In many churches the organ has held a place of honor. It is the church’s instrumental voice, proclaiming the word in music and supporting the ongoing song of praise offered by the people of God. The organ of the Church of the Transfiguration is integrally wed to the liturgy and to the art, as it surrounds the listener with sound.
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The pipes are suspended in mahogany cases over the two side aisles, a unique design. Built by Nelson Barden & Associates of Boston, MA, it is a restoration and expansion of components from seventeen twentieth-century organs of the E.M. Skinner Organ Company. When completed, it will include 150 ranks and over 12,000 pipes. The organ’s unique location allows its sounds to be specifically directed so as to accompany the various liturgical actions taking place on the floor, as well as giving tremendous flexibility in concert. Consistent with the artwork in the Church, the rich variety of sounds and voices it can create give it the ability to “speak” a multitude of musical languages in prayer and praise to God.
Currently, the organ includes the Great, Swell, Choir, Processional, Echo, and Pedal Divisions. The main part of the organ is located at the east end of the Church in three sections. The Great and Choir Divisions of the organ are on the north side, the Swell Division on the south. The Processional Division of the organ is located one hundred feet away at the west end of the nave, and includes stops such as the French Horn, Orchestral Flute, Tuba Mirabilis, and the Trumpet Militaire. The Echo Division, also at the west end, includes the softest sounds of the organ.
Nelson Barden: Organ Builder
Since 1956, Nelson Barden has been recognized as the country’s leading expert in the museum quality restoration of E.M. Skinner pipe organs. In the Boston area, his projects are highlighted by the restoration of the organ at Boston University, as well as the restoration of the Skinner instruments at the Church of the Advent on Beacon Hill and at Old South Church, Copely Square. One of his largest restoration projects was the organ at Longwood Gardens near Philadelphia. It was his unique concept of “surround-sound” that gave vision to the E.M. Skinner organ installation at the Church of the Transfiguration, a project that he calls his “magnum opus” and the final project of his career. When complete, the instrument will have 12,500 pipes, making it his largest restored Skinner organ.