Musical Instruments

The Eric Herz Harpsichord, Opus No. 423, Fecit 1985

The Bruton Parish harpsichord was purchased in honor of James Darling, Choirmaster/Organist Emeritus, upon his retirement in 2006. It replaces a William Dowd instrument, which was on a generous loan from Colonial Williamsburg. Eric Hertz, a late Bostonian builder, completed the current instrument in 1985 in the style of 18th-century English harpsichords. It has two manuals, with one 4’ and two 8’ stops, and the keyboards play either at modern or baroque pitch. The unusual lute stop, similar to the French nasale, is available on the upper keyboard, and the more traditional harp buffing stop can be engaged on either manual.








The Vernon M. Geddy Memorial Organ
Built by the Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company, 1955
Renovated by Orgues Létourneau, 1994
The Bruton Parish organ, the gift of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., in memory of Vernon M. Geddy, an active associate in the restoration of Williamsburg, is a large modern organ intended to play music of all periods. The church serves a large, active congregation and welcomes many visitors. Resident and guest organists perform an eclectic repertory to fit both the sense of history and contemporary life.
Visible above the altar stands an organ case by Samuel Green (1785). While the pipes and console of the Green organ are in storage, its case represents the original 1756 organ whose builder is not known. While the original organ has disappeared, there is a surviving specification list that typifies 18th-century English practice of one keyboard without pedals: Open Diapason, Stopped Diapason, Principal, Flute, Twelfth, Fifteenth, Sexquintia, Cornet, Trumpet, and Vox Humans.  Peter Pelham (1722-1805), Bruton's first organist and acclaimed musician, installed the instrument and then played it for nearly 50 years.
G. Donald Harrison, then tonal director of Aeolain-Skinner Organ Company, faced the task of locating the extensive modern pipework in ways that would not conflict with the historic appearance of the church. Despite acoustical compromises, his basic plan is followed today.  The Great, Positiv, and Brustwerk divisions are placed in the east gallery, the Swell, Choir, and Pedal stand in the attic, speaking through grills in the ceiling, and the Antiphonal is in the tower.
Extensive work to the organ occurred in the 1970s and mid-1990s, adding a new positive division, re-voicing and re-leathering.  Despite this work, because this organ is among the busiest in the nation, the condition of the organ continues to decline. Due to this deterioration and the acoustical compromises inherent in the placement of the instrument, the Vestry has approved the design for a new organ to be built by Lyn Dobson Pipe Organ Builders.  Funding for the new organ is presently being sought.
For more information on the organ, refer to the Bruton Parish Church Organ Details.



Wren Chapel Organ, Unknown Builder, c.1740
Old English organs were not as large, nor were they voiced as brilliantly as their counterparts on the European continent. The English seemed to have preferred a gentler sound with accents on flute stops, which might be termed rococo.

The Wren Chapel organ has a single keyboard, with “skunk-tail” sharps, so called because of the strips of ivory on what we think of as black notes. The keyboard extends down to G, omitting G sharp, four notes lower than manuals today. The stop list reads as follows from bottom to top: 

RIGHT SIDE                            LEFT SIDE

8 Stopped Diapason               4 Principal

4 Flute                                   2 2/3 Twelfth

8 Open Diapason                   2 Fifteenth

The divided stops make it possible to accompany a melody in one hand, with a lighter registration in the other, all on a single keyboard, a device which composers often used. Although characteristically lacking a pedal keyboard, a single mechanical pedal for the foot cancels the left side stops to produce the echo passages, so frequent in the music, without the necessity of making changes by hand. The organ is on loan to the College from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.