The Harvard Organs

History of the Harvard Organs

There are three main organs on Harvard’s campus to which students have regular access: a 1930 Skinner (Opus 793), a 2011 C. B. Fisk (Opus 139), and a 1958 Flentrop. The Skinner and Fisk are both housed in Memorial Church, the grand Georgian-style university church opposite Widener Library, and the Flentrop resides in Adolphus Busch Hall, formerly the Busch-Reisinger art museum. There are also several smaller organs in variable conditions located around campus in such spaces as the Divinity School and the College residential houses.

The 33-rank, mechanical action Flentrop organ in Busch Hall was made famous by concert organist E. Power Biggs. After experiencing the historic organs of Europe on a concert tour, Biggs commissioned this instrument in 1958 from the Dutch organ builder Dirk A. Flentrop, who was notable for his instruments that revisited the original Baroque style. This so-called “Neo-Baroque” instrument in Busch Hall was at the forefront of a surge of interest in classic organ building techniques across America. Biggs brought this classic appreciation to a larger audience through his recordings and live radio broadcasts from Busch Hall. His recordings of Bach introduced many Americans, organists and enthusiasts alike, to a new historically informed approach to playing. This Flentrop was truly Biggs’ instrument; he continued to perform and record on it until his death in 1977. The instrument and Biggs’ legacy live on, as the Organ Society hosts a weekly recital series in which the audience can hear the clarity and precision that Biggs so loved about his instrument.

The Skinner and Fisk instruments in Memorial Church replaced the previous 1967 Fisk instrument (Opus 46). Charles Brenton Fisk was a Harvard graduate himself who earned a degree in Physics in 1945, and then decided to pursue his passion for organ building. A committee, which included E. Power Biggs and University organist John Ferris, chose C. B. Fisk, Inc., to build a state-of-the-art mechanical action instrument so that Memorial Church could also participate in the renaissance of classic organ building. Opus 46, installed in 1967 in Appleton Chapel at the east end of the church, was a pioneering instrument. It was the first four-manual tracker instrument ever built in America, and at the time it was the largest tracker in the country. However, it had one major flaw. Given Memorial Church’s unique design with Appleton Chapel enclosed at the front, Opus 46 was intended to be quiet enough for use in morning prayer services in the chapel but loud enough to be able to fill the sanctuary during Sunday services. It became evident that, like its 1932 Aeolian-Skinner predecessor, Opus 46 was not successful at accomplishing this. Under the leadership of the Reverend Professor Peter J. Gomes, a new committee was formed at the turn of the 21st century to determine a solution. With two failed past examples, it was clear that one organ alone could not support musical integrity in Memorial Church worship. The final decision was for Opus 46 to be relocated to Redeemer Presbyterian Church of Austin, Texas in 2010, and for two new organs, complementary yet distinct in nature, to be commissioned.The committee wanted to find a vintage organ for Appleton Chapel that would be suitably quiet for the accompaniment of the morning prayer services, but could also hold its own for organ voluntaries. The winning instrument was the 1930 Skinner Opus 793 from the Second Church of Christ Scientist in Harford, Connecticut, chosen for its versatility in color and texture as well as its two enclosed divisions (both the Swell and Choir divisions are under expression, ideal for choir anthem accompaniment). Foley-Baker of Connecticut restored the instrument to its current condition, and it was dedicated in the fall of 2010 as The Jane Slaughter Hardenbergh Memorial Organ. A visitor to the chapel may not be able to tell that there is an organ in the space. Without a visible façade, the pipework remains hidden in organ chambers behind both side walls of the chapel while the console is tucked away among the choir stalls.

In addition to the Skinner for Appleton Chapel, the committee commissioned a new grand organ for the back gallery, intended to fill the sanctuary space for Sunday services, holidays, and other special events, as well as to serve as a solo instrument on its own. C. B. Fisk, Inc., was again selected to build an instrument for Harvard’s Memorial Church. This time, the organ was designed to accomplish three specific artistic goals: to lead congregational hymn-singing, to accompany choir anthems, and to successfully perform the array of diverse organ repertoire. The result was a magnificently pure yet versatile sound cased in an ornately carved facade with gold-plated pipes. According to current University Organist & Choirmaster Edward Jones, its eclectic mix of stops means that “its sound palette represents the best of French, German, and English organ building, but it speaks with a voice that is distinctly American.” Opus 139 was dedicated on Easter Day 2012 as The Charles B. Fisk and Peter J. Gomes Memorial Organ, in recognition of two of the most influential men of this project who could not live to see the final product. The splendor of Opus 139 can be heard on display in the biweekly Tuesday organ recital series.

Specifications of the Harvard Organs

C. B. Fisk Opus 139, Memorial Church

Installation: 2011
44 voices, 55 ranks, 3110 pipes

Great (Manual I)

Double Diapason 16′
Open Diapason 8′
Gamba 8′
Harmonic Flute 8′
Chimney Flute 8′
Principal 4′
Open Flute 4′
Twelfth 2 2/3′
Fifteenth 2′
Seventeenth 1 3/5′
Mixture IV-VI
Trumpet 8′
Clarion 4′

Positive (Manual II)

Principal 8′
Salicional 8′
Unda maris 8′
Gedackt 8’
Dulciana 8’ prepared
Octave 4′
Chimney Flute 4′
Nasard 2 2/3′
Doublette 2′
Tierce 1 3/5′
Mixture IV
Clarinet 8′
Tuba Mirabilis 8′

Swell (Manual III)

Bourdon 16′
Diapason 8′
Viole de gambe 8′
Voix céleste 8′
Flûte traversière 8′
Bourdon 8′
Prestant 4′
Flûte octaviante 4′
Octavin 2′
Plein jeu IV
Basson 16′
Trompette 8′
Hautbois 8′
Voix humaine 8’ prepared
Clairon 4′ prepared


Sub Principal 32′ ext.
Open Bass 16′
Double Diapason 16′ GT
Bourdon 16′
Quinte 10 2/3′ ext.
Octave 8′
Gamba 8′ from GT
Flute 8′ from GT
Bourdon 8′ ext.
Super Octave 4′
Contra Posaune 32′ ext.
Posaune 16′
Trumpet 8′ alt. GT
Clarion 4′ alt. GT


Swell to Great
Positive to Great
Swell to Positive
Great to Pedal
Positive to Pedal
Swell to Pedal
Swell to Pedal Super
Octaves graves
Flexible Wind
Great & Positive Tremulant
Swell Tremulant

Key action: Direct mechanical (tracker) except for large bass pipes.
Stop action: Electric solenoid.
Combination action: 128 levels of memory with appropriate thumb pistons and toe studs.
Key desk: Built into main case of organ, 3 manuals and pedals, manuals 61 notes CC-c4, cowbone naturals, sharps of ebony. Pedals 32 notes CC-g1.
Casework: A single cabinet of wood located in the rear gallery, designed to harmonize with and adorn the church architecture.

Skinner Opus 793, Appleton Chapel, Memorial Church

Completed in 1930 – Originally located at Second Church of Christ, Scientist; Hartford, Connecticut
Foley-Baker Inc., Tolland, Connecticut Console from Aeolian-Skinner Op. 906, 1933 — renovated Richard S. Houghten, Milan, Michigan
Organ rebuilt and relocated to Appleton Chapel in 2010


16′ Diapason
8′ First Diapason
8′ Second Diapason
8′ Harmonic Flute
4′ Octave
4′ Flute
2′ Fifteenth
Mixture III
8′ Tuba separately
8′ French Horn enclosed
French Horn Tremolo
Great Unison Off
Chimes (2010 addition)


16′ Gamba
8′ Cello
8′ Cello Celeste
8′ Concert Flute
8′ Dulciana
8′ Unda Maris (tenor c)
4′ Fugara
4′ Flute d’Amour
2 2/3′ Nazard
8′ Clarinet
Choir 16
Choir 4
Choir Unison Off
Great Reeds on Choir


16′ Bourdon (2010 addition)
8′ Diapason
8′ Salicional
8′ Voix Celeste
8′ Rohrflöte
8′ Flauto Dolce
8′ Flute Celeste (tenor c)
4′ Octave
4′ Flute
V Chorus Mixture
16′ Waldhorn
8′ Trumpet
8′ Oboe
8′ Vox Humana
4′ Clarion
Swell 16
Swell 4
Swell Unison Off


32′ Bourdon (2010 addition)
16′ Open Diapason
16′ Contrebasse
16′ Bourdon
16′ Gamba (from CH)
16′ Echo Bourdon (from SW)
8′ Octave (ext.)
8′ Cello (ext.)
8′ Gedeckt (ext.)
8′ Still Gedeckt (from SW)
4′ Super Octave (ext. C.B.)
4′ Flute (ext.)
16′ Trombone
8′ Tromba (ext.)


Great to Pedal
Swell to Pedal
Choir to Pedal
Swell to Pedal 4
Choir to Pedal 4
Swell to Great
Choir to Great
Swell to Choir
Choir to Swell
Great to Choir
Swell to Great 16
Choir to Great 16
Swell to Great 4
Choir to Great 4
Swell to Choir 16
Swell to Choir 4

1958 D. A. Flentrop, Adolphus Busch Hall

Made famous by the numerous recordings of E. Power Biggs.


8′ Prestant
8′ Roerfluit
4′ Octaaf
4′ Speelfluit
2 2/3′ Nasard
2′ Vlakfluit
1 3/5′ Terts
IV Mixtuur


8′ Holpijp
4′ Prestant
4′ Roerfluit
2′ Gemshoorn
1 1/3′ Quint
II Mixtuur
8′ Kromhoorn


8′ Zingend Gedekt
4′ Koppelfluit
2′ Prestant
1′ Sifflet
8′ Regaal


16′ Bourdon
8′ Prestant
8′ Gedekt
4′ Fluit
III Mixtuur
16′ Fagot
8′ Trompet


Hoofdwerk to Pedaal
Rugpositief to Pedaal
Borstwerk to Pedaal
Rugpositief to Hoofdwerk
Borstwerk to Hoofdwerk