The Cathedral's varied musical offerings stir the spirit and nurture the soul, and extend ways to forge an intimate connection with God.
Cathedrals are known as the custodians of cherished musical traditions – most especially the mighty pipe organs that anchor worship services and lead God’s people in praise.
Here at Washington National Cathedral, we have the traditional organs and bells, but also a diverse musical program that includes saxophone, piano and drums – and even a harpsichord loaned by the Library of Congress.
A Note from Tom Sheehan
When you think of a Cathedral, chances are you probably hear a pipe organ in your mind, which is why I’m so excited to help you experience the majesty and power of the Cathedral’s Great Organ.
After more than eight decades of near daily services, the Cathedral’s organ is poised to undergo a $14 million multi-year project of careful restoration and rebuilding. Our fully rehabilitated organ will continue to be the backbone of our worship music, and you’ll be mesmerized by the mighty booms and delicate whispers of this king of instruments. Join us for a musical experience unlike any other!
–Tom Sheehan, Organist and Associate Director of Music
Everything (and more) You Wanted to Know About the Cathedral Organcathedral connects
The Great Organ
The Cathedral’s “Great Organ”, located on the nave level, was built by the Ernest M. Skinner & Son Organ Company and installed in 1938. Its 10,647 pipes make it among the largest in the world.
On the crypt level, two smaller organs in Bethlehem Chapel and Resurrection Chapel are ideal for the intimate spaces on the Cathedral’s lower level.
Bethlehem Chapel Organ
The Bethlehem Chapel organ (2 manuals, 17 ranks) was built and installed by the Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company of Boston, Mass., as their Opus 1248 in 1951. A relatively small yet extremely versatile instrument, it is positioned in chambers at the rear of the chapel and easily fills the chapel with sound.
Resurrection Chapel Organ
The Resurrection Chapel organ (1 manual, 4 ranks) was originally built for and installed in St. Augustine’s Chapel of the College of Preachers (now the Cathedral’s Virginia Mae Center) by the Skinner Organ Company of Boston, Mass., as their Opus 801 in 1929.
Originally only 3 ranks, it was expanded by the DiGennaro-Hart Organ Company of Bethesda, Md., in 1990. It was moved to its current home in Resurrection Chapel in 2020 by Foley-Baker, Inc. A simple, gentle-toned instrument, it is ideal for this extraordinarily resonant space.
The Cathedral is one of two buildings in the world to feature both a carillon and peal bells. The carillon, which is played via keyboard and features melodic music, originates from Netherlands and Belgium. Peal bells, which feature change ringing of mathematical patterns, are a distinctly English tradition.