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Memorial Church Organs

Memorial Church houses many wonderful organs, which can still be heard at various concerts throughout the year. Most often they are played by Robert Huw Morgan, the University Organist.

The Murray Harris Organ

The original church organ was built by the Murray M. Harris Co. in 1901. An echo organ containing 8 ranks of pipes was added to it in 1915. The Murray Harris was rebuilt in 1925, expanded in 1933 and thoroughly restored in 1996. It is a 57-stop organ with 3,702 pipes.

The Fisk-Nanney Organ

With the completion of the Fisk organ in Memorial Church, a dream of 25 or 30 years has been realized. That dream was to have an instrument which could reproduce the sound of Baroque music as authentically as possible, and which would be different and separate from the beautiful Romantic sound of the existing Murray Harris organ.

The project was really given impetus in 1973 when the will of the late Evelyn Almack Turrentine revealed a gift to be used for a new organ in Memorial Church. As time went by, problems developed in the selection of the appropriate organ builder, and in the placement of the organ in the church.

The first selected site in one of the transept galleries was abandoned due to dubious visual esthetics and unpredictable acoustics. Then the choir loft which met both the required visual and acoustical standards was selected. After examination, however, it was discovered that it would not support the weight of the new instrument. Due to insufficient funds to cover the great expense of reinforcement and rebuilding, the project was brought to a halt for several years. Help came when a gift from the late George Morell was designated to support the construction — this in recognition of the interest which he and his wife Virginia had maintained in the Church and its organ project.

As plans were expanded increasing the size of the organ, Jacques Littefield and Walter Hewlett pledged their assistance to achieve our ultimate goal.

The magnificent Charles Fisk organ is an eclectic 4-manual Baroque-type instrument of 73 ranks and 4,422 pipes. In addition to the usual Baroque organ features of mechanical action, pipes speaking directly into the room, bright and high upperwork, and short, straight and flat pedalboard, this organ is equipped with both French and German reeds and choruses, a Brust-positiv division with mean-tone tuning for early 17th-century music, and a special lever to switch the other three manuals from well-tempered to mean-tone tuning. This change in tuning is made possible by having five extra pipes (two for each “black” key) in each octave. The Brust-positiv which is fixed in mean-tone has two split-keys per octave (namely D sharp-E flat and G sharp-A flat).

The design of this organ with its many unique features represents the results of the research and collaboration of Charles Fisk, Harald Vogel and Manuel Rosales with some assistance from Herbert Nanney. Using a combination of elements from historic East German, North German, and French organs plus dual temperaments, this organ is the first instrument in the history of organ building that is capable of reproducing nearly all organ music written from the 16th through the 18th centuries with the proper sounds. Instead of the usual eclecticism which starts with Bach’s music and adds stops for the playing of 19th- and 20th-century music, this organ has a new unique eclecticism which encompasses almost all the sounds and tunings needed for the authentic performance of early music.

All materials and workmanship in the organ are of the highest quality. The case is of poplar; the keyboards are made with grenadilla, a South American hardwood; naturals and sharps are rosewood, and capped with bone. Pipes are made mostly of varying degrees of tin and lead.

The members of the Fisk Company work very well as a team, and all are entitled to congratulations on the completion of this fine instrument. Because of the excellent training given them by Charles Fisk and their ability to cooperate well with each other, the workers were able to finish this organ despite the untimely death of Charles Fisk during the project.

Special credit should be given to Virginia Lee Fisk, his widow, who kept the company functioning well and to Steven Dieck, project foreman. Others deserving special mention are Robert Cornell, and David Waddell, shop foreman, who aided Dieck in structural and mechanical design; Charles Nazarian for work on visual design, and Roger Martin for carving pipe shades. In addition, the work of head voicer, Stephen Kowalyshyn, assisted by Casey Dunaway, is greatly to be admired.

Other workers to whom appreciation is expressed are Stephen Boody, Gregory Bover, Mark Clark, Linda Dieck, Kees Kos, Jerry Lewis, David Gifford, Mark Nelson, Brian Pike, David Pike, David Sedlak, Akimasa Tokito, and Janice Waddell.

The Fisk-Nanney organ was named for its builder and for University Organist Emeritus Herbert Nanney. It is considered by many as one of the finest organs in the world.

The Katherine Potter-Brinegar Organ

What better place than a fine university to offer audiences and players a range of organs, each one enabling insights into specific repertoires and playing styles? This was already the case at Stanford Memorial Church with the large dual-temperament Fisk-Nanney Organ (1984) and the restored Murray M. Harris (1901), both in the rear gallery. The completion of the Katharine Potter-Brinegar Organ (1995) further enhances this diversity of organs.

This instrument is inspired by the famous chamber organ designed for secular use and completed in Germany in 1610 by Esias Compenius. The single-manual organ contains eight speaking stops, three of them comprised of reed pipes. Two of these stops, the Rankett 16′ and the Krummhorn 8′, are closely based upon the corresponding Compenius pipes. Another similarity to the Compenius instrument is the extensive use of wood for the pipe work: the only exceptions are the Schalmei 4′, the Nasat/Cornet IIr and the top two octaves of the Gemshorn 2′. The visible facade pipes are of quartersawn maple with ebony inlay and carved walnut mouths. Planted below at the feet of the facade is a row of Rankett reed pipes ideally placed for maximum projection and easy tuning. The remaining interior wooden pipes are of quartersawn oak.

The organ is self-contained with its bellows and blower housed in the base of the walnut case. With the aid of hidden, retractable wheels the organ can easily be moved to different locations in the building. The design of the case pays tribute to Compenius by incorporating similar facade features: the relationship among pipes, the flats the arches, the presence of Rankett pipes, the keyboard placement and to a certain degree the front doors. A by-product of these features is a limited egress for the sound of the interior pipes, allowing them to speak freely and sound more relaxed and refined to the listener.

Every piece of the organ except for the blower and small hardware items has been crafted from raw materials in the Paul Fritts and Company Tacoma workshop.

Continuo Organ

Memorial Church received its fourth organ in June 2001. A continuo organ containing three stops, it was built by Martin Pasi of Roy, Washington. The case and the majority of the pipes are made of walnut, and the keys of English boxwood and ebony.

Tudor Organ – by Hupalo & Repasky

Because there are very few surviving organs of sixteenth-century England, Hupalo & Repasky built their Tudor-style organ is based on a 1995 rediscovery of a grid, table, and upper boards of an organ that once played at the collegiate church of Wingfield in Suffolk, England. Hupalo & Repasky were guided by the recent work of “The Early English Organ Project”, Martin Goetze, and Dominic Gwynn of Nottinghamshire, England. At present, there are only three of these five rank Tudor-style organs in existence. One organ tours England educating the music world on Pre-reformation organ playing, the other at St Fagans National History Museum.

Hupalo & Repasky built their version of the Wingfield organ utilizing metal pipes. These pipes were fashioned of metal with high tin content. The façade pipes were embossed and gilded. The center façade pipe is painted en grisaille.

The case is made of stained quarter sawn white oak and features hand carved panels of linen fold and Tudor rose carvings. This form of case decoration was inspired by the organ cases at St. Nicholas Church, Stanford-on-Avon and the organ case at the Parish Church of St. Stephen, Old Radnor, Wales. The Tudor rose carvings on either side of the case are modeled after the Tudor rose on Shrewsbury Tower, St. Johns College, Cambridge

Keys are made of European pear wood with the sharps made of ebony. The keyboard range is 40 notes from low F to high A, minus high G#. Therefore, there are 40 pipes per rank for a total of 200 pipes for the organ. To supply wind to the organ, it is equipped with two large feeder bellows. From historical data, these somewhat small but tonally versatile organs were the norm in Tudor times.

The organ is tuned in Pythagorean tuning and is pitched a 5th above modern pitch. The specification of the organ is as follows:

  1. Principal
  2. Octave
  3. Octave
  4. Superoctave
  5. Superoctave

The Principal is permanently on with the other four stops controlled by sliders.

The sound of the organ is surprisingly full and has a singing bell like quality. The hope is that this organ will bring the large amount of sixteenth-century English organ music to life and the public will once again be able to experience the sound of these marvelous musical machines. The organ has been on loan to Memorial Church since September 2010.