By Jennifer Ferry
It’s often said that everything is bigger in Texas and for one church in Fort Worth, that statement is true. Broadway Baptist Church is home to the largest pipe organ in the state of Texas. The Rildia Bee O’Bryan Cliburn Organ is a 191-rank organ—meaning it has 191 rows of pipes—with five keyboards on each of the two consoles and 10,615 speaking pipes.
“It’s a great orchestra, said Al Travis, organist and director of Music Ministry at Broadway Baptist. “It just has all kinds of sounds and just meets any need we have.”
The original 92-rank organ with four keyboards was installed in 1952 and was located on the west wall of the church sanctuary where heat caused pipes to experience metal fatigue.
“By the early 90s we pretty much decided to build a completely new organ and it was going to be very large,” Travis said.
Church members decided to build a large new organ after organ committee member Van Cliburn pitched the idea that Broadway Baptist’s organ could be the symphony organ for the community. The organ is named after Cliburn’s mother Rildia. Rildia Cliburn was once an organist, and she and her son actively supported the music program at Broadway Baptist.
One of the world’s leading pipe organ builders, Casavant Frères Limitée, built the Cliburn Organ in French-speaking Quebec. The beautiful Casavant woodwork completes the look of the church, and the organ’s French aesthetics, designed by Jean-Louis Coignet, corresponds with the sanctuary. Travis said the organ was designed to play all classical music as well as be an extraordinary concert organ and an outstanding organ for worship.
The church uses the organ for every service. Travis said he noticed that after the completion of the Cliburn Organ in the 90s, congregational singing became stronger because the new organ had a greater presence in the room.
Broadway Baptist holds organ concert series, and several organists have made albums using the Cliburn Organ. The organ is a major contribution to the community, bringing in people to listen to the concerts at the church.
“Music has been a major part of this church’s emphasis in worship and ministry,” Travis said.
This story is a companion piece to Living out Matthew 25:35-36 – Fort Worth church offers hospitality, help and hope