This small organ made entirely of marble was built by Ivan Larrea in Novelda, Alicante, Spain, for Rafael García, Los Angeles, California in 2001.

The organ comprises a single 49-note manual and a single 4ft rank of stopped pipes. It is built entirely of marble from the Novelda region, except for the pull-down wires, guides and loops, pallet springs, some internal steel reinforcement, the leather sealing on the pallets and pipe stoppers and the electric blower. It weighs 250 kg. Total construction time was one year.

The organ was presented to the public at a concert on March 24, 2001, in the Prado Museum, Madrid.

Ivan Larrea is a graduate in gemology and has served apprecticeships with two of Spain's leading organ builders. Given this background, the idea of building an organ out of stone seemed only logical to him. He points out that, unlike conventional materials used in organs, such as wood and metal, stone is impervious to the effects of humidity and is far less affected by changes in temperature. It also lasts for much longer than either wood or metal.

The pipes Ivan makes from stone are built in exactly the same way as wooden organ pipes: they are rectangular and follow exactly the same constructional principles as pipes made of wood.

 
Scaling and voicing considerations are also equal, with the exception that Ivan's stone pipes give a cleaner sound. Contrary to expectations, a stone pipe is not particularly heavy: granite, for example, has about the same density as aluminium.

Stone pipe making involves procedures and equipment very similar to those used for wood pipes, except that saws are diamond-tipped and that, instead of using a chisel or router to cut out the upper lip, Ivan uses grinding wheels coated with diamond dust (and made by himself).

Having conceived the idea of building an organ from stone, Ivan decided to prove the principle by building a small, 10-note medieval-style positive organ. This positive also served as a demonstration model while Ivan was attempting to interest possible sponsors of a full-size stone organ. The positive is made from a variety of stones and even includes a tiny marquetry picture of itself above the keyboard. Apart from the pallet springs and the bellows hinges, it is built entirely of stone.

After spending several years attempting to find a sponsor for his stone organ, Ivan finally struck gold (well, marble) with the Association of Marble Producers in the town of Novelda in the south-eastern Spanish provice of Alicante. The Novelda region is a major source of marble and marble is Novelda's main industry. The Association agreed to finance the building of a full-size organ made almost entirely of local marble.

The site chosen for the organ is a small chapel, built after the style of Gaudì on a hillside overlooking Novelda. Ivan designed an organ styled to match the interior of the chapel. The central part of the existing choir loft will have to be demolished to make way for the organ but Ivan plans to retain the loft on each side to allow access to the console and to allow the public to watch the action moving as the organ is played.

The specification naturally shows a strong Iberian influence. Not content with just building an organ of stone, however, Ivan designed a mechanical action that allows all the stops to be used simultaneously from either manual and the pedals, giving the appearance of an organ with 33 stops when in fact it has only 11.

The stoplist of the organ is:

Manual I, II & Pedal

    Sub-bajo               16
    Flautado                8
    Octava                  4
    Flauta de Chiminea      4
    Nasardo Docena          2 2/3
    Quincena                2
    Nasardo Quincena        2
    Diecinovena             1 1/3
    Nasardo Diecisetena     1 3/5
    Lleno                 III
    Regalias                8
    Pajaritos

Compass

    Manual:	C-f3, 54 notes
    Pedal:	C-f1, 30 notes

Total pipes:	704
Total ranks:	 13
	

 
Ivan reached an agreement with the Association under which the Association would finance the project, including the provision of marble, and provide Ivan with a suitable workshop and living space.

  A scale model of the proposed marble organ for Novelda. The console (complete with music on the rack) is between the inner pair of large green pipes.

By mid-1995, work was under way, with Ivan and several assistants busy in the impressive workshop that Ivan had installed in an abandoned spa centre outside Novelda. Most of the machinery in the workshop was installed and modified by Ivan to provide the necessary precision.

However, by mid-1996, problems arose within the Association when some members began to disagree with the way the project was being financed, with the result that financing suddenly dried up. This left Ivan in the awkward position of having to abandon the work and lay off his assistants. At that point, several major structural part of the organ (some weighing over 7 tons each) plus over 500 pipes, had been completed.

While Ivan busied himself with other projects in order to make a living, he certainly had not abandoned the idea of a stone organ. Discussions continued with the Association and with various local government bodies, but the project remained in a state of suspension until, by accident, Ivan met Rafael García, a native of Novelda who now runs a successful business in Los Angeles, importing stone from Spain. Rafael was taken with the idea of a stone organ and immediately commissioned one from Ivan. The rest, as they say, is history: the world's first stone organ - albeit rather less ambitious than the original project - was built and is now in California.


The inside of the windchest, showing the pallets and pull-down wires.

A close-up of the treble pipes.

 

Even the keys are of marble.


The stone organ builders: Ivan Larrea (seated) and his crew.

Click here to download a one-minute (1.26 Mb) recording in WAV format of part of the first piece played on the organ at the presentation concert in Madrid.