The Roche organ at The Church of the Pilgrimage was dedicated November
24, 1991, at a dedicatory recital performed by Brian Jones, and it has
a history that, though not nearly as long nor as impressive as that of
the congregation that it now serves, is also a pilgrimage of sorts.
1894, the Boston firm of Jesse Woodbury and Company installed a new,
three-manual organ in the Baptist Temple on South Main Street in Fall
River. This instrument contained 33 speaking registers and 2164 pipes
controlled by an attached console with a tubular-pneumatic keyaction
mechanism. Located at the front of the church, it had casework of quartered
oak and facade pipes stenciled in gold and colors, as was the style
in that era.
The dedicatory recital was played on Tuesday evening, Sept. 25, 1894,
by the noted New York organist Samuel P. Warren, accompanied by a soprano
and a tenor.
In 1926 a fire in the Baptist Temple building necessitated an extensive
rebuilding of the structure. Although the Woodbury organ survived with
only minor damage, it was extensively remodeled by William W. Laws of
Massachusetts to suit the new church, which reopened in November of 1927.
At this time the organ was electrified and a new electric stop-key console
was built. All of the organ's pipes and mechanisms were relocated into
a side chamber high above the pulpit platform. Its sound reached the
auditorium through a grille in the ceiling.
In 1972 the Baptist Temple signed a contract with the Roche Organ Company
to build a new instrument, its Opus No. 14, which would incorporate some
parts of the existing organ. The original Woodbury slider/pallet manual
windchests were rebuilt in a new all-electric pulldown mechanism. Some
of the original bass pipes were also retained and reworked. However,
the majority of the stops were replaced with new pipework. The wind system
was also replaced and a new mahogany drawknob console was provided.
The expectation during this rebuilding was that at some future date the
congregation would sell its downtown building and move, along with the
organ, to a new building to be raised on land that had been acquired
for that purpose in the northern end of Fall River. Therefore no changes
were made to the existing layout of the organ or its acoustically unfavorable
location in the building. These changes, it was agreed, would be deferred
until the anticipated move. The dedicatory recital was Nov. 2, 1975,
by the late organist Alan G. Brown.
In 1987 the Baptist Temple building was sold to a community organization
for use as a cultural center. However, it soon became obvious that the
expense of rebuilding would far exceed the amount realized from sale
of the old property, and the church reluctantly decided to offer the
organ for sale.
As these events were transpiring in Fall River, the music committee
of The Church of the Pilgrimage, in consultation with Brian Jones,
options for replacing their aging Allen electronic organ with a real
pipe organ. On a rainy night in October, 1987, the committee and
Mr. Jones visited the Baptist Temple to see and hear the Roche organ
Based upon the committee's enthusiastic report and recommendation,
in March of 1988 The Church of the Pilgrimage purchased the Baptist
organ, and the organ's "pilgrimage" to Plymouth began. Over
a period of two weeks the instrument was disassembled by Roche personnel,
with assistance from Church of the Pilgrimage volunteers and the church's
Boy Scout troop. The entire organ, weighing over 15,000 pounds, was transported
by moving van to the basement of the Newfield House Convalescent Home,
in Plymouth, where it was stored to await its turn in the Roche Organ
Company's work schedule.
ABOUT THE "NEW" ORGAN
During the summer of
1990 the front of the church sanctuary was extensively remodeled
the installation of the organ. Architect Frank Olney of Johnson
Olney Associates, Inc., of Boston, in consultation with the
and the church's organ committee, musicians and ministers drew
up the plans. The principal goals were to provide the organ
acoustically favorable siting and to increase the space and
versatility of the pulpit platform to accommodate a wide variety
and musical events.
In order to provide a visual and acoustical balance in the
front of the sanctuary, the instrument was split in half. The
pipes and mechanisms
of the Swell (Manual III) and Pedal divisions are located in the
chamber on the left (Burial Hill) side of the chancel. The
great (Manual II)
and Choir (Manual I) divisions, as well as the nine largest pipes
of the Pedal 32-foot Contra Bourdon, are located on the right
Each half is really an organ in itself, with its own structural,
electrical, and wind systems.
The matching case facades on each side contain the largest speaking
pipes of the Great 8-foot Principal (right facade) and the Pedal
8-foot Octave (left facade). They thus provide a functional
and attractive screen for the interior mechanisms of the organ,
good egress of tone. The hand-carved ornamental pipe shades above
the pipes are modeled after those on an organ built in 1830 by
builder Thomas Appleton, which is now in the Metropolitan Museum
of Art in New York City. Michael Wise of Portsmouth, New Hampshire
flat pipe shades. Christopher Alden of the Roche staff carved the
rounded ones in the towers.
Behind the elegant Classic Revival facades the nineteenth century
ends and twentieth century engineering takes over. Because the
instrument is now divided and has radically different layout from
that in its
previous home, new steel structural frames were designed and built
support the pipes and mechanisms on each side. Each frame contains
over eleven hundred pounds of steel and nearly two hundred bolted
In addition to the new framework, two totally new swell boxes were
designed and built to enclose the pipes of the swell and choir
swell boxes are, in effect, small rooms with louvered fronts, which
can be opened and closed by means of pedals at the console, thereby
the enclosed pipework acoustically expressive.
Each chamber has its own wind system with its own high-speed three-phase,
one- horsepower blower. Each of these blowers pumps wind to a series
of bellows and wind regulators which supply the pipework with air
at pressures ranging from two and three-quarters inches to four
and a half
inches water column.
Each half of the organ, as well as the console, has its own 15-volt
DC powers supply. The electrical signals from the console are sent
chambers through four 100-wire cables, two cables going to each
chamber. Inside each chamber a solid-state relay amplifies the
from the console and sends it to the heavy-duty solenoids, which
open the windchests, valves and sliders.
In order to make optimum use of the space within the chambers and
ensure that the bass waves of the largest pipes have good projection
the church, some pedal pipes have been placed in unconventional,
effective, positions. The largest pipes of the Pedal 16-foot subbass
are mounted horizontally at the top of the left chamber, with their
mouths just above the opening at the top of the case facade.
Likewise, the nine lowest pipes of the Pedal 32-foot Contra Bourdon,
the lowest frequencies in the organ (19-30 Hz), are mounted upside
down on the back wall of the right chamber. This also permits the
passage from the minister's study to the pulpit platform to continue
In the course of the remodeling of the organ for its new home several
sets of pipes were totally or partially replaced. The Great 8-foot
Principal and Pedal 8-foot Octave received new basses that are
the pipes displayed
in the facades.
The twelve lowest pipes of the Great 16-foot
Gedeckt Pommer are now of wood, instead of metal. The previous
pair of Choir
string stops has been replaced with an 8-foot Flauto Dolce and
8-foot Flute Celeste, which were scaled and voiced in 1949 by the
American organbuilder Ernest M. Skinner. There is now an 8-foot
Oboe in place
of the previous Swell 8-foot Vox Humana. The rest of the organ's
pipework has been carefully reregulated for optimum sound in the
The end result of all of this reworking is an instrument that is
admirably suited to its new surroundings, both visually and tonally.
Like a fine
gemstone remounted in a different setting, it manifests itself
in a new aspect, yet retains its fine original character. Because
of the great
amounts of labor and materials which went into the remaking of
Roche Opus No. 14 for its new home -- almost as much as would take
a new instrument -- it was decided that in its transformed condition
it merited a new opus number, No. 34.
This text, with a few changes for publication here, was written
by Matthew-Michael Bellocchio of the Roche Organ Company.
Employees of the Roche Organ company who participated in Opus
No. 34 are:
Christopher Alden - pipe shades, bookkeeping
Matthew-Michael Belloccio - design and engineering
Bruce Gardzina - windchests, wiring, structure
Michael Morris - installation, tonal finishing
F. Robert Roche - installation, tonal finishing
Michael Tigano - installation, swell boxes
Brian Wicherski - installation, tonal finishing