Cover feature

May 31, 2013

Austin Organs, Inc., 

Hartford, Connecticut 

Opus 2795

First Baptist Church, 

Washington, D.C.


Fulfillment of a vision: the second five-manual organ in the City of Washington

First Baptist Church’s new Austin Organ installation marks the realization of a vision that has been several generations in the making for both the church and the organbuilder. First Baptist Church was organized in 1802 when Thomas Jefferson was president and Washington, D.C., was a village of only a few thousand people. The first worship space was in a building where the U.S. Treasury is now located. From that early time, First Baptist has provided continuous ministry in the heart of the nation’s capital. Since the division of Baptists North and South in 1845, First Baptist has been a vital link between major national Baptist bodies. It maintains membership in the District of Columbia Baptist Convention (which is triply aligned with the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., the Progressive National Baptist Convention, and the Southern Baptist Convention). First Baptist Church is also affiliated with the Alliance of Baptists, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and the Baptist World Alliance. Several U.S. presidents have worshiped here, notably Harry S. Truman, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton. The church has occupied five buildings on four sites in the District of Columbia, including one that is now Ford’s Theater, where President Lincoln was assassinated. 

The first service in the new sanctuary at 16th & O Streets was held on January 12, 1890, and six pastors served in the years that followed. Following his installation as senior pastor in 1937, Dr. Edward Pruden led the church in a building campaign. In 1953, First Baptist tore down its previous building and started construction on its current neo-gothic sanctuary on the same site. The first worship service in the new sanctuary was celebrated on Christmas Day in 1955. The plans initially included a large organ that was to be installed in the chancel area and constructed to match the baptistry. Due to funding shortfalls, however, it was eventually decided that the previous M.P. Möller organ would be re-installed in the new building. Under the subsequent three-decade leadership of minister of music Alvin T. Lunde, proposals from myriad organbuilders were examined and considered. 

Ironically, it was the acquisition of a new nine-foot Steinway concert grand piano that revived the church’s hopes for a new organ. In 2007 First Baptist member Carol M. Kirby, who sits on the board of visitors for George Mason University, was assisting the school in acquiring new Steinway pianos for their Steinway School of Music. Through her leadership and introductions to Steinway, the church was able to purchase one of the last concert grand pianos signed by Henry Z. Steinway. The acquisition of the new piano inspired members of First Baptist to believe the time had come to complete the long-deferred dream of a new pipe organ for the church. In early 2010, First Baptist member Dr. Wayne Angell met with the newly installed Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Haggray and members of the church leadership team to investigate the possibility of moving forward with the organ project if the initial funding for the project could be raised. After receiving enthusiastic endorsement, Dr. Angell then worked to raise the funds to meet the cost of the organ. 


Austin’s history of building large instruments

In the early part of the 20th century, an ever-increasing number of important contracts steadily built the Austin Organ Company’s reputation for organs of impressive design and solid construction. A significant piece of Austin history was the company’s hiring in 1901 of the infamous Robert Hope-Jones (later known as the father of the Wurlitzer organ) to help direct the company into the symphonic realm. During this time Hope-Jones, through Austin, exposed the United States to the Diaphone, famously installed in lighthouses and fire stations around the country. The premier organ version of this somewhat musical “noise” to which Austin held the patent, however, is known as the Magnaton. Hope-Jones also brought us high-pressure voicing for both reeds and flue pipes. While the organ at First Baptist does not have a Magnaton, it does have some interesting higher-pressure voicing than is typical. Before discussing the particulars of this new instrument, let us present some history of our instruments built for concert halls and auditoriums. Hallmarks of their design include walk-in airboxes with vestibules (airlocks), significant wind pressures, generous scaling, and a wealth of orchestral and traditional organ stops. Even an incomplete chronology of these instruments and their clients is impressive:

Opus 120 was installed in the Auditorium of John Wanamaker’s New York Store in 1904.

Opus 182 for the Jamestown Exposition, Jamestown, Virginia, was the first concert organ for which we won an award. A succession of instruments in concert halls followed, including Opus 199 in the Greek Hall of Wanamaker’s Philadelphia store, Opus 252 in the ballroom of the Hotel Astor, New York City, and Opus 279 in John M. Greene Auditorium of Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts. Of these, the Greek Hall organ survives, relocated from the store, as does the Smith College organ, which we rebuilt a number of years ago. Opus 323, built for the City Hall Auditorium of Portland, Maine in 1912, is today one of the most famous municipal concert instruments in the United States. The Spreckels Organ, Opus 453, installed in 1914 outdoors in Balboa Park, San Diego, California, certainly needs no introduction. 

Opus 500 (120 ranks), for the Festival Hall of the Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco in 1915, was completed and delivered in less than six months. Opus 558 for Medinah Temple in Chicago crossed paths with Opus 500 on the shop floor in 1915. Opus 573 for the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City followed shortly thereafter. Opus 913, built for the mysterious Bohemian Club of San Francisco, is also located outdoors like the San Diego organ. 

Opus 1206 was built in 1924 for the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Opus 1416 was built in 1926 for the Sesqui-Centennial International Exposition in Philadelphia, and was the largest new instrument built at one time by the Austin Organ Company, having 162 speaking ranks. We restored this instrument in the early 2000s. Finally, Opus 1627 for Horace Bushnell Memorial Hall in Hartford is a still-later example of Austin’s concert hall instruments. This organ, dating from 1929, was restored by Austin in 1989. 

This list only scratches the surface. The legacy and memory of these monumental instruments echo around our shop in the records and photographs of their construction and subsequent history. The machines and fixtures on which they were built continue to turn out new instruments, including the First Baptist organ.


Critical elements of the tonal design

With the reality of the purchase of a pipe organ on the horizon, the church was fortunate to have minister of music Dr. Lon Schreiber on staff. Three decades earlier, he had overseen the “other” five-manual organ in the City of Washington installed at National City Christian Church. After reviewing a stack of proposals that stood two feet high, he contacted Austin Organs through Austin representative William E. Gray. Drawing on his experience as former president of M.P. Möller, and certainly having designed more large organs in this country than any single person alive, he and Lon developed a stoplist of slightly more than 100 ranks, along with some digital augmentation, across five manuals. Bill Gray had a concept for two large organ cases in the chancel (the existing organ has been covered with two decomposing drapes since 1955). The Austin design staff turned this concept into a rendering, and the church enthusiastically endorsed Austin Organs, Inc. to build the new organ for First Baptist.

Austin’s staff drew upon more than a century of design and voicing experience for this project. Each stop was meticulously scrutinized for scale, design, and voicing. The gallery organ project was revised early in the contract to utilize some pipework from the church’s former organ. This, along with several replacements of pipework in lieu of digital, brought the rank count to 118.

The scaling and refinement of this concept was completed by the combined experience of some of the most seasoned voicing staff in the country, including assistant tonal director Dan Kingman, senior voicer Fred Heffner, reed voicer Sam Hughes, and voicers Holly Odell, Annie Wysocki, David Johnston, and tonal director Mike Fazio.

After several visits to the church, it was determined that this large worship space called for an instrument voiced on significant wind pressures. The main airchests are set at 7 inches wind pressure, 10 inches for the Mounted Cornet, and 12 inches and 22 inches for the reeds. In our experience, heavy wind-pressure voicing delivers tone colors and intensity not possible with light-pressure organs. 

The manual divisions of this instrument have multiple diapason, flute, and reed choruses. The mixtures are reasonably pitched and scaled, and the voicing is gently ascendant without stridency. The flutes are subtly voiced for variety, blend, and individualistic tonal colors. Ample mutations, rich string tone, and complete reed choruses expand the tonal palette, allowing the musician to create a kaleidoscope of sound.

The Resonance division is a new concept for Austin, its deployment in this organ due to Bill Gray’s tonal design. The Resonance Organ is composed of the actual voices of the Pedal Organ, but adding 29 pipes, extending from 32 to 61 pipes per rank. Mechanically, it has been possible utilizing an almost forgotten chest design: the Austin Duplex Chest Mechanism. The voices are full, round and deliciously extravagant. The Diapason (a generous 40 scale) was voiced with leathered lips. This practice, once frowned upon, delivers the most natural-sounding Diapason tone for this scale pipework voiced on this pressure. It must be heard to be appreciated.

In the French tradition, the Resonance was a type of Solo organ, but Opus 2795 also has a Solo division. It is composed of several digital voices, provided by Walker Technical Company. It also has a five-rank (305 pipes) Mounted Cornet, installed at the top of the organ, voiced on 10 inches wind pressure, and the Austin Tuba Magna voiced on 22 inches wind pressure that is enclosed in a separate expression box. Inside this expression box are the speakers for the digital voices. A few additional voices inside the Swell and Choir have their speakers mounted in those chambers as well. This allows the tone to resonate with its associated pipework, and express naturally, rather than from an artificial volume control. Again, none of the digital voices are considered ensemble voices; they are only superfluous solo stops.

Following a tradition of tonal innovation, we have also included three new Austin voices in this instrument: a new hybrid Cromorne, the 4 Spiel Flute, and a 2 Zauberflöte (listed on the specification as the Descant Flute in the Resonance). The Cromorne is a new scale based on the Austin Clarinet, which morphs into the French Cromorne scale. Our hybrid combination, along with special shallots, gives us the best of both worlds. The Spiel Flute (“Play” Flute) is based on our standard Blockflöte scale, with soldered-on canisters, special mouth widths, and an open bass. The new Zauberflöte is similar to the examples from our instruments of the 1920s. The differences are in the scale and pitch; this type is much larger and has an open bass rather than the typical chimney-flute type. This stop was created to join the chorus of a large 8 (metal) Hohlflöte and a 4 Cantus Flute, where we wanted a flute chorus with significant color and strength.

The Choir contains the only stop in the organ to extend in wood past the 4 range: the Holz Gedeckt. Most of the 16 extensions (except of course the façade) are wooden as well. Atop the Choir enclosure, we find the 16 extension of the Gemshorn. This stop was constructed from beautiful vintage 16 open wood diapason pipes manufactured of perfectly clear-grained sugar pine. The tone is somewhat string-like, but rich and warm. The Pedal (Resonance) Bourdon, made of heavy poplar, is the largest scale made in the Austin factory. These pipes are the first new 16 Bourdons made in the Austin shop in nearly two decades. They were completed by cabinetmaker Bruce Coderre, finished by Richard Walker, and voiced by Dan Kingman. The 8 octave of this stop was made of ‘new’ M.P. Möller pipework. Following the demise of Möller, Austin purchased their entire inventory of wooden 16 and 8 pipework. The Choir Gedeckt also has a ‘new’ M.P. Möller bass octave of smaller scale.

Each reed chorus contains stops of unique personalities. In the Great division, we find Trumpets of the English style. The Resonance reed chorus is distinctly in the American-Symphonic tradition. The Choir has a smaller German Klein Trompete, and of course the hybrid Cromorne, while the Swell Organ has reeds that echo the brightness of the Trompettes of the French tradition. All the reeds were made in the Austin factory, with exception of the 64/32 Posaune, Chamade, and the Gallery Swell Trompette and Clairon (from the previous organ). It is notable that every reed from 32–16 boasts full-length construction; that there are no half-length reed basses in any department of the organ results in unmatched tone color and voicing stability.  

The organ also boasts three Tuba stops. The Resonance 8 Octave Trumpet is made to Austin’s small Tuba/Horn scale, and voiced as a Tromba. The Solo Tuba Major is made from the early Austin Tuba patterns, dating to the 1920s. Mounted horizontally on the gallery rail, low in the church, is the brass Trompette-en-Chamade. It was manufactured using the dark Waldhorn shallots, and begins its harmonic range at middle C. 

An early visit to two Austin organs in Hartford allowed First Baptist’s organist Lon Schreiber to hear two very different examples of horizontal trumpets. The problem became immediately apparent in that he wanted both! So, the Chancel 8 Trompette-en-Chamade (located on the gallery rail) has been designed to be a darker Tuba, commanding yet neither harsh nor bombastic. High above in the Gallery organ’s Great division, atop the expression boxes, one will find the very bright harmonic Trompette Royale (horizontal). This location allows the stop to be voiced bright and full-out.


Console design

This console is the third five-manual drawknob console built by Austin in 120 years. It is also the largest. In addition, it is only the second five-manual console in the city of Washington! It is manufactured of selected red oak with custom-carved moldings and an elegant black-walnut interior. The basic design and layout was conceived by Austin’s vice president Raymond Albright, with cabinetmaker Bruce Coderre and designer/draftsman David Secour. The console was stained and finished by Richard Walker. Austin’s Bill Gray and First Baptist’s Lon Schreiber worked with Albright, with valuable support from Austin CEO Richard Taylor, Bill Hesterman, and organist Frederick Swann, drawing inspiration from the five-manual Aeolian-Skinner console at the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. The organ control system was custom-designed by Atlanta-based International Organ Technologies in collaboration with Albright, who holds a degree in electrical engineering. This Virtuoso system employs a very stable processor that connects the console to the chamber with fiber-optic cables. The system includes a virtually unlimited number of memory levels for the combination action. The keyboards were made to original Austin key design by Pennells & Sharpe Ltd. of Brandon-Suffolk, United Kingdom. They have bone natural coverings with walnut sharps. The console is built upon the sturdy, Austin-patented steel frame. The internal dolly allows the console to be easily moved by one person. The console was shown at the AGO national convention held in Nashville last summer.


Mechanical design

The Austin Universal Airchest was developed in the early 1890s by John T. Austin, who was granted a U.S. Patent for this innovation in 1893 at the age of 23. We are certainly proud of the Airchest, and we also truly believe that it is the very best action and system for an organ that can be built. The original 1893 design (of which several remain in service) was improved and updated several times over a 30-year period, until the current design (which we term the “modern action”) was universally employed in 1923. The older organs can be retrofitted with this action, and most have been, but this 1923 action remains the current version and is still made on the same patterns, jigs, and machines. The First Baptist organ not only employs this windchest design but also the conveniences of Austin Airchest construction: full-height, walk-in airboxes, fitted with vestibules (airlocks), so that one may enter the airbox while the organ is being played. Because of the heavy wind pressures, the regulators are of an older, more substantial construction. The 20-hp blower was custom-manufactured by Robert Otey of Washington State to provide the rather substantial pressures and volume of wind required.



The new Austin organ at First Baptist represents two important company ideals: first, the continuation of a fine tradition of large organs in a time-honored style; second, an exciting challenge for our company to recapture the spirit of many legendary Austin organs. This project is the result of the skill, dedication, and vision of many people: Richard Taylor, a veteran of Aeolian-Skinner and Austin Organs, and Michael Fazio, who acquired Austin Organs, Inc. from the original stockholders in January 2006; Bill Gray for his design input and representation; and the Austin factory staff: Victor Hoyt, Stewart Skates, Rafael Ramos, Tony Valdez, Dan Kingman, Fred Heffner, and Michael Chiaradia, along with designer Donald Hand, who learned his craft from Percy Stark, designer of the 1915 Mormon Tabernacle organ. Some of these artisans are now teaching their craft to new apprentices, ensuring that the Austin organ legacy will continue for future generations. The chest room/mechanical department is headed up by Victor Hoyt, with Michael Chiaradia, Bill Mullen, Rafael Ramos, Arthur Hertzog, and Pedro Flores. The console and cabinet shop crosses over to include the craftsmanship of Bruce Coderre, Richard Walker (who not only sets pipes, but is the company wood finisher), and Ray Albright. Manufacturing pneumatics and mechanical components of all kinds: Keith Taylor assisted by Sarah Rigby, Jessinia Flores, and Jonathan Roberts. The pipeshop is ably staffed by Stewart Skates, Tony Valdez, and Colin Coderre. Our office staff consists of Alan Rodi, a recent Wesleyan graduate who serves as general assistant and media specialist; Curt Hawkes, a 20-year Austin employee who serves as our historian and project manager; and David Secour, CAD designer. Together, they have spent countless hours sharing the Austin story on Facebook (, YouTube (, and the recently revamped Austin website (Austinorgans. com). Please visit these sites for further information on this and other projects. 

The fall dedication concert series launches on September 15 at 4 pm with the inaugural recital by Lon Schreiber, and continues on October 20 at 4 pm with Ken Cowan, and November 24 at 4 pm with Christopher Houlihan.

—Michael Fazio, Alan Rodi, 

Curt Hawkes

GREAT (7′′ wind)

16 Violone Prestant 61 pipes

8 Open Diapason 61 pipes

8 Prestant 12 pipes

8 Flute Harmonique 61 pipes

8 Bourdon 61 pipes

8 Gamba 61 pipes

51⁄3 Gross Quint 61 pipes

4 Octave 61 pipes

4 Prestant Octave 12 pipes

4 Koppelflöte 61 pipes

31⁄5 Gross Tierce 61 pipes

22⁄3 Quint 61 pipes

2 Fifteenth 61 pipes

Grand Chorus V 305 pipes

Scharff IV 244 pipes

16 Double Trumpet 12 pipes

8 Trumpet 68 pipes

4 Clarion 80 pipes

16′ Grand Mounted Cornet V (Solo, TC)

8 Mounted Cornet V (Solo)

8 Trompette-en-Chamade 54 pipes

Chimes (Solo)

Flute Harmonique Tremulant

SWELL (7′′ wind)

16 Contra Gamba °

16 Lieblich Gedeckt 12 pipes

8 Geigen Diapason 61 pipes

8 Viole de Gambe 61 pipes

8 Voix Celeste 61 pipes

8 Stopped Diapason 61 pipes

8 Spitzflöte °

8 Flute Celeste °

4 Prestant 61 pipes

4 Flute Octaviante 61 pipes

22⁄3 Nazard 61 pipes

2 Octavin 61 pipes

13⁄5 Tierce 61 pipes

Plein Jeu V 305 pipes

32 Contra Fagotto °

16 Tromba °

16 Basson 61 pipes

8 Trompette Harmonique 61 pipes

8 Cornopean °

8 Hautbois 61 pipes

8 Voix Humaine 61 pipes

4 Clairon Harmonique 80 pipes

4 English Trumpet °

16 Trompette-en-Chamade (TC)

8 Trompette-en-Chamade (Great)


CHOIR (7′′ wind)

16 Gemshorn 12 pipes

8 Principal 61 pipes

8 Voce Umana °

8 Holz Gedeckt 61 pipes

8 Gemshorn 61 pipes

8 Gemshorn Celeste 61 pipes

8 Flauto Dolce Celeste °

4 Octave 61 pipes

4 Spiel Flute 61 pipes

22⁄3 Nazard 61 pipes

2 Fifteenth 61 pipes

2 Open Flute 61 pipes

13⁄5 Tierce 61 pipes

11⁄3 Larigot (from Cymbel)

Cymbel IV 244 pipes

8 Klein Trompete 61 pipes

8 Cromorne 61 pipes

16 Double Tuba Major (Solo)

8 Tuba Major (Solo)

4 Tuba Octave (Solo)

16 Trompette-en-Chamade (TC)

8 Trompette-en-Chamade (Great)

Orchestral Harp °

Harp, Celesta °

Zimbelstern °


SOLO (10′′ and 22′′ wind)

16 Contra Gamba °

16 Contra Gamba Celeste °

8 Cello °

8 Cello Celeste °

8 Voix Angelique III °

8 Muted Viols II °

8 Doppel Flute °

4 Orchestral Flute °

22⁄3 Quint Flute °

16 Corno di Bassetto °

8 French Horn °

8 Clarinet °

8 English Horn °

8 Orchestral Oboe °

16 Double Tuba Major

8 Tuba Major 85 pipes

4 Tuba Octave

Unenclosed Solo

Mounted Cornet V 305 pipes

Chimes °

Orchestral Harp °

Harp °

Celesta °

16 Trompette-en-Chamade (TC)

8 Trompette Royale (Gallery Great)


RESONANCE (7′′ wind)

32 Contre Bourdon °

16 Dbl. Open Diapason 61 pipes

16 Violone Prestant (Great)

16 Bourdon (Pedal)

16 Gemshorn (Swell)

8 Open Diapason 61 pipes

8 Prestant (Great)

8 Hohlflöte 61 pipes

8 Bourdon 17 pipes

51⁄3 Gross Quint (Pedal)

4 Octave 61 pipes

4 Cantus Flute 61 pipes

31⁄5 Gross Tierce (Great)

2 Descant Flute 61 pipes

Mixture IV † 

Grand Fourniture IV–VI †

Descant Grand Mixture IV–VIII †

32 Contra Posaune (Pedal)

32 Contra Fagotto °

16 Posaune (Pedal)

16 Double Trumpet (Great)

8 Octave Trumpet 61 pipes

8 Trumpet (Great)

4 Clairon 61 pipes

8 Mounted Cornet V (Solo)

16 Trompette-en-Chamade (Great, TC)

8 Trompette-en-Chamade (Great)

† The Resonance Mixture is a composite formula based on a four-rank stop, based on 22⁄3 pitch (244 pipes). Adding the fifth through eighth ranks expands the mixture by 214 pipes, creating three distinctive mixture stops.

PEDAL (7′′ and 12′′ wind)

32 Double Open Wood °

32 Contre Bourdon °

32 Erzahler °

16 Open Diapason 32 pipes

16 Open Wood °

16 Violone Prestant (Great)

16 Subbass 32 pipes

16 Gemshorn (Choir)

16 Contra Gamba (Swell)

16 Lieblich Gedeckt (Swell)

102⁄3 Gross Quint (Swell)

8 Octave (Res)

8 Prestant (Great)

8 Hohlflöte (Res)

8 Bourdon 12 pipes

8 Gemshorn (Choir)

8 Stopped Diapason (Swell)

62⁄5 Gross Tierce 12 pipes

51⁄3 Quint (Great)

4 Choral Bass (Res)

4 Cantus Flute (Res)

4 Stopped Flute 12 pipes

31⁄5 Tierce (Great)

2 Descant Flute (Res)

Mixture IV 128 pipes

64 Grand Contra Posaune 3 pipes

32 Contra Posaune (Res)

32 Contra Fagotto °

16 Corno di Bassetto (Solo)

16 Posaune (Res)

16 Double Trumpet (Great)

16 Tromba (Swell)

16 Basson (Swell)

8 Octave Trumpet (Res)

8 Cornopean (Swell)

4 Clairon (Res)

4 Hautbois 32 pipes

8 Trompette-en-Chamade (Great)

4 Trompette-en-Chamade (Great)

Chimes °

Full complement of inter/intramanual couplers, and other accessories

GALLERY GREAT (4.5′′ wind)

16 Violone 12 pipes

8 Principal 61 pipes

8 Viola 61 pipes

8 Traverse Flute 61 pipes

8 Bourdon 61 pipes

8 Erzahler 61 pipes

8 Erzahler Celeste 61 pipes

4 Octave 61 pipes

4 Flute Harmonique 61 pipes

2 Super Octave 61 pipes

2 Waldflöte 24 pipes

Sesquialtera III–IV 192 pipes

Mixture IV 244 pipes

8 Trompette Royale 61 pipes


GALLERY SWELL (5′′ wind)

16 Rohrbass 12 pipes

8 Geigen Diapason 61 pipes

8 Rohrflöte 61 pipes

8 Viola da Gamba 61 pipes

8 Viola Celeste 54 pipes

4 Principal 61 pipes

4 Spitzflöte 61 pipes

2 Octave 61 pipes

Plein Jeu IV 244 pipes

16 Basson 12 pipes

8 Trompette 61 pipes

8 Hautbois 61 pipes

4 Clairon 80 pipes


GALLERY PEDAL (5′′ wind)

32 Contre Bourdon °

16 Principal °

16 Violone (Gal. Great)

16 Bourdon 32 pipes

16 Rohrbass (Gal. Swell)

8 Octave 32 pipes

8 Violone (Gal. Great)

8 Bourdon 12 pipes

8 Rohrflöte (Gal. Swell)

4 Choral Bass 12 pipes

4 Nachthorn 32 pipes

4 Rohrflöte (Gal. Swell)

32 Contra Fagotto °

16 Double Trompette (Gal. Swell)

16 Fagotto °

8 Trumpet (Gal. Swell)

8 Fagotto °

4 Hautbois (Gal. Swell)


° indicates digital voice

Chancel Organ: 83 ranks

Gallery Organ: 35 ranks

Total number of ranks: 118

Total number of pipes: 6,158

Main blower: 20 HP

Gallery blowers: (four) ¾ HP


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