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The Met's Mighty Pipe Organ

Jayson Dobney, Associate Curator and Administrator, Department of Musical Instruments

Posted: Monday, May 5, 2014

Thomas Appleton (1785–1872). Pipe Organ

Thomas Appleton (American, 1785–1872). Pipe Organ, 1830. Wood, various materials. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Margaret M. Hess Gift, in memory of her father, John D. McCarty, 1982 (1982.59)

«One of the frequently asked questions by visitors to The André Mertens Galleries for Musical Instruments is whether the large organ that presides over the equestrian court is ever played. The answer, in fact, is yes—the beautiful instrument with gold-leaf façade pipes in a fifteen-foot-tall Greek Revival–style case is used several times a year in demonstrations and concerts for the public, and can also be heard on a variety of commercially available recordings.»

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George Frideric Handel (arranged by John Walsh), "Alla Hornpipe" from Water Musick. Performed on the Museum's 1830 Appleton organ by Martin Souter, from Sounds of Splendor, Isis Records, 1998

The organ will once again be played on Wednesday, May 7, as part of the Department of Musical Instruments' free monthly gallery concerts. This month's concert will feature Paul Vasile, currently the Minister of Music at Park Avenue Christian Church in New York.

The organ represents the oldest extant product of the renowned craftsman Thomas Appleton (1785–1872). Appleton was the son of a carpenter and began his wood-working studies while apprenticed with cabinet maker Elisha Larned. In 1807, he began working with organ builder William Goodrich, and went on to also form an important partnership with piano maker Alpheus Babcock before opening his own workshop in 1820.

The Museum's Appleton organ, dated 1830, is believed to have been built for South Church in Hartford, Connecticut, before being moved by organ builder Emmons Howard to Sacred Heart Church in Plains, Pennsylvania, in 1883. At that time, Howard expanded the instrument with the twenty-seven-note pedalboard that the organ retains to this day. By 1980, it was discovered by organ enthusiasts who notified the Museum that this magnificent instrument was no longer being used, and in 1983, the organ was officially installed in its current location at the Met.

The organ comprises sixteen ranks that total 836 pipes, and has two fifty-eight-note manuals as well as the pedalboard previously mentioned. Wind is supplied by either hand-pumped bellows or an electric blower that was added by the Museum. The pipes of the upper (swell) manual are mainly enclosed in an elevated box, with louvres that can be opened by means of a pedal for dynamic expression.

Stop List

Great (Lower Manual)     Swell (Upper Manual)     Pedal     Couplers
                   
Open diapason 8'
    Open diapason 8'
    Subbass 16'           Swell to Great
Stopt diapason 8'
    Stopt diapason 8'
          Swell to Pedal
Stopt diapason bass 8'      
    Stopt diapason bass 8'      
          Great to Pedal
Dulciana 8'
    (Unenclosed)            
Principal 4'     Principal 4'            
Flute 4'     Hautboy 8'            
Twelfth 2 2/3'                  
Fifteenth 2'                  
Sesquialtera III
                 
Trumpet treble 8'
                 
Trumpet bass 8'                  

Follow Jayson on Twitter: @JayKerrDobney


Related Link
Gallery Concert: Paul Vasile, Organ

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About the Author

Jayson Dobney is an associate curator and administrator in the Department of Musical Instruments.

About this Blog

The Museum's collection of musical instruments includes approximately five thousand examples from six continents and the Pacific Islands, dating from about 300 B.C. to the present. It illustrates the development of musical instruments from all cultures and eras. On this blog, curators and guests will share information about this extraordinary collection, its storied history, the department's public activities, and some of the audio and video recordings from our archives.