Oldest, biggest, best

Odds and ends on organs:

*Gladiator events and chariot races (1st-5th centuries AD), not churches, were the organ's original venues.

*This greatest of wind instruments first piped up over 2,000 years ago (250 BC) and was powered by water.

*The oldest, intact, English-made organ (1630) in the world is located at historic St. Luke's Church in Smithfield, Va.

*But the very oldest organ in the world is at the Basilica of Valre in Sion, Switzerland, and dates back to 1390.

* Organs are ranked by numbers of pipes and ranks (sets of pipes). And most sources seem to agree, the largest organ, overall, in the world is the Wanamaker in a Lord & Taylor department store in Philadelphia. It has 461 ranks and 28,482 pipes.

*The Atlantic City Convention Hall organ in New Jersey, however, boasts about 450 ranks and some 33,000 pipes

*Definitive lists may be just a pipe dream, but here are two for good measure. Anthony Thurman, director of development and communications for the American Guild of Organists in New York City, proposed the following as a selection of greatest organ pieces:

1. Organ works by Bach (1685-1750, German)

2. Three Chorales for organ, by Csar Franck (1822-1890, French)

3. Symphony No. 5 - Toccata, by Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937, French)

4. Organ works by Olivier Messiaen (1908-92, French)

Among the key qualities Dr. Thurman looks for in an organ:

1. Sensitive playing action (keyboard, pedal boards).

2. Beautiful voicing.

3. Versatility.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

Share this story:

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.




Save for later


Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items


Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items


Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items