Boardwalk Hall Auditorium Organ
The Boardwalk Hall Auditorium Organ is the pipe organ in the Main Auditorium of the Boardwalk Hall (formerly known as the Atlantic City Convention Hall) in Atlantic City, New Jersey, built by the Midmer-Losh Organ Company. It is the largest organ in the world, as measured by the number of pipes (officially 33,112, but the exact number is unknown).
The main auditorium is 487×288×137 feet (148×88×42 m) with a floor area of 140,000 square feet (13,000 m2), giving a volume of 5,500,000 cubic feet (160,000 m3). Consequently, the organ runs on much higher wind pressures than most organs in order to achieve a volume loud enough to fill the hall.
The organ has four entries in Guinness World Records, including "Largest pipe organ ever constructed", "Largest musical instrument ever constructed" and "Loudest musical instrument ever constructed", and holds several records in the organ world. It is one of only two organs in the world to have an open 64-foot rank, and the only organ to have stops voiced on 100 inches of wind pressure (about 3.6 psi). Its console features seven manuals.
Construction and layout
Construction of the organ took place between May 1929 and December 1932. The organ was designed by state senator Emerson Lewis Richards and was built by the Midmer-Losh Organ Company of Merrick, New York. Most of the pipes were built by Midmer-Losh. Anton Gottfried made some of the reed pipes, including the Brass Trumpet, Egyptian Horn, Euphone and Musette Mirabilis. The German firm Welte-Mignon provided the Bassoon with papier-mâché resonators and wooden Tuba d'Amour for the Echo division.
The organ is built around the Main Auditorium of the Boardwalk Hall. The organs divisions are divided across 8 organ chambers, as follows:
Swell, String I
Pedal Right, Perc-
ussion, Great, Solo
Gallery III (Diap's)
Gallery IV (Orch)
|The Upper chambers are located above the Center chambers||Right Upper
Gallery I (Reeds)
Gallery II (Flutes)
The current layout of the organ was Emerson Richards' third design. The first design was to house 43,000 pipes in six chambers (all mentioned above without the two Forward chambers), but the quoted cost greatly exceeded the allocated $300,000, and there wasn't enough space to house all the pipes. The numbers of pipes was then reduced to 29,000. Later, when the Forward Chambers were also used, some stops from the original plan were reinstated, raising the numbers of pipes to the present official number of 33,114 (see also below). The contract price was $347,200.
The organ's main console is the biggest in the world. It has 1,235 stop tabs controlling 587 flue stops, 265 reed stops, 35 melodic percussions, 46 non-melodic percussions, 164 couplers, 18 tremolos, 120 swell pedal selectors for the 6 swell pedals controlling 15 swell boxes, and a stop crescendo pedal. The console is also the only one in the world with 7 manuals. The lowest two (Choir and Great) have a range of seven octaves, and the next lowest (Swell) has a range of six octaves, while the rest have a normal five octave range. The bottom five keys on the Swell manual (GGG to BBB,) are in place mainly for cosmetic reasons, as there are no pipes, in most ranks, for those notes. The manuals from top to bottom are:
|VII||Bombard||5 Octaves, 61 Keys, CC to c4|
|VI||Echo||5 Octaves, 61 Keys, CC to c4|
|V||Fanfare||5 Octaves, 61 Keys, CC to c4|
|IV||Solo||5 Octaves, 61 Keys, CC to c4|
|III||Swell||6 Octaves, 73 Keys, GGG to g4|
|II||Great||7 Octaves, 85 Keys, CCC to c5|
|I||Choir||7 Octaves, 85 Keys, CCC to c5|
The Great and Choir manuals have been enlarged to seven octaves so that specially extended stops in the pedal can be played throughout the 85 note compass of both manuals. These stops can be selected by stop-keys in two divisions in the right stop jamb. The Grand Great (for the Great Manual) controls stops from the Pedal Right and the Grand Choir (for the Choir Manual) controls stops from the Pedal Left. For example, the Grand Ophicleide can be played from the pedalboard, but also from the Great manual by means of the Grand Great.
Also, some divisions are playable on two manuals. For example, the Choir-Swell division is usually played from the Choir manual, but it has been duplexed stop key for stop key to the Swell manual, so that all the stops can also be played from there as the Swell-Choir, no matter what stops are drawn on the Choir manual. The same is true for the Great-Solo, which is usually played from the Great manual, but can also be played as the Solo-Great from the Solo manual.
Although the four Gallery divisions can be played from any manual, their "home" is the Bombard manual. Not only are they the only divisions playable from it, but its keyslip contains the pistons for the Gallery organ.
In addition to 852 stopkeys controlling the speaking stops summarised above, the organ console also has the following:
- 35 melodic percussion stopkeys
- 46 non-melodic percussion stopkeys
- 18 individual tremolo stopkeys, plus one "master tremolo" stopkey
- 164 couplers
- 120 swell pedal selectives
The organ possesses a unique stop in the organ world, the 64-foot Diaphone-Dulzian in the Right Stage chamber (Pedal Right division), one of only two true 64-foot stops in the world. (The other 64-foot stop is the Contra-Trombone reed stop in the Sydney Town Hall Grand Organ.) The stop is unique, because it is a reed/diaphone hybrid.
When construction of the organ commenced, it was planned to have two 64-foot stops in the pedal, a Diaphone Profunda and a Dulzian. Later, the design was revised, and the Diaphone was cut, because it was feared it would crowd the Right Stage chamber (due to the width of the pipes). Consequently, the Dulzian was moved to the Right Stage chamber. However, the sound of the 64-foot Dulzian did not meet the criteria, requiring Diaphone pipes to be used for the lowest 22 notes. The remaining pipes in the rank are reeds. Because of the low frequencies involved, and because the diaphone is voiced to imitate a reed stop, the transition from reed to diaphone cannot be heard.
The Diaphone-Dulzian's low-C pipe stands 59 feet (18 m) tall, weighs 3,350 pounds (1,520 kg), and produces a frequency of 8 Hz, a tone that is more felt than heard; the sound of the vibrating pallet is described as "a helicopter hovering over the building". The pipe stands upright for about 40 feet (12 m), the remainder is mitred (turned) towards the Right Stage chamber's grill. All pipes taller than 32 feet (9.8 m) are designed in this manner.
The Diaphone-Dulzian rank spans from C3 to g2; it is sufficiently extended so that the 64-, 32-, 16-, 8- and 4-foot unison stops, and the 42 2⁄3-foot, 21 1⁄3-foot and 10 2⁄3-foot mutation stops, may be drawn from the same rank. No other extension rank in the world spans that far. Also, when the 64-foot and 42 2⁄3-foot are combined, the resultant tone simulates a 128-foot stop, equivalent to a 4 Hz tone on low C.
The Grand Ophicleide in the organ's Pedal Right division, speaking on 100" wind pressure, is recognized by Guinness World Records as the loudest organ stop in the world. It is described as having "a pure trumpet note of ear-splitting volume, more than six times the volume of the loudest locomotive whistle." The Grand Ophicleide produces up to 130 decibels at a distance of 1 meter.
Because of the high pressure on which the pipes stand, they must be tightly secured to the pipe chest, with individual parts secured to each other. If any wind leaks, a whistle, almost as loud as the tone of the pipes themselves, may be heard. Completing the rank presented a problem; the highest 12 notes are produced by special flue pipes having a similar voice and timbre. All of the reed pipes use weighted tongues. The tuning wires are held firmly in place to maintain the correct tuning.
The Grand Ophicleide rank is extended one octave above the 16' unison rank, allowing an 8' register to be drawn from the rank; it is playable from the 85-key Great manual and from the 32-key pedalboard.
To provide all the power needed in the pedal, the organ has ten 32-foot stops:
|Tibia Clausa 32′||Pedal Right|
|Bombardon 32′||Pedal Right|
|Diaphone 32′||Pedal Left|
|Diapason 32′||Pedal Left|
|Bombard 32′||Pedal Left|
|Fagotto 32′||Pedal Left|
|Sub Principal 32′||Great|
|(Diaphone-Dulzian 32′, extension of 64′)||(Pedal Right)|
The organ has been recognized by Guinness World Records as the largest musical instrument, the loudest musical instrument and the largest pipe organ ever constructed, although some debate still exists about the last. Guinness also recognizes the Grand Ophicleide 16′ in the Pedal Right division to be the loudest organ stop in the world.
The organ was recognized by the Organ Historical Society as an instrument "of historical value and worthy of preservation" as part of its Historic Organs Citations program. The Citation, No. 313, was presented to the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority by Paul Marchesano on October 26, 2004.
Officially, the organ has 33,112 pipes, but the exact number of pipes is unknown. A detailed survey conducted in 1999 concluded that the organ had 33,114 pipes, recently revised it to 33,116 after the discovery that one rank went down two notes lower than specified in the organ builder's contract. It is very hard to determine exactly how many pipes the organ has, also due to the condition the organ is in (see "Current state" below).
The organ is the only one in the world to have stops standing on 100 inches wind pressure. It is also the only organ to have two 32-foot; pedal stops on 50 inches wind pressure. There are two more organs in the world with stops on 50 inches, but these are 8-foot; solo trumpet or tuba stops. 100 inches wind pressure (equivalent to 3.56 psi or 0.25 bars) is about 30 times more than a normal organ stop (even high-pressure stops usually only stand on 10 to 12 inches). The organ has four stops on 100 inches (also known as the Big Reeds) and ten stops on 50 inches wind pressure:
|Grand Ophicleide 16′||Pedal Right||100"|
|Tuba Imperial 8′||Solo||100"|
|Trumpet Mirabilis 16′||Gallery I||100"|
|Tuba Maxima 8′||Gallery I||100"|
|Diaphone 32′||Pedal Left||50"|
|Tuba Magna 16′||Solo||50"|
|Bombard 32′||Pedal Left||50"|
|Major Posaune 16′||Pedal Left||50"|
|Diaphone Phonon 16′||Pedal Right||50"|
|Harmonic Tuba 8′||Fanfare||50"|
|Major Clarion 4′||Fanfare||50"|
Apart from the aforementioned stops on record wind pressure, almost every division stands on at least 15 inches wind pressure, except for the Choir which stands on 10 inches, and the Unenclosed Choir stands on 3". Also, some individual stops stand on lower wind pressure, for example, the Diapason X of the Great division stands on only 4 inches.
The organ's wind supply is the most powerful ever used in a pipe organ. The DC motors for the original eight blowers had a total power of 394 horsepower (294 kW). These were replaced with AC motors in the early 1990s, which have a total of 600 horsepower (450 kW) and their seven blowers pump 36,400 cubic feet (1,030 m3) of wind per minute. The Right Stage chamber has two blowers, a 50-inch (1,300 mm) blower and a low pressure blower, which also provides wind for the Right Forward chamber. The same is true for the Left Stage chamber. The Left Center chamber and Left Upper chamber don't need high wind pressure, and therefore a shared blower suffices, which is also true for the Right Center and Right Upper chambers. The four 100" stops receive wind from an extra blower located behind the Right Stage chamber, coupled with wind from the 50 inch blower.
It has been debated that the Wanamaker Grand Court Organ is bigger than the Main Auditorium organ. The Wanamaker Organ has more ranks (464 opposed to 449 of the Main Auditorium organ). From that perspective, the Wanamaker Organ would be like an orchestra that had more players in it. The Wanamaker Organ reputedly weighs almost twice as much (287 tons opposed to the approximated 150 tons of the Main Auditorium Organ). The issue was clouded in decades past when Wanamaker staffers exaggerated the pipe count (28,482 pipes) to 30,067 pipes by listing some 61-note chests as having 73 notes (12 additional per stop in the super-coupler range). Wanamaker staffers believed at the time that the Atlantic City figures had also been exaggerated. Reluctance of the Atlantic City staff to show portions of their instrument that had sustained damage further clouded the issue.
The Auditorium organ has almost 5,000 more pipes and has four entries in Guinness World Records. The Wanamaker Organ, however, is also listed in Guinness. Unlike the Atlantic City Organ, it is not highly unified, with ranks of pipes being "tapped" at 16-, 8-, 4-, 2 2⁄3-foot, etc. pitches. Each instrument has a different artistic aim and plays into an entirely different space.
State in 2014
Although the instrument has not been fully functional since the 1944 Great Atlantic Hurricane, the 15-20% that has recently become operational has begun to be heard for the first time publicly in many decades. The organ was played in September 2013 during the Miss America pageant, its first public performance in 40 years. Since May 2014, free half-hour noon concerts followed by free half-hour tours are offered Monday through Friday from May through October, excluding holidays. As of May 2015[update], in-depth "behind the scenes" tours are available weekly on Wednesdays at 10 a.m. throughout the year.
Both organs of the hall (the Ballroom features a 4/55 Kimball opus 7073) have begun to slowly return to the regular musical life of the building as their mechanical condition permits.
The current restoration project led by the Historic Organ Restoration Committee (HORC, a 501c3 organization) is a $16M project entirely funded by donations from the general public and charitable foundations and is scheduled to complete the restoration of both organs by July 1, 2023. Since the inception of the project, 2014 is the first year that the restoration effort has been fully funded. The restoration effort focuses on the re-leathering of the entire instrument as well as the correction of damage to pipework and mechanical systems sustained from construction and water in the intervening years. The upper chambers (Fanfare, Echo, and String III divisions) had long been inaccessible due to the presence of asbestos, which has recently been removed.
HORC estimates that as much as 50% of the main organ may be operational by the summer of 2016 if the project continues to receive such favorable public reception and funding.
Dr. Steven Ball was named titular organist on July 1, 2013. As of March 26, 2015 HORC is conducting an international search for a full-time curator for both instruments. On September 1, 2015 Nathan Bryson became the fifth Curator of Organs at Boardwalk Hall. Full restoration of the organ is estimated to cost up to $13 million.
In September 1998, a part of the organ (the Right Stage chamber) was restored to playable condition. Afterwards, a recording session took place, which captured the organ's record holders (the 64′ Diaphone-Dulzian, and the 100″ Tuba Imperial and Grand Ophicleide). This was made possible by a $1.17 million grant from the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which was used to return the Right Stage Chamber of the Main Auditorium organ and the entire Ballroom (Kimball) Organ to playable condition.
Due to lack of planning and oversight and the carelessness of workmen during the renovation of the Boardwalk Hall, much damage was done to the organ. Pipes were removed, bent, and stepped on. (Organ pipes are made from soft alloys based on lead, so it is very easy to dent or crush them.) Windlines to various pipe chambers were cut, with no effort to identify the lines, nor any plans to re-route or repair them. The relay for the left stage chamber was cut out without regard to its restoration, and various switching and control cables were cut. The 5-manual console connection was cut. Also, cement dust entered the switching contacts, magnets and the organ pipes. All this left the entire organ damaged and the Right Stage chamber, which was 98% operational in 1998, was completely disabled. The relay of the Ballroom Organ was also removed in a careless way, which rendered that organ unplayable as well. It has currently been returned to service and is now featured in an annual silent film series
- "Your Questions... Answered: How many pipes does the Midmer-Losh organ have?". Atlantic City Convention Hall Organ Society. Archived from the original on 2011-06-15. Retrieved 2012-06-25.
- Smith, Stephen D. (2002). Atlantic City's Musical Masterpiece. The Atlantic City Convention Hall Organ Society. ISBN 978-0-9708494-4-1.
- "Midmer-Losh". Boardwalk Hall. 2014. Retrieved 2014-11-19.
- "Main Auditorium Organ". Atlantic City Convention Hall Organ Society. Archived from the original on 2011-07-24. Retrieved 2012-06-25.
- "World's Largest Organ Has Seven Manuals' Popular Mechanics, March 1933
- "Highlights: The Midmer-Losh Organ". Atlantic City Convention Hall Organ Society. Archived from the original on 2011-07-24. Retrieved 2014-11-18.
- "Your Questions... Answered: On the Midmer-Losh Organ, why do some of the main console's manuals have more keys than others?". Atlantic City Convention Hall Organ Society. Archived from the original on 2011-06-15. Retrieved 2012-06-25.
- "Main Auditorium Organ ~ Stop List". Atlantic City Convention Hall Organ Society. Archived from the original on 2011-07-24. Retrieved 2012-06-25.
The Great-Solo department (on the Great manual) is duplexed, stop-key for stop-key, to the Solo keyboard from where it is playable as the Solo-Great. Similarly, the Swell-Choir is also available on the Choir manual as the Choir-Swell.
- Smith, Stephen D. (Fall 2001). "The Gallery Organs" (PDF). The Grand Ophicleide. Atlantic City Convention Hall Organ Society (13): 7. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-24. Retrieved 2012-06-25.
On the main console, the Bombard (seventh) manual has no speaking stops of its own and is, in effect, a coupler keyboard (from which only the four Gallery organs can be played). However, as its keyslip contains the pistons for the Gallery organs and because specially designated "Master" couplers are provided for coupling them to the Bombard, it is quite clear that this manual was intended to be a "boarding house", if not a "home", for these floating departments.
- Smith, Stephen D. (2001). "The World's Largest Organ Pipes" (PDF). The Grand Ophicleide. Atlantic City Convention Hall Organ Society (14): 5–9. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-24. Retrieved 2012-06-25.
- Currie, Tom (Aug 16, 2012). "The 10 Largest Instruments Ever". AOL, Inc. Retrieved 30 December 2014.
- Smith, Stephen D. (Summer 2002). "The Beginnings Of The World's Largest Pipe Organ" (PDF). The Grand Ophicleide. Atlantic City Convention Hall Organ Society (16): 8. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-24. Retrieved 2016-10-18.
- "Historic Organ Citations". Organ Historical Society. Retrieved 2014-11-19.
- Smith, Stephen D. "Five Days In Six Chambers" (PDF). The Grand Ophicleide. Atlantic City Convention Hall Organ Society (4): 7–14. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-24. Retrieved 2012-06-25.
- Rosenberg, Amy (March 31, 2014). "Boardwalk Hall organ will again accompany a silent movie". Philly.com. The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
- Hess & Son, Fred (2001). Smith, Stephen D., ed. The Atlantic City Convention Hall Organ. Peter E. Randall Publisher. ISBN 978-0-9708494-1-0.
- Smith, Stephen D. (1999). "The World's Largest Pipe Organ". American Theatre Organ Society. Archived from the original on 2010-12-12. Retrieved 2014-11-18.
- Smith, Stephen D. (2000). "Atlantic City Update" (PDF). The Grand Ophicleide. Atlantic City Convention Hall Organ Society (10): 7. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-24. Retrieved 2014-11-19.
- "News: Update -- October 2008". Atlantic City Convention Hall Organ Society. Archived from the original on 2011-07-24. Retrieved 2014-11-18.
- Smith, Stephen D. (2002). "New Problems" (PDF). The Grand Ophicleide. Atlantic City Convention Hall Organ Society (17): 8. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-24. Retrieved 2014-11-19.
- Historic Organ Restoration Committee Official website for the Historic Organ Restoration Committee
- Boardwalk Hall Official website for the Pipe Organs of Boardwalk Hall
- Boardwalk Pipes Stephen D. Smith's book Atlantic City's Musical Masterpiece online
- Organ Historical Society
- The entire stoplist of the Auditorium organ on The Organ Site (in German)
- Ultimate Restorations web site; see also their video program and short pieces.