Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Bamboo Organ of Las Piñas Philippines

Almost every organist has heard of the Bamboo Organ in Las Piñas, much as they have heard of Roman hydraulic organs, as an oddity they would like one day to see and play. However the Bamboo Organ is very real and functioning instrument built in the classic Spanish style.

Padre Diego Cera began work on the organ in 1816, while the church was still under construction. Having previously built organs in Manila with some organ stops made of bamboo, he decided to built one using only bamboo for the pipes. Bamboo was abundant in the area and used for hundreds of items. The organ was first heard in 1821 yet without the horizontal trumpets. He completed the work in 1824 after finally deciding to use metal for the horizontal trumpets whose character of sound he could not get with bamboo resonators.

These bamboo resonators now stand as the rear facade pipes of the organ.
The final result conforms very closely to the classic Mediterranean organ, built in a style that essentially looked backward to the eighteenth century.

It has one manual, divided registers with separate knobs for the bass and treble, horizontal trumpets in the facade, a few short pull-down pedal notes plus of course a few of the favorite effects: Pajaritos and the Tambor.

Finnish organist Kalevi Kiviniemi

It is a curious fact that the sound of many Spanish and Italian organs built quite late in this tradition have a unique charm, only emphasized in the Bamboo Organ by the choice of the material. Down through the years, earthquakes and typhoons damaged both church and organ. The first repairs were still done by Fr. Cera and later by locals who were trained by the builder himself. At the start of the 20th century, the organ is hardly playable. Several attempts were made just to keep it playing until an inevitable restoration is badly needed after the Second World War.

In 1972, through the efforts of the CICM priests of St. Joseph's Parish, Fr. Mark Lessage and Fr. Leo Renier, a contract for restoration was awarded to Johannes Klais Orgelbau of Bonn, Germany. The entire instrument was disassembled and shipped to Germany in 1973 and was restored under climatic conditions simulating those at Las Piñas.

While the restoration of the organ was taking place in Germany, the church and grounds were restored to their original state with the help of the entire parish community. The restored organ returned home in March 1975 to a joyous welcome by the people of the Philippines. Since then the scene of many concert festivals, the Bamboo Organ is described by international organ masters as one of the finest old organs in the world. Its construction of bamboo is noted as being one of the major factors that gives it a truly unique and lively sound.


divided keyboard
Bass side
Mano Yzquierda

FF - c1 / 32 notes

4' Bajoncillo
2' Clarin Campana
8' Flautado Major
4' Flautado Violon
2' Octava 1a
2' Octava 2a
1 1/3' Docena 1a
1 1/3' Docena 2a
1' Quincena 1a
1' Quincena 2a

divided keyboard
treble side
Mano Derecha

cs1 - f3 / 29 notes

8' Clarin Campana
8' Clarin Claro
16' Flautado Violon
8' Flautado Major
8' 2r Travizera
4' Octava 1a
4' Octava 2a
2 2/3' Docena 1a + 2a
2' Quincena 1a + 2a
5r Corneta (V)

FF - E / 12 notes
4' Contras

Ornaments (effects)

the cornet above

The total number of pipes is 1,031 and consists of:

747 speaking labial bamboo pipes
36 dummy labial bamboo pipes
119 dummy bamboo reed pipes
7 speaking labial metal pipes (pajaritos)
122 speaking metal reed pipes (horizontal trumpets)

The Bamboo Organ, housed at St. Joseph Parish Church, Las Piñas City is located some 10 kilometers south of the center of Manila, on the way to Tagaytay. It is only 20 minutes away from Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

Blog Archive