A Forest of Pipes


This website is dedicated to the book A FOREST OF PIPES, The Story of the Walt Disney Concert Hall Organ, by Jennifer A. Zobelein. This is the revised 10th anniversary edition (2014). It is printed in a larger format and includes updated information, beautiful color photographs, a clear diagram of the organ divisions and a current stop list.  The book describes the planning, construction, installation and enjoyment of the spectacular pipe organ at Disney Hall in Los Angeles, inaugurated in 2004.  The author interviewed the architects, designers, builders and musicians whose words and insights provide the substance of this book.

Quick Facts


This organ represents a $3 million gift to the County of Los Angeles from the Toyota Motor Corporation.

The visual design is a collaboration between Frank Gehry, the architect of the concert hall, and Los Angeles organ builder, Manuel Rosales, who also provided the tonal design, tuning and voicing.

The mechanical and technical design, and the construction and installation of the components, were done by Glatter-Götz Orgelbau in Germany.

The organ components were shipped to Los Angeles from Bremen, Germany, by sea – across the Atlantic and through the Panama Canal, in six containers weighing a total of 44 metric tons.

The main console is permanently installed at the base of the organ facade – in the “forest ofpipes.”  The remote console can be moved about the stage and plugged in at four different locations.

There are 80 thumb pistons and 28 toe pistons for preset registrations, and 300 memory levels. Wind for the organ is supplied by three blowers whose motors total 14 horsepower.

The keys on the main console are connected to the pipe valves with a mechanical linkage, or “tracker action.”

Both consoles are equipped with electric action to provide for digital recording andplayback. The organ also has MIDI interface for connection to digital systems.

A closed circuit TV screen enables the organist at the main console to see the conductor onstage.

The wood façade pipes actually “speak” – providing the Violone and Basson voices.

Behind the façade are metal pipes made of alloys of tin and lead.

Wood pipes were made of Douglas fir and Norwegian pine in the Glatter-Götz workshop. Metal pipes were made in various specialty workshops in Portugal, Germany andEngland.

The manual keys are covered with simulated ivory and solid ebony.

The pedal boards are made of maple and ebony.

The 128 draw-knob controls are hand-lettered on porcelain with solid ebony stems.

There are 6,145 pipes, ranging in size from a telephone pole to a drinking straw, arranged in 109 ranks.

The longest pipe (Douglas fir) is 32 feet and weighs 900 pounds (lowest note inViolonbasse). The shortest pipe (tin-lead alloy) is 6 inches and weighs 1 ounce (highestpitch in Piccolo).

The organ has five Divisions: Pedal, Positive, Great, Swell, and the Llamarada at the top. Design, construction and installation of this organ took about 33,000 worker hours.

The voicing and tuning after that took at least 2,000 worker hours.

This spectacular pipe organ is designed to be played either as a solo instrument, or with orchestra.

It has a wide dynamic range, from a whispering pianissimo to a thundering fortissimo!