The two-manual-and-pedal, eleven rank pipe organ at Emmanuel Episcopal Church is currently in its third location.
Built in 1865 by S.S. Hamill for the Congregational Church of Groveland, Massachusetts, the organ served its first congregation for 43 years before being relocated to the First Parish Community Church of West Newbury, Massachusetts, in 1908.
The organ building firm of John Brennan modified the organ at this time. Although the nature and extent of Brennan’s modifications are unknown, slight variations in the scaling of the organ’s two keyboards and different patterns in their ivory coverings indicate that the upper manual, the swell, may have been added or altered at this time.
The instrument served the West Newbury church for most of the twentieth century before being relocated to Emmanuel in 1991 by Taylor and Boody Organbuilders of Staunton.
At Emmanuel, Taylor and Boody modified the organ to include a twenty-seven note pedalboard. The new independent pedal division replaces the organ’s original thirteen note pull-down pedalboard and incorporates the 16’ Subbass from the church’s former instrument, a 1917 Moller.
During its tenure at Emmanuel, the church’s organ technician, Xavier Wilhelmy, has slightly modified the organ’s action to improve its stability in the humid climate of Virginia’s Southside; however, the pipework has retained its original integrity.
The organ’s gentle and unforced voice, characteristic of mid-nineteenth century New England organ design, is reminiscent of English organ building practices of the late eighteenth century. Its singing diapasons, lilting flutes, mild strings, and pungent reed characterize its music and delight its audience.
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