Visiting The Brattle Organ of 1708

S2SS Old LogOne of my favorite anecdotes that I share in our From Sea to Shining Sea, organ and multi-media concert experience, is that of the Brattle organ. This exquisite little organ from 1708 is still playable, and on our last performance trip to Providence, Rhode Island, I had the joy and privilege of seeing and playing this historic organ.

Let me share the story with you:  In 1708, Thomas Brattle of Boston was known to have in his possession an English organ of one manual.  As evidenced by a diary notation by the Reverend Brattle organJoseph Green, Brattle’s house organ was quite a novelty.  As Rev. Green reported, “was at Mr. Thomas Brattle’s where I heard ye organ and saw strange things in a microscope.”

Upon Brattle’s death, the little organ struggled to find a home.  Bequeathed to the Brattle Square Church it was summarily refused, so as per Brattle’s will it went next to King’s Chapel of Boston.  There the JJ at the Brattle Organcongregation did not refuse it, but were exceedingly ambivalent.  In fact it was bitterly denounced as a “box of whistles” and the organ remained outside the church in a crate on the porch. For seven months one of organ music’s longer debates dragged on; finally, in 1714, the Brattle Organ became one of the first church pipe organs in the Colonies.

This beautifully crafted organ has survived the test of time including several moves to churches along the Eastern seaboard to find its current home at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  The Brattle Organ, now located in the South Gallery of St. John’s is one of the oldest operative pipe organs in the United States.


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