Barnes Chapel at West Cemetery

Bristol, Connecticut

Harry Hall Opus 37, 1930


The Barnes Memorial Chapel was dedicated on November 9, 1930 and named after Carlyle F. Barnes (1852-1926). Mr. Barnes was a businessman and musician who took a strong interest in the civic affairs of Bristol. The chapel, the gift of his wife and two sons, was given to the city as a mortuary chapel. Designed by the firm of Perry and Bishop of New Britain, CT it is an exquisite interpretation of a small Norman-style church and has some of the finest stained-glass windows in the area, executed by Calvert, Herrick & Riedinger. Built to serve the needs of the West Cemetery on which it is located, in recent years the Chapel has served as a popular venue for wedding ceremonies. The building seats about 160 people in a long nave, with seating for perhaps another thirty in an adjoining room.

The organ, by the Harry Hall Organ Company, is the original one in the building. The pipes are in a second-floor chamber that has a tone-opening into the Chapel, concealed by a handsome organ screen of oak and ornamental pipes. Consisting of two manuals and pedals, all of the pipework of the organ is placed in a single chamber furnished with a set of swell shutters. Within the chamber are two main windchests for the Great and Swell divisions, in addition to a chest for the Pedal 16’ Bourdon and another for the bass pipes belonging to the stops of the Great and Swell divisions. The blower for the organ is situated in the attic behind the pipe chamber.

Immediately beneath the organ chamber is a small alcove containing the console, a tab-style arrangement having a recorder-board combination action. The organ is entirely original and is built with electro-pneumatic action. The Great division includes a powerful Diapason, a mild Dulciana and a colorful Erzähler, topped by a 4’ Octave.

The Swell division includes a Stopped Flute unit that plays on its home manual at 16’-8’-4’-2’ pitches (and from which the Nazard and Tierce also are derived), and on the Great manual at 8’ pitch. Also available on the Swell is a harmonic wood Concert Flute and another similar set of pipes tuned slightly sharp to give a most agreeable Flute Celeste. There is also a gentle pair of strings, a mordant Viole d’Orchestre and a mild Aeoline. A colorful Swell Oboe and Vox Humana provide the organ with attractive solo voices; the latter adds a mystical contribution to the strings and flutes of the organ.

Some observers will note that there is no dedicated mixture stop in the organ. It should be remembered, however, that this instrument was purpose-built for a chapel in which funerals are held. Organ literature requiring massive ensembles was never contemplated for this setting. Instead, the instrument nicely fills the room with a wide range of gentle and colorful sounds, and the Great Diapason with its Octave provides plenty of support for accompanying hymns.

Today, modest sized instruments such as this one are routinely discarded in favor of electronic makeshifts. However, the trustees of the Chapel were not willing to sacrifice their genuine pipe organ for a makeshift having a limited lifespan. When the Harry Hall organ began to fail, its pipes and mechanism were removed from the Chapel and restored, making no changes in the tonal or technological characteristics of the instrument. This was accomplished for much less than the cost of an electronic substitute. Since the Chapel employs no staff musician, outside organists are brought in, and the response to the organ has been overwhelmingly positive, proving that even a small pipe organ is preferred to any electronic replacement.