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Opus 55

Old West Church

Boston, MA

Ranks: 46
Independent Voices: 29
Pipes: 2,361
Created: 1971

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Built in 1806, the church was designed by the prominent New England architect Asher Benjamin. The organ, one of our more modest three-manual instruments, has proven to be remarkably flexible for the interpretation of a wide range of musical styles. Economy dictated the re-use of several sets of rebuilt pipes, largely in the Swell and Pedal, from a previous Cole instrument.

The main case is a re-working of a mahogany case built about 1830 and attributed to Thomas Appleton. The case, which had been painted pink, was salvaged from a church slated for destruction in Ipswich, Massachusetts. A new second tower was added to what had been a single central tower design, and the Choir case, mounted on the gallery rail, is entirely new. The Great Trumpet 8′ was the first set of reed pipes to be made in the then newly-established Fisk pipeshop. As in many Fisk organs from this time, there is a strong French classic influence in the basic tonal design, essentially Alsatian, and most closely related to the Andreas Silbermann organ in Marmoutier, France.

For decades, this instrument served as the chief recital organ for the New England Conservatory of Music and is among the most beloved of Charles Fisk’s works. Scores of organists studied on this organ under the tutelage of the late Yuko Hayashi. The Old West Organ Society continues to bring leading organists from around the world to present masterclasses and recitals on Opus 55.

Opus 55

Great, Man. II
Bourdon 16′
Prestant 8′
Spire Flute 8′
Octave 4′
Doublet 2′
Sesquialter II
Mixture IV – VI
Trumpet 8′
Clarion 4′

Choir, Man. I
Stopt Diapason 8′
Prestant 4′
Night Horn 4′
Nazard 2 2/3′ *
Doublet 2′
Sharp IV
Cremona 8′

Swell, Man. III
Violin Diapason 8′
Stopped Diapason 8′
Spitz Flute 4′
Cornet III
Fourniture III
Contra Hautboy 16′
Trumpet 8′

Bourdon 16′
Octave 8′
Rohrpipe 8′
Superoctaves 4′ & 2′
Mixture III
Trombone 16′

* hookdown adds 1 3/5’


Choir to Great
Swell to Great
Swell to Choir

Great to Pedal
Choir to Pedal
Swell to Pedal


Balanced Swell Pedal

Crescendo Pedal
Wind Pressure: 2 ¼”

Casework contains many carvings and panels from a mid Nineteenth century Appleton organ found in Ipswich, MA. The main case is made from a 3 tower/2 flat case with missing cornices. The lower case, impost, tower tops and additional carvings are all new. The original case resembled the Choir case, which is entirely new. The new woodwork does contain a number of old panels.

In May and June 2000 the organ was extensively cleaned, 42 volt 3 phase slider motors replaced with solenoids and a modern 128 level combination action was added. Tonal regulation was focused upon the reeds.

Originally tuned in Equal Temperament the organ has been retuned into Vogel V and is presently in Fisk I, a nearly equal temperament developed by Charles Fisk for Opus 78, House of Hope Presbyterian Church, St. Paul MN, in 1979.

The present combination action has 8 generals (4 to thumb pistons & 4 to toe studs), 2 divisionals to each division. The Great tutti & Great cancel thumb pistons may be reprogrammed to become additional divisionals. The Great to Pedal reversible toe stud may be reprogrammed to reverse any combination of stops or couplers. Changes to the normal operation of the pistons can be done on any level of memory without affecting other levels. A builder’s Crescendo and 3 programmable Crescendos are available. A simple sequencer, when engaged, converts all pistons into “Next” functions; the Great to Pedal is converted into “Back” function.