Memorial Church Organs

The Memorial Church OrgansCB Fisk Opus 139 (2012): The Charles B. Fisk & Peter J. Gomes Memorial Organ 

When the Memorial Church  was erected in 1932, to provide a more intimate space for the University's daily services of Morning Prayers, a tradition since 1636, a smaller chapel — Appleton Chapel — was grafted upon the front of the church, separated by a beautiful screen and bathed in morning light. The unusual architecture of these joint, yet distinct, spaces reflects a unique response to the nature of worship at Harvard, with its emphasis both on daily and weekly worship. With this configuration, however, came an interesting musical challenge.

Music has long been central to worship at Harvard, with choirs and congregations led by notable pipe organs. The original 1932 Æolian-Skinner instrument, located in side chambers above the Appleton Chapel pews, had a difficult job, needing to be delicate enough to lead Morning Prayers in the Chapel but somehow powerful enough to turn a considerable corner and reach into The Memorial Church.

The Skinner, Op 793
Skinner Opus 793

When the need for large-scale repairs of the 1932 instrument invited consideration of a new organ in 1963, it was hoped that this new instrument might be placed in the rear gallery, from which it could speak directly into the Church, with a second, smaller organ in the Chapel for Morning Prayers. Such was not to be, however, and the impressive new 1967 C.B. Fisk Organ, Op. 46, found a home in Appleton Chapel. To accommodate the freestanding Fisk instrument, the Chapel arrangement was reversed and the new organ was placed in front of the Palladian window. Formerly awash in light, Morning Prayers services were now cast in shadow.

As the Church's seventy-fifth anniversary approached, the Reverend Peter Gomes led the effort to renovate and install two organs; one in the gallery to lead the congregation and another in the original Appleton Chapel chambers.

A three-manual 1929 E.M. Skinner Opus 793 (originally located at Second Church of Christ, Scientist, Hartford, CT) was purchased. Op. 793 was restored by Foley-Baker Inc., and installed in Appleton Chapel's organ chambers during the summer of 2010.

To accompany the Sunday congregation and choir, a new three-manual mechanical-action organ was designed and built by C.B. Fisk of Gloucester, Opus 139: The Charles B. Fisk & Peter J. Gomes Memorial Organ, and installed in the church's rear gallery in Summer 2011. Opus 139: To Hear the Music, a trailer for a documentary film by Director Dennis Lanson, tells the story of the creation, installation and voicing of Op. 139, interwoven with stories of C.B. Fisk's founder Charles Brenton Fisk and his unique workshop.


Opus 139 Specs283 KB
Opus 793 Specs78 KB