Assembly Hall Organ
Number of Pipes: 3,489
Number of Voices: 49
Number of Ranks: 65
Little information exists concerning the first organ installed in the Assembly Hall. A newspaper article from 1878 explains only that “a few parts of the organ that was in the Old Tabernacle are being used in its construction, but as it is being enlarged, with additional pipes, bellows, stops, etc., it can really be called a new organ” (Deseret News, Nov. 27, 1878).
The original Assembly Hall organ remained in use until 1913, when it was removed to make room for a new three-manual organ of 35 ranks. That instrument, a tubular-pneumatic Kimball organ, was subsequently electrified in 1923 and equipped with a new console in 1961.
The year 1980 was significant both as the centennial year for the Assembly Hall and the sesquicentennial anniversary of the founding of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In anticipation of both events, it was decided that a new organ for the Assembly Hall would be part of a fitting commemoration. Funds for the new instrument were raised privately, and in September 1978, the contract was awarded to Robert L. Sipe, Inc. of Dallas, Texas. After the contract was signed, a structural problem discovered in the large wooden trusses in the Assembly Hall attic set off a chain of events that eventually culminated in a renovation of the entire building. The extensive construction and restorative work delayed the organ’s installation until October 1982, and the instrument was completed in the spring of 1983.
The Sipe organ, in several respects, may be viewed as a continuation of the same tonal concepts that are the basis for the Tabernacle organ. The concern for eclecticism (the organ’s ability to have music from all periods and national schools convincingly played on it), together with the influence of classical principles of design and construction, were the guiding forces in both instruments. Both builders utilized the finest available materials and workmanship. While each instrument has its own personality, both are characterized by warmth and versatility. These parallels are not surprising, for Robert Sipe was affiliated, early in his career, with the Æolian-Skinner firm, where he came in close contact with the work of G. Donald Harrison.
The Assembly Hall organ is fully encased, meaning that each division of the instrument is housed in a discrete enclosure whose only opening is directly to the front. The case thus serves to project the organ’s sound into the room and enhances its cohesiveness. The case is made of white oak. The decorative carvings (which depict various symbols meaningful in the LDS faith) and millwork were designed by James McCrea of the Church Architect’s Office in consultation with Mr. Sipe and were executed by local carvers and woodworkers under the supervision of Fetzers Inc.
The pedal pipes visible in the organ’s façade are made of flamed copper; those of the Great and Positiv divisions are of burnished metal containing ninety percent tin. Pipes behind the façade are made of various woods and metal alloys.
The organ contains 49 stops (65 ranks with 3,489 individual pipes) in three manual divisions, plus a complete, fully independent pedal division. The detached console is situated between the main and Positiv cases, with the organist facing the main case. The key action is mechanical (tracker); the stop action is electric. The solid-state combination action includes 32 memory levels as well as a USB slot for external memory. An optional electric coupler is available for use when coupling the Swell division in order to lighten the touch. The organ is tuned in equal temperament. View the current specification of the Assembly Hall organ.