Kirkland Chapel Renovation


A new pipe organ in Kirkland Chapel is long overdue. We aspire to invest in an instrument that will stand the test of time.

The current Chapel organ was never intended to be permanent. We bought it off the rack, so to speak, back in 1970. We contacted an organ builder, who essentially asked us, “Small, medium or large?” And that is what they delivered: a pre-fab pipe organ that didn’t take into account the particular needs of our music ministry, or the unique acoustics of the space.

We now have an opportunity to invest in an instrument that is built to bring out the best in Kirkland Chapel, as both a worship space and a performance venue.

One of the problems with the current Chapel organ (in addition to its age) is the location of the organ console. Up in the side balcony, the organist is too close to the pipework to hear the instrument well. The organist also is too far from any singers or instrumentalists down on the floor to coordinate properly with them musically. With our new organ, the pipework will remain in the balcony, but the console—and, most importantly, the organist—will be on the main floor.

The new organ will be larger than the organ we have today. The goal here is not to make the music louder, but to make it richer and more varied. The organ will feature a thrilling sound that strikes a balance between richness and brilliance. It also will offer a much broader palette of colorful individual sounds. The new instrument will allow our musicians to lead more inspired hymn singing and will beautifully accompany our choirs in worship and concert.

The organ will be custom-built specifically for Kirkland Chapel. The organ builder will take a number of factors into account, including the size of our space, the acoustics and the needs of our music ministry. All of these factors are critical to get right, because they will determine everything from the number and variety of stops we need to the way each of the organ’s nearly 3,000 pipes are scaled and voiced.

As the Chapel renovation proceeds, the organ builder and acousticians will work closely with our entire team to ensure that the Chapel’s characteristically resonant acoustics are not negatively affected by any changes being made to the physical space. From the materials chosen for the new floor, to the sealant applied to the restored ceiling, every decision will influence how our new organ sounds. Because of this distinctive relationship between room and instrument, every new pipe organ is unique—a colossal triumph of interdisciplinary collaboration, and an astonishing work of art in itself.

Although the timing will depend in part on the progress of the Chapel renovation next year, we hope to install our new organ in the fall of 2025.

Kirkland Chapel is already one of the finest medium-size venues for sacred music in New York City. Our new organ will burnish this reputation by making the Chapel a viable organ recital venue for the first time. Lovers of sacred music will come from far and wide to hear this one-of-a-kind instrument in person.