The Merritt Speidel Memorial Organ at
The First United Methodist Church of Palo Alto
The History of the Organ
Grand Orgue - Manual II
(19 registers, 29 ranks)
16’ Violonbasse
16’ Bourdon 61
Principal 61
Flûte Harmonique 61
Bourdon (North Section) 61
Salicional 61
Octave 61
Cor de Chamois 61
Flûte Ouverte (North Section) 61
Flûte à Fuseau (North Section) 61
3 1/5’ Grosse Tierce 61
2 2/3’ Nasard (North Section) 61
Doublette 61
Quart de Nasard (North Section) 61
1 3/5’ Tierce (North Section) 61
IV Fourniture 244
III-VIII Cymbale Harmonique 319
16’ Bombarde (prep.)
Trompette 61
Clairon 61
Tremblant (North Section only)
  Unison Off  
Chancel Organ Console
Exposed Great (Grand Orgue)
Récit Expressif - Manual III
(15 registers, 20 ranks) 
Principal 61 pipes
Flûte Traversière 61
Viole de Gambe 61
Voix Céleste (TC) 49
Bourdon 61
4' Octave 61
Flûte Octaviante 61
Octavin 61
Piccolo 61
III Cornet 111
III-IV Plein Jeu 183
16’ Basson 61
Trompette 61
Basson-Hautbois 61
Clairon 61
16 Swell  
  Unison Off  
4 Swell  
Positif Expressif - Manual I
(13 registers, 16 ranks)
Principal 61 pipes
Bourdon 61
Flûte Douce 61
Flûte Céleste (TC) 49
Prestant 61
Flûte Couverte 61
2 2/3’ Nasard 61
Flûte à Bec 61
1 3/5’ Tierce 61
1 1/3’ Larigot 61
III-IV Cymbale 231
Trompette 61
Cromorne 61
16 Positif  
  Unison Off  
4 Positif  
Detail of Exposed North Great Organ (Grand Orgue)
Interior of Récit organ chamber Bombarde - Manual IV
(5 registers, 6 ranks)
Cornet de Récit V 160 pipes
16’ Bombarde 61
Trompette en Chamade (Ant. Sw.)
Bombarde 12
Clarion 12
Unison Off
North Great on Bombarde
(16 registers, 4 ranks)
32’ Soubasse 12 pipes
16’ Flûte Ouverte 32
16’ Violonbasse 32
16’ Soubasse 32
16’ Bourdon (G.O.)  
10 2/3’ Grosse Quinte
Principal 32
Flûte Ouverte 12
6 2/5’ Théorbe II
Basse de Chorale 12
Flûte (prep.)
16’ Bombarde (Bomb.)  
Bombarde (Bomb.)  
Clairon (Bomb.)
Schalmey (prep.)  
Exposed North Great (Grand Orgue)
Antiphonal Organ case Antiphonal Great - Manual II
(10 registers, 12 ranks)
Principal 61 pipes
Concert Flute 61
II Violes Célestes (Ant. Sw.)
Dulciana 61
Unda Maris 61
Octave 61
Harmonic Flute 61
Super Octave 61
1 1/3’ Mixture IV 244
Clarinet (encl. in Ant. Swell) 61
Unison Off
4 Antiphonal Great
Antiphonal Swell- Manual III
(15 registers, 19 ranks)
Gedeckt 68 pipes
Metal Gedeckt 68
Salicional 68
Voix Celeste 49
Echo Salicional 68
Vox Angelica 56
Principal 61
Traverse Flute 61
2 2/3’ Nazard 61
Block Flute 61
1 3/5’ Tierce 61
Mixture V 305
Trompette en Chamade 61
Oboe 61
Vox Humana 61
16 Antiphonal Swell
Unison Off
4 Antiphonal Swell  
Detail of Récit organ chamber
Antiphonal Pedal
(7 registers, 2 ranks)
16’ Montre 32 pipes
16’ Dulciana 32
16’ Gedeckt (Ant. Sw.)
Principal 12
Principal 12

The History of the Organ

The organs of the First United Methodist Church of Palo Alto gather together materials from the early history of the church. Although a pipe organ was not in the very first buildings of the church, it was a high priority for the congregation to obtain a suitable pipe organ for the worship service. In 1923, the cramped organ loft in the old sanctuary was enlarged to accommodate the installation of the Mattie I. Dayan Memorial Organ, including the J. J. Morris Memorial Chimes. The Organ Dedication, with an elaborate three-day musical program, began on June 10, 1923, under the direction of Warren D. Allen assisted by eminent musicians of the Bay Area. Dr. Allen, Organist of Stanford University, designed the Dayan Organ in collaboration with the Robert-Morton Company of Los Angeles. The stop list included a number of organ pipe designs unusual for the period.

When the new church building was being planned in the early 1960s, the church engaged the services of the noted organ consultant Dr. William H. Barnes of Evanston, Illinois, to supervise the creation of an organ of the exceptional versatility and size required by the new sanctuary. The Dayan Memorial Organ from the old church was retained, but as a separate “antiphonal” organ playable either from the main console or from its own console in the balcony. The two organs separately and together for years served for service and recital use, and from time to time additions were made to bring the instrument closer to the scope of its original proposed design.

The organ was named in honor of its principal donor, Merritt C. Speidel, whose munificence during the last year of his life made possible an instrument of this size. The Swain and Kates Organ Company of Oakland originally installed the pipework (of tin, lead and zinc, and of Honduras mahogany), windchests and console, which were made by the historic organ supply firm of Aug. Laukhuff GmbH & Co. of Weikersheim, Germany. After the instrument was installed in 1963, Dr. Barnes himself played the dedicatory recital.

Over the years many distinguished guest recitalists have played recitals on the instrument, among them E. Power Biggs, Pierre Cochereau, Maurice and Marie-Madeleine Duruflé, Virgil Fox (who insisted that a very large mirror be mounted above the original, unmovable console for his recitals, in order to show off his technique to the audience), Jean-Louis Gil, Robert Glasgow, Gerre and Judith Hancock, Rodney Hansen, Peter Hurford, Wilma Jensen, Susan Landale, George Markey, Herbert Nanney, Robert Noehren, Flor Peeters, Simon Preston, John Rose, Michael Schneider, Frederick Swann, John Walker, and Todd Wilson.

One of the first additions to the organ after its first installation was the Trompette en Chamade, or horizontal fanfare trumpet, mounted high above the gallery organ, the gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bonnar Cox. A replacement gallery console to control the Antiphonal Divisions was presented in 1971 in recognition of the work of Eileen Washington upon her retirement after twenty-two years as Director of Music. In 1977 the Antiphonal windchests, dating from 1923, were replaced because of normal deterioration. In 1979 a new chancel console was installed to control the resources of both organs. Under the direction of David Parsons, organist from 1987 to 2004, in 1989, several quiet stops, of period pipework, were added to the Antiphonal Swell division in an attempt to reintroduce the sounds of some of the stops discarded from the 1923 instrument. In 1991, several damaged sets of pipes in the Chancel Organ were replaced with sets made in Holland and France, in order to provide clear and stable sounds especially for choral accompaniment. An Organ Committee, chaired by Dr. James Angell, reported to the Board of Trustees in 1991 concerning the continuing problems facing the chancel instrument. Subsequently the Administrative Council authorized the formation of a Task Force for the Centennial Organ Project, which would endeavor a) to complete the instrument, using as a guide the original proposed grand scheme, b) to rationalize the original scheme with the latest in organ scholarship, and c) to correct the mechanical and acoustical problems which had faced the instrument for years.

By 1992 it was clear that the leather valves of the chancel Swell division windchests were failing the most rapidly of any in the instrument. Without immediate attention, the division would have become completely unplayable. Thanks to the generous gifts of several members of the church, and the volunteer efforts of those who gutted and reconstructed the Swell chamber in preparation for the repairs, an entirely new Swell windchest was installed in 1993 by the Balcom and Vaughan Pipe Organ Company of Seattle. By 1997 it was evident that the Choir/Bombarde windchest was quickly deteriorating, just as the Swell had, and it was clear that it was necessary to replace it as well. Work on the newly-named “Positif” division was finished in 2000, and its full complement of pipes was finally installed in 2002. Both new windchests are of “slider” construction, which, in addition to being compact and reliable, involve none of the fragile leather valves of the type which had caused so many problems in the original instrument. Damaged pipes were replaced and several new sets of pipes added to both the Swell and Positif divisions. Some pipes from the exterior divisions were centralized into the interior, allowing for more flexibility, especially in choral accompaniment. Exterior pipes were cleaned and adjusted for uniform speech, with excellent results. In time for Christmas 2002, a set of chimes was given in memory of Robert Waitte, to replace the J. J. Morris Memorial Chimes, discarded in 1963. In 2004, MIDI control circuitry was added to the instrument, allowing the console to control external electronic devices and for computer sequencer software to play back the organ itself.

The instrument is now one of the largest in the San Francisco Bay Area, boasting numerous sets of ethereal soft string stops, in addition to many piquant flute stops, and all the stops required for accompanying congregational and choral singing, and for playing the organ literature of all periods.

For more information about the mechanics of the pipe organ.