An Iowa company builds majestic pipe organs for churches and concert halls across the country.

The organ Dobson built and installed in the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia is the largest concert hall pipe organ in the world.

It is difficult to imagine a more awe-inspiring sound than that of a massive pipe organ reverberating throughout the interior of an acoustically designed church or concert hall. From deep tones that seem to sink to the center of the earth, to the clear high-pitched tones that ring out majestically, the pipe organ has been the primary musical choice of Western churches because of the instrument’s ability to convey the depth and mystery of spirituality. First invented in the 3rd Century B.C. by the Greeks, the pipe organ is enjoying a renaissance in popularity these days in part from churches that are turning away from modern musical styles, like folk guitars, and back to the ancient sound of the pipe organ, according to Dobson Pipe Organ Builders Ltd.’s Tonal Director, John Panning.

Founded in 1974 by company President and Artistic Director Lynn Dobson, the Lake City, IA, organ company has built 86 organs, all of which are given Opus numbers (as done in musical composition), and showcased on the company’s Web site, This site features photos of all of the company’s organ projects and documents, in fascinating detail, the construction and installation of several of these unique creations. Panning points to huge projects at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, PA and the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, CA, as two especially challenging projects, due to the immense size involved.

Woodworkers may be surprised by the amount of wood that goes into the production of these organs. Even the pipes can be wood.

“Organ cases are generally made out of white oak, with mahogany, black walnut, cherry and hard maple also used. The outside takes its cue from the surrounding architectural millwork.” says Panning, adding, “Organs have the same type of woodwork as is found in a piece of fine furniture, only it’s scaled up.”

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