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United Parish, Brookline, MA

AEolian-Skinner Organ Company, Inc. Opus 885, 1932

Photo by Len Levasseur

Photo by Len Levasseur


The morning after a disastrous fire ripped through Harvard Congregational Church (now United Parish) in Brookline’s Coolidge Corner neighborhood, Ernest Skinner, making the short drive from his home in Chestnut Hill, was on site offering condolences, and, of course, his services to build a new organ for the rebuilt church. Shortly after the merger of his company with the AEolian Co., Skinner would have complete control over the design, installation, and finishing of this instrument, one of his last before leaving the company.

With many luxuries for an instrument of modest size (high-pressure Solo division, separate Chapel organ with its own console, also playable from the main console as an Echo organ, 32′ Fagotto and Bourdon), the instrument also was equipped with an infamous vertical selector combination action. A complete redesign of the earlier Skinner capture combination action, the vertical selector went through many alterations and improvements, before finally being retired in favor of the earlier action, which provided less trouble, and was, in most cases, more responsive.

By 2007, the console’s mechanism was failing, due to aging leather and seventy years of use. Spencer Organ Company performed a complete restoration of the console, funded in part by the Joseph Bradley Foundation. The console case and interior were refinished, the manual keyboards recovered in ivory, and the combination action successfully restored. Despite the vertical selector’s notoriety for difficulty of restoration and sluggish response even under the best conditions, Opus 885’s combination action performs with rapidity and precision, a testament to its original design and construction.

Spencer Organ Company previously undertook a complete restoration of the Great division.

The organ, tonally and mechanically unaltered, received an Historic Organ Citation (#258) from the Organ Historical Society in 2000.

Great:
16′ Diapason
8′ First Diapason
8′ Second Diapason
8′ Harmonic Flute
8′ Erzahler
4′ Octave
2 2/3′ Twelfth
2′ Fifteenth
IV Harmonics
8′ Trumpet

Swell:
16′ Bourdon
8′ Diapason
8′ Rohrflote
8′ Salicional
8′ Voix Celeste
8′ Flute Celeste II
4′ Octave
4′ Flute Triangulaire
2′ Flautino
V Mixture
16′ Waldhorn
8′ Cornopean
8′ Oboe
8′ Vox Humana
4′ Clarion
Tremolo
Harp (Choir)
Celesta (Choir)

Choir:
16′ Klein Erzahler
8′ Geigen Diapason
8′ Concert Flute
8′ Klein Erzahler
8′ Erzahler Celeste (tc)
4′ Flute d’Amour
2 2/3′ Nazard
8′ Clarinet
Tremolo
Harp
Celesta

Solo – Echo:
8′ French Horn
8′ English Horn
Cathedral Chimes
8′ Diapason
8′ Gedeckt
8′ Dolce
8′ Unda Maris (tc)
4′ Flauto Traverso
8′ Flugel Horn
Tremolo

Pedal:
32′ Contra Bourdon
16′ Diapason
16′ Diapason (Great)
16′ Bourdon
16′ Echo Lieblich (Swell)
16′ Echo Bourdon (Echo)
16′ Klein Erzahler (Choir)
8′ Octave
8′ Gedeckt
8′ Still Gedeckt (Swell)
32′ Fagotto
16′ Trombone
16′ Waldhorn (Swell)
8′ Tromba
Chimes (Solo)