M.L. Bigelow Organ at Conception Abbey, Opus 24

The basilica pipe organ was designed for Conception Abbey by M. L. Bigelow and Company of American Fork, Utah.  Construction of the instrument began 1991 and was completed in 1997.  Installation was 70% complete at the time of the dedication of the new altar in the basilica on March 16, 1999 and was fully completed in time for the blessing and dedicatory recital on December 6th 1999.  A second inaugural recital was given by Dr. John Obetz on February 17th, 2000.

Opus 24 is a three-manual, mechanical action instrument of 40 stops and 39 ranks. The elegant arrangement of tin facade pipes in a simple case of quarter-sawn white oak stands 34 feet, 9 inches tall and 18 feet wide. It clearly proclaims the organ’s function of accompanying the singing assembly. The key desk of white oak is detached and reversed so that the organist can face the monastic choir and be an active member of the worshipping assembly.  A complete list of specifications may be downloaded here.

Dr. Delores Bruch Cannon served as the consultant for the project.  She was a professor of organ design, organ literature and church music at the University of Iowa where she headed the Organ Department from 1989 to 1992 and served as Associate Dean of Faculty for the College of Liberal Arts.

web_Organ_0525_0663The organ has 2,009 pipes. The wooden pipes were constructed by the Bigelow Company, while the majority of metal pipes were produced in Zeist, Holland, by the firm of Jacques Stinkens. The largest metal pipe, the 16’ Prestant, is located in the facade, just to the left of center.  It is 18.5 feet tall, 10 inches in diameter and weighs nearly 400 pounds.  The largest wooden pipe is 16 feet tall, 19 inches wide and 22 inches deep, large enough that a person could stand inside it.  It is capped to produce the same pitch as a 32-foot open pipe.  Of historical note, this rank also contains seven large wooden pipes recycled from the 1911 Kimball organ that once stood in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square, Salt Lake City.   It took 23,000 hours of labor to construct and install Opus 24 — the equivalent of five persons working 40 hours a week for more than two years – 3,500 hours were spent in design, 15,400 in shop construction, 2,800 in site assembly and 1,300 in voicing the pipes.

The basilica organ was featured on National Public Radio in October of 2002 on Pipedreams (Program no. 0241) which can be heard at the following link: To learn more about Bigelow & Co. Organ Builders, follow this link: