The pipe organ in First Parish in Lexington was built in 1897 and installed in 1898 by George Hutchings of Boston. It replaced an earlier gallery organ (1848) by George Stevens of Cambridge. In 1962 the present organ was tonally revised by the Andover Organ Company and in 1972 it was mechanically restored by Thad Outerbridge.
It is now a versatile and completely reliable instrument used to lead the congregational singing, to perform great organ music of all periods, to accompany the choir, and to take part in performances of special instrumental music. The instrument has twenty-six stops distributed over three manuals and pedal. Manual action and stop action are mechanical, and pedal action is electro-pneumatic. The range of the manuals is sixty-one notes and the range of the pedals is thirty-two notes. Wind pressure is three inches throughout.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do the visible pipes speak?
Sixteen of the twenty-seven pipes standing in the front of the organ serve as part of the bass for the Great Open Diapason. The other eleven front pipes are purely for show, to make the design symmetrical and to fill the space.
Are there more pipes?
Behind the visible pipes are an additional 1880 pipes.
Why so many?
Variety is given by pipes of different shape (cylindrical vs. conical), material (wood vs. metal), type (flue vs. reed), size and voicing. Since pipes come in sets or ranks of 61, one for each note of the keyboard (32 for the pedal), to have 6 basic voices in the keyboard would require 366 pipes. This organ has 26 voices, plus mixtures and pedal extensions. Typical "voices" are diapason, trumpet, flute, strings.
What are the largest and smallest pipes of the organ?
The deepest pedal tone is provided by a wooden pipe 16 feet long and 15 inches square. The highest manual tone is produced by a metal pipe the size of a pencil with a speaking length of approximately 1/2 inch.
Why three keyboards?
Each keyboard controls its own ranks of pipes, giving variety in sound and the possibility of contrasting solo, ensemble, and echo effects. Moreover, each keyboard serves a function within the structure of the organ as a whole in performing classical organ music. The pedal may add deep bass or carry its own melody.
What makes the organ loud or soft? How do you change the sound?
Changes in both the volume and the character of the organ sound are accomplished by adding or subtracting stops using the knobs ("stops") at either end of the keyboards. It is also possible to have the pipes associated with one manual play on another by means of couplers. Finally, one division of pipes, the Swell, is enclosed within a box with a shutter on the front. The shutter may be opened or closed with a pedal controlled by the organist's foot to increase or decrease the volume.
Where does the air come from?
A large rotary blower in the basement of the church feeds air into a bellows which supplies wind to the chests and then to the individual pipes.