioned a piece, entitled “Spring Bursts Today,” to be played for the first time on the occasion.

Over the next few weeks, Memorial Church will host a series of concerts from famous organists to showcase the new Fisk organ.

—Staff writer Laura K. Reston can be reached at