In 2003, Kenilworth Union Church made a significant investment to purchase an organ built by Dobson Pipe Organ Builders. It has enhanced both the sound of the sacred music that fills the church and the beauty of our sanctuary.

Organ details provided by the builder

Although we believe that our new organ for Kenilworth Union Church looks and sounds completely at home, the apparent ease with which this was accomplished belies the fact that building an organ for a divided chancel location can be surprisingly difficult. For one thing, space is at a premium, with clergy, musicians, altar furniture, handicap ramps and organ all vying for the same scarce real estate. Such placement also challenges the projection of the organ’s sound into the church, since the organ does not directly face the nave or transept. Many worshipers therefore hear the organ’s sound only after one or more reflections from building surfaces, which is why the renovations undertaken to improve the acoustics are so important. Our desire that the organ sound excellent everywhere explains the weeks of careful listening and precise adjustments during the tonal finishing of the organ.

Since the architecture of Kenilworth Union Church strongly recalls historic English parish churches, an organ case of modern design would appear out of place. Inspired by a 19th century organ in the parish church of St. Mary Magdalene in Twyning, Gloucestershire, England, our instrument has two symmetrical fronts, or facades, that are constructed of white oak and are enriched with painted accents and 24-karat gold leaf. The wood’s dark color comes not from an applied stain but from a process called fuming, during which the naturally occurring oak tannins are oxidized by exposure to strong ammonia vapors. The polychromy conforms to the gothic custom of color orientation.

Red represents the earth and is always on the bottom of a molding. Blue represents the heavens and so is always above the red. Gold represents divine guidance or enlightenment and therefore appears between the red and blue colors as a symbol of the connection between man’s earthly endeavors and the assurance of his place in the heavenly world.

The pipes are divided into three groups, or divisions. Two divisions, the Great and the Swell, are played by keyboards for the hands known as manuals or manual keyboards. The Great and Swell are located in the case on the west side of the chancel by the console. The organist plays these divisions through a system of linkages known as mechanical action or tracker action. This system, used by Bach and his contemporaries, gives the organist control over the speech of the pipes and provides important tactile feedback about exactly when the valves under the pipes open and close. The Pedal pipes (those played by a keyboard for the feet) are located on the east side. Because of the distance from the console, and the fact that these large pipes played by the feet don’t require the same sensitive control, an electric control system is used for the Pedal.

This organ is our Opus 81, the 81st new organ our company has built. Twenty dedicated craftspeople worked about 11,000 hours to build, install and voice it, and are proud to sign their work: our names can be found on one of the rear doors of the west case.

It is our hope that this instrument will for many years be an encouragement to the worship life of the people of Kenilworth Union Church.

Dobson Pipe Organ Builders
Lake City, Iowa

Organ Specifications, Op. 81 (2003)

16′ Bourdon
8′ Prestant
8′ Chimney Flute
4′ Octave
4′ Spire Flute
2 2/3′ Twelfth
2′ Fifteenth
1 3/5′ Seventeenth
IV Mixture 1 1/3′
8′ Trumpet
Chimes (pre-existing chimes reinstalled)
Swell to Great
SWELL (expressive)
8′ Gedackt
8′ Salicional
8′ Celeste (FF)
4′ Principal
4′ Traverse Flute
2′ Piccolo
1 1/3′ Larigot
IV Mixture 2′
16′ Bassoon
8′ Oboe
Tremulant (affects both manuals)
16′ Subbass
16′ Bourdon (from Great)
8′ Prestant
8′ Gedackt (extension of Subbass)
4′ Choralbass (extension of Prestant)
16′ Trombone
8′ Trumpet (extension of Trombone)
Great to Pedal
Swell to Pedal
23 Registers – 27 Stops – 29 Ranks – 1,635 Pipes

Mechanical manual key action. Electric stop action and pedal key action. 8 level Solid State Logic combination action.