The Mighty Flentrop Organ (1964–today)

Audio version read by Adrienne Hubbard. (Transcript below)


Renovation of the east façade and creation of the organ loft and narthex. (Click to enlarge.)
The organ crated for shipping. (Click to enlarge.)
Installation of the organ. (Click to enlarge.)
The Flentrop, newly installed in 1965. (Click to enlarge.)


Station 5: The Mighty Flentrop Organ

Location: West Wall 

Musical excellence has been a hallmark of Saint Mark’s since its earliest days. As early as 1893, Rector D.C. Garrett wrote “ The increasing attractiveness and quality of the musical services attract a large number of people with the thought that there has developed at St. Mark’s a special taste for the best order of ecclesiastical music,”

A pipe organ is the iconic instrument of ecclesiastical music generally, and the organ has a special role in the tradition of Anglican cathedral music. But by the time that community of Saint Mark’s had built, then lost, then regained the cathedral building, the organ in the space was completely inadequate.

In 1951, Dean Leffler recruited a very young and spectacularly talented musician, Peter Hallock, to rebuild the cathedral music program from the ground up. Hallock accepted the position on the condition that the organ be replaced. By the time, a decade later, that the process of creating a new organ could begin, he had become convinced that the Dutch firm of D.A. Flentrop Orgelbouw was the best and only choice to build the new instrument for Saint Mark’s.

The firm was creating organs that used mechanical action, that is, physical linkages between the keys and the pipes, as organs had been built in the 18th century. For over a hundred years this way of building organs had been considered completely antiquated, superseded by new pneumatic and electrical technology. Flentrop thought otherwise. The Flentrop organs were not, however, reproductions of historical instruments: they were simultaneously both the most historical and the most innovative instruments being built at the time, with the tonal and technological resources to play a wide variety of music.

Hand-building an instrument to fit the nave of St. Mark’s was an unprecedented feat – it was the largest organ that Flentrop had built to that point and one of the largest mechanical action organs in North America. Today, the Flentrop remains a prominent part not only of St. Mark’s worship services, but of Seattle’s cultural life. In the words of Roger Sherman: “Today, for many people in the Pacific Northwest, the Flentrop is the very definition of what an organ is.”

The final stop on our tour is in the northeast corner of the nave – walk back up the north aisle to “Compline corner.”

Additional Resources:

More information about the all the organs at Saint Mark's, including specifications and stop lists, can be found on the "Organs" page of the cathedral website.

The Flentrop Organ of Saint Mark’s Cathedral: A History and Guide to Registration (.pdf), a detailed history and description of the instrument written by Associate Organist Emeritus Roger Sherman.

Information from Flentrop Orgelbouw (Note: This page gives specifications as originally installed, before the renovations of the 1990s. It is also incorrectly dated to 1955, rather than 1965.)

Information from Music and Musicians by Robert Poliquin, Université du Québec

Information from the Pipe Organ Database of the Organ Historical Society