The Austin Organ

The Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea houses a magnificent organ comprising more than 6000 pipes, built in 1999 by Austin Organs, Inc., of Hartford, Connecticut. A mobile four-manual console is located in the choir stalls, recessing into the floor for services and raising up to roll into the center aisle for concerts and recitals. The gallery at the west end of the building houses a duplicate console, enabling artists to play from either location or to play the organ as two independent instruments.

As one of the largest and finest instruments in the south, the organ contains 109 ranks of pipes, distributed over nine divisions, allowing the organist to blend multiple choruses from around the building. Designed with utmost versatility in mind, such an extensive instrument can offer subtlety and a variety of colors and expression beyond the capabilities of most instruments.

With roughly one-third of the organ pipes located in the rear gallery, these divisions lead the congregation nobly through the profound theology of the hymns of the Church. Notable here is the “en chamade” trumpet, mounted horizontally on the striking façade to speak directly down the nave. A 3-rank Chant organ, located above the Chancel console, offers small-scale possibilities, such as continuo and verse anthem accompaniments. The bulk of the pipes reside behind the pipe façades on the north side of the church, where the choir stalls meet the nave. These divisions play all of the colors of the orchestra and full choruses as well, perfect for accompanying the choir and filling the building with warm, energized sonorities.

This instrument is an ideal vehicle for congregational and choral accompaniment as it plays for multiple services each week of the year, serving beautiful liturgical offerings that include an excellent, professional choral program. The resourceful variety of timbre also make it a superb instrument for improvisation, and for organ and orchestral repertoire in all styles. It plays major organ repertoire both at services and in concerts on a regular basis, playing a vital part in our ministry to the community and beyond, thanks to an audio/video system that records and streams our programs. Frequently used for teaching, the Austin organ attracts events from the American Guild of Organists and the Association of Anglican Musicians, among others.

The Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea cherishes this instrument and takes every opportunity to sing God’s praises with heartfelt voice and pipe.

Click here to view the organ specifications.

For more information, please contact Dr. Stuart Forster, Associate for Music and Liturgy.