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Pipe Organ Builder - John Brombaugh
By Joyce Brite

The following is a synopsis of an article which appeared in The
Lutheran, June 1998.

"Pipe Fitter" by Roger R. Kahle

"John Brombaugh has been fascinated with organs ever since he was a
boy.  At age 61, he has built 61 organs which can be found in 27
states, Europe, Canada, and soon in Japan.  Brombaugh, who lives in
Eugene, Oregon, 'studied electrical engineering at the University of

After college he worked for Baldwin Piano and Organ Co., where he
was granted seven patents on electronic organs. ... Brombaugh [then]
pursued a master's degree at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., studying
electrical engineering and acoustics.'

"After listening to recordings by organist E. Power Biggs, Brombaugh
switched to tracker action pipe organs.  He worked as an apprentice
with American organ builders Fritz Noack and Charles Fisk near Boston,
then as a journeyman with Rudolf von Beckerath in Hamburg, Germany.

"'On a tracker action organ, the organist's finger motion directly
opens the pipes via mechanical linkage between the key and pipe.
Such organs had been all but replaced by electric action systems early
in this century.  Using their ingenuity, builders such as Brombaugh
found ways around the limitations of the late 19th-century trackers.'
Brombaugh's most recent work is a huge organ for the Memorial Chapel
at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina that is based on Italian
ideas from the early 16th century.

"Brombaugh has spent many years studying organs and their components.
He has '...several pipes made in 1539 by Hendrik Niehoff, probably the
most significant early Dutch organ-builder.'  He has even analyzed how
much tin, lead and other metals are in an alloy.  He incorporates all
this accumulated knowledge into his organ-building.  With the help of
six assistants, the entire organ is built in Brombaugh's shop 'except
for the screws, the electric motor for the blower and some parts that
come from Europe.  The naturals of the manuals keys are covered with
cow shinbones, not ivory, he explains, because they don't yellow like

"Brombaugh notes that organs aren't successful in concert halls because
these rooms typically lack the necessary reverberation. 'If you took an
orchestra into a church with a long reverberation time, the sound would
be a mishmash,' he says.  But organs work well there.  Eight-five
percent of how an organ sounds is due to the acoustical quality of the
room it's in.'"


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Joyce Brite
Player Piano and Mechanical Music Exchange      * Buy - Sell - Trade *

(Message sent Sat 15 Aug 1998, 20:43:00 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  Brombaugh, Builder, John, Organ, Pipe