Skinner Organ Company Opus 603
1926 Four Manuals, Skinner Roll Player
59 Stops, 48 Ranks, 3,201 Pipes

History - Photo Gallery - Stoplist - Home

Built in 1926 for the Museumís Hemicycle auditorium, this four-manual organ was the gift of the Libbey family, and was installed in two chambers on either side of the stage. The console was located in a small and shallow pit on the main floor of the room, confined by the seating around it. Renowned American organist Lynnwood Farnam acted as consultant and designer of the stoplist for the instrument. The organ contained fifty-nine speaking stops derived from forty-eight ranks and 3,201 pipes. Opus 603 was to be the largest Skinner organ furnished with the firmís sophisticated multiplex roll-player, although records indicate that very few rolls were ever owned by the Museum.

In the 1920s it was not uncommon for art museums to own pipe organs. Skinner organs could be found in Clevelandís Museum of Art (Opus 333, 1920); San Franciscoís California Palace of the Legion of Honor (Opus 455, 1924); Dayton (OH) Art Institute (Opus 749, 1929); and the Brooklyn Art Museum (Opus 758, 1929). Having a fine pipe organ was considered a natural addition to an organization dedicated to the arts.

In 1931 the organ was removed from the Hemicycle auditorium and relocated by the Skinner Organ Company to the newly-built and much larger Peristyle auditorium. The new ďatmospheric styleĒ venue has two chambers that were constructed to duplicate the instrumentís original situation. The console was made movable and furnished with its own integral dolly so that it could be conveniently placed among the other instruments on the stage.

Unfortunately over the years the instrument suffered from water damage to its mechanism in the left (Solo and Choir) chamber and basement relay room, where the player de-multiplexing equipment and other electro-pneumatic switching apparatus is located. By the late 1970s some of the organís stops had to be shut off, and water damage in the relay room soaked and damaged several crucial electrical cables. A new stage apron elevator occasioned the removal of the cable conduit and wind line to the chamber containing the Great and Swell divisions, permanently rendering the instrument completely unplayable for more than fifteen years.

One side of the severed wind line and cable

In 2001, through a generous grant from the Joseph Bradley Foundation and several gifts from the Museumís patrons and supporters, a contract was signed for the complete restoration of Opus 603. This restoration included a complete rebuilding of the console, the equipment in the basement relay room, and the chassis and pipework of the two organ chambers. Working with Suzanne Hargrove, the Museumís Conservator, the restorers developed a plan to return the instrument to its original condition, preserving not only its musical qualities but also its technological details. All of the damaged and perished materials were painstakingly replaced with identical new materials installed to original Skinner standards. The work was carried out in 2003 and 2004, and the completed instrument was dedicated in April 2005.

Here we see the behind-the-scene workings of the console. Through the side of the console we see the treble jamb combination-action machine. This beautiful equipment is responsible for storing and recalling combinations of stops for the organist to bring up at the touch of a button during a performance.

Between the two jamb machines we see the player interface box with its cover removed. The pneumatic motors and electric contacts inside the interface box serve to "encode" the multiplexed signal (1920's style of course) downstairs to the player machinery where it is decoded and sent to the chambers. As with all Skinner equipment, the player equipment was designed for precise and fast performance, while minimizing electrical current draw, wear, and dirty contacts.

Here is a view through the door of the Great/Swell chamber. Also seen peeking through at the left are the basses of the wood Pedal Trombone. In the front on top are some of the Great bass pipes, beneath those are the Pedal Bourdon treble pipes, and some switching below the Bourdon. The Pedal Bourdon basses are off to the right of this view.
This picture shows some of the Choir/Solo chamber. To the left is the Pedal Diapason, to the right we see the Choir expression box on the bottom, with the Solo above. The Pedal Violone is also in this chamber, to the right of the view shown here.

Chamber cleaning and preparation is an important task that we perform during our full restorations. Chamber repair is particularly important if the chamber and organ have suffered water damage at some point, or if plaster is falling onto the organ. All chambers are cleaned out after the organ is removed, the plaster is repaired, any lighting issues are addressed, wood parts are given a coat of orange shellac, the floors are painted, and the chamber is painted with hard paint. Taking these steps to prepare the chamber not only protect the organ, but restore its beauty and can enhance the accoustical properties of the chamber as well.

Here we see some of the stop action relays for the player mechanism prior to removal and restoration. This machinery is located in the relay/blower room, and is responsible for setting and maintaining all registrations, and maintaining swell shade positions for the automatic player function.
Here is what the player stop action relays look like today after a thorough restoration. All of the machines were cleaned, all perishable materials replaced, electrical contacts were cleaned, and the mechanisms regulated to perform to original specifications.

As can be seen, we took great pains to not harm the integrity of this equipment, down to matching the perishable materials exactly, and even saving and preserving the fragile paper label on the front of the relay.

This organ is the second player organ that we have restored, and we take care of an additional two player organs as well. The switching and machinery displays the highest level of craftsmanship attained by the Skinner Organ Company, and operates with amazing precision, given that it is made from common materials such as wood and leather.


        16'	Bourdon		        17
	8'	First Diapason		61
	8'	Second Diapason		61
	8'	Claribel Flute		61
	4'	Octave			61
	4'	Flute			61
	2'	Fifteenth		61
	IV	Mixture			244
	8'	Tromba			61
	4'	Clarion			61
	16'	Bourdon			73
	8'	Diapason		73
	8'	Gedeckt			73
	8'	Salicional		73
	8'	Voix Celeste		73
	8'	Flute Celeste II  	134
	8'	Echo Dulcet II	        134
	4'	Octave			73
	4'	Flute Triangulaire	73
	III	Mixture			183
	16'	Waldhorn		73
	8'	French Trumpet		73
	8'	Oboe			73
	8'	Vox Humana		73
	8'	Tuba Mirabilis		Solo
	8'	French Horn		Solo
	8'	English Horn		Solo
	8'	Gamba			73
	8'	Concert Flute		73
	8'	Kleine Erzahler   	146
	4'	Flute			73
	2 2/3'	Nazard			61
	2'	Piccolo			61
	8'	Clarinet		73
	8'	Salicional		Swell
	8'	Voix Celeste		Swell
	8'	Flute Celeste   	Swell
		Harp			Swell

        8'	Gamba			73
	8'	Gamba Celeste		73
	8'	Tuba Mirabilis		73
	8'	French Horn		73
	8'	English Horn		73
	8'	Vox Humana		73
		Chimes			25

        16'	Diapason		32
	16'	Violone			32
	16'	Bourdon			32
	16'	Echo Bourdon		Swell
	8'	Octave			12
	8'	Cello			12
	8'	Gedeckt			12
	8'	Still Gedeckt		Swell
	4'	Super Octave		12
	4'	Gedeckt			12
	4'	Still Gedeckt		Swell
	16'	Trombone		32
	16'	Waldhorn		Swell
	8'	Tromba			12
	4'	Clarion			12