The Spreckels Organ
The Legion of Honor's magnificent pipe organ was built in 1924 by the Ernest M. Skinner Organ Company of Boston. It was given to the Legion for its opening in 1924 by John D. Spreckels in honor of his brother Adolph who co-founded the museum with his wife Alma de Bretteville Spreckels.
The instrument represents the apex of Ernest M. Skinner's (1866–1960) philosophical approach to organ music. Classically, organ builders seek to emphasize the clarity necessary for counterpoint (separate voices moving in conjunction with each other – typical of the music of Bach); however Skinner championed the romantic ideal, reproduction of the rich, full sound of an entire orchestra, capturing its bold symphonic layering of strings, horns, reeds, and even percussion. The sound is meant to resonate in a non-directional manner, creating a musical quality that seems to float, saturating the space with its presence. Through a legacy of great instruments (beginning in 1901), Skinner left an indelible mark on American cultural history, implementing many innovations that almost single-handedly raised the organ to the premier status it gained in the first half of the twentieth century as an instrument of unparalleled majesty.
Working with the Legion of Honor architect George Applegarth (1875–1972), Skinner developed a customized plan to accommodate the 4,526 pipes seamlessly within the structure of the museum. The sound permeates the building primarily through canvas painted to resemble stucco in the ceiling of the Rotunda and in the apse and East wall of the central Rodin Gallery. The impressive walnut, ivory, and ebony console, along with the comprehensive range of stops, along with its additional effects, make this one of the world's finest organs, comparable with Skinner's other masterful achievements at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City and at Washington Cathedral in the nation's capitol.
Check the schedule to see when the next public organ concert is taking place. The Legion of Honor’s Spreckels Organ concerts are made possible, in part, with support from the Joseph G. Bradley Charitable Foundation.