Dickinson High’s Pipe Organ Is a Vital Piece of Delaware Music Culture

Did we also mention it’s the fourth-largest in the world? The pipe organ has performed with the Newark Symphony and Delaware Symphony Orchestra and others, and it’s anything but dull and stuffy.

First, you should know that the theater pipe organ in the Dickinson High School Theatre is not actually the large, white contraption positioned to the left side of the sprawling stage. While this hulking piano-on-growth-hormone does include a bench, dozens of different colored keys and various foot pedals, it is but a part of the organ proper.

This would be the console from which the organist, arms and legs reaching from place to place like a nervous octopus, brings the rest of the creature to life.

The theater pipe organ in total is the aforementioned console in conjunction with hundreds of pipes of various lengths that reside in four areas of the theater. This is in addition to the blower mechanisms in the basement that produce the bursts of air needed to make those pipes tweet, honk, ding, coo and imitate the sounds of just about any musical instrument in existence—except cowbell. More on cowbell later.

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Now that this is settled, let’s get ready to rumble. Because the pipe organ that resides at Dickinson High in Milltown is a wonderful thing to hear—and feel. This beast, as one member of the society affectionately calls it, is a unique treasure that has been misunderstood and even underappreciated by the masses.

If you haven’t heard it, or even heard of it, all you really need to know is that this particular theater pipe organ is the fourth-largest in the WORLD—even larger than the one at New York City’s famed Radio City Music Hall.

The size of a pipe organ is not determined by the console or even the height of its pipes. Size is calculated by the number of pipes it possesses. This baby’s got ’em—to the tune of almost 5,000—most of them invisible to the audience.

So if you think that this beautiful behemoth—an instrument of instruments—could somehow be associated with stuffiness, snobbery and general dullness, you’d be correct. Even Bob Dilworth, the society’s president and the gentleman responsible for bringing the organ to Delaware and growing it to its current size, admits that many people won’t give the organ a chance.

You see, when the topic of a theater pipe organ concert arises, most folks go catatonic faster than you can say Larry Ferrari. Their eyes start to glaze like a Dunkin’ Donut.

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“They’ll say, ‘Our church had a pipe organ at one time.’ And you just know what they are thinking: deadly dull music,” Dilworth says. “But this is definitely not your Momma’s church organ.”

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From Philadelphia’s Boyd Theatre

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How to Tell the Difference Between a
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The Dickinson Kimball Theatre
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