The Flentrop organ is a creation of Flentrop Orgelbouw of Zaandam, Netherlands. The late Dirk Flentrop (d. 2003), who headed the company, was its designer-builder. His devotion to classic Baroque design made his organs legendary among American Guild of Organists members. The organ was built according to the Baroque design common in Bach’s day. It is a “tracker” (mechanical-action) instrument, using low wind pressure. Its pipe case is free-standing and shallow, with pipes unenclosed by any chambers. Thus the organ speaks directly into the sanctuary.
The organ was a result of careful planning by devoted church members and the late E. Power Biggs and the late Charles Drake. Dirk Flentrop built the organ in 1965. It was dedicated in 1967 in a concert by Donald Willing, then chair of the organ department of the New England Conservatory. It is often used for special concerts, especially AGO concerts featuring the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.
Flentrop was a gifted designer, builder, and restorer. His pioneering efforts to rekindle an interest in mechanical-action organs brought new life to church music globally. His first tracker-action organ on these shores was for Busch Hall at Harvard University. The instrument was called by organ historian Jonathan Ambrosino, “the beacon of a new age.”
Flentrop’s great care in designing an organ for this church which would endure and sound well for countless years is testimony to his love of music and his care of the congregations he worked with, and this church in particular. A religious liberal himself, Dirk felt very at home here and likened the City of New Bedford to places in the Netherlands. Flentrop last visited this church in 1987. He wanted and achieved a tonal honesty, clarity and directness for this worship room. The instrument is known internationally. It is a crown jewel for the church and for the city.
Information provided by the former organist of this church, Judith C. Brownell.