The Pipe Organ at Christ Church Waltham

Real pipe organs are becoming increasingly rare, as churches and other institutions are forced by budgetary restrictions to opt for the less expensive and easier to maintain electronic organ. Of course any organ expert (or even novice) will tell you that there is simply no comparison between electronic and pipe organs. Whereas electronic organs are mass produced in factories to create generic sounds, each pipe organ is unique and is designed specifically for a certain listening space. describes the difference as “analogous to the difference of monophonic sounds compared to stereophonic sounds multiplied many, many times over.”

The organ at Christ Church Waltham was designed and built by Cole and Woodberry in 1898 – the same time that the church itself was built – and is comprised of 1,734 pipes and two manuals. There is a third manual that has never been operational, but is available should the church choose to expand and add more pipes to accommodate this manual. Cole and Woodberry were organ builders that operated in the Boston area from 1870 to around 1924. Horatio Parker, who was the organist at Trinity Church in Boston at that time, approved the specifications for the organ. Although recognized as a fine composer himself, Parker is best remembered as the teacher of Charles Ives, one of America’s greatest composers.

In 1925 the chancel of Christ Church was completed revised with the wood panels and present altar. At that time the organ was also renovated, this time by Hook and Hastings, a company that operated in the Boston area from 1827 to 1935. In its day, Hook and Hastings was considered the premier organ building company in America.

The Morel Organ Company, based in Arlington, Massachusetts, completed the last renovations to the organ in 1981. The church spent more than $18,000 on this work, opening up several of the wooden panels to increase sound projection, and adding entirely new stops to the organ’s sound repertoire. Thomas Murray, an internationally renowned American organist who was the music director at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston at the time, gave the organ dedication recital on September 27, 1981. Murray himself described the newly refurbished organ as a “most adequate [instrument] for the support of hearty congregational singing and artistic accompaniment of the choir.”