The world has only one "longest ocean liner"; only one "tallest skyscraper"; and only one "largest pipe organ". The latter is housed right here in Boardwalk Hall. Why is it the largest? Because it has more pipes than any other organ – over 33,000, in fact. It also holds the record for being the largest and loudest musical instrument the world has ever known. Of course, quantity is no guarantee of quality but anyone who has inspected or heard this heroic organ will tell you it's of the very highest standards in every respect.
It was built between 1929 and 1932 by the Midmer-Losh Organ Company of Merrick, Long Island, N.Y., to designs drawn-up by Atlantic County State Senator Emerson L. Richards. He specified almost every detail of the instrument, from its physical construction to the actual sound the various stops should make.
These stops can be combined by the organist to create different sounds or "tone-colors" - a bit like an artist mixes shades on his pallet when painting a picture. The stops range from quiet and soothing to loud and thrilling. They also have different pitches, with smaller pipes sounding high notes and larger pipes sounding low ones. When all of these stops and pitches are played together, the result has been described as a "wall of sound" that can "move men's souls like no other organ". The stops are controlled by 1,235 stop-keys on the main seven-manual console (which is permanently located to the right of the stage) and by 673 stop-keys on a portable five-manual console (usually to be found on display in the building's foyer).
The pipes are housed in eight chambers arranged in opposite pairs on the left and right of the building's Main Auditorium. Four chambers are situated near the stage and four more are positioned in the middle of the room, including two in the ceiling. The eight blowers are accommodated in basement rooms and produce some 36,000 cubic feet of wind per minute. A number of other rooms house relays, switches, and other electrical components.
The Midmer-Losh organ has 449 ranks of pipes derived from 314 stops – 230 flues and 84 reeds. Ninety-six of these stops are "extended" to provide a variety of pitches, while the remainder are "straight" and provide only one pitch. There are also 23 percussions (e.g. Piano, Chimes, Glockenspiel, Xylophone, Castinets, and a variety of drums), making a total of 337 stops. These include 10 stops voiced on 50 inches of wind and four on 100 inches (this is the only organ to employ such high wind pressures). The 100-inch Grand Ophicleide is the loudest stop in the instrument and in the world. According to The Guinness Book of World Records, it has a volume "six times louder than the loudest locomotive whistle"! Other notable features include ten 32-foot stops and a full-length 64-foot - one of only two in the world. Among the more-exotic stops are the Egyptian Horn, Gamba Tuba, Musette Mirabilis, and Brass Bugle. A full list of stops can be found at http://boardwalkpipes.com/7man.php
At the core of the tonal scheme is the classical church-type organ but there are also influences from the theater organ and from other schools of organ building, including the Baroque. This eclectic design provides the instrument with variety, flexibility, and versatility not often found elsewhere.
In addition to the Midmer-Losh organ in the Main Auditorium, the Hall's Ballroom is home to one of the largest theater-type organs ever built. It was completed in 1929 by W.W. Kimball of Chicago, again to designs by Senator Richards. In some respects, this instrument provided the blueprint for the famous organ in Radio City Music Hall, New York City – because that was also to be built by Kimball but, in the event, was made by the Wurlitzer firm which retained some of the Kimball design ideas. The Ballroom organ has 55 ranks of pipes controlled from a four-manual console.
The Curator of Organs is Carl Loeser and the Honorary Curator is
Stephen D. Smith.
Guided tours of Boardwalk Hall and its pipe organs are available. Please visit www.boardwalkpipes.com for details.