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Pipe dream comes true for Kennedy Center

Wednesday - 11/28/2012, 3:29am  ET

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On stage, organist William Neil performs at the beginning of the concert. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
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Hear J.S. Bach's Toccata on the Rubenstein Family Organ

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Michelle Basch, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - A pipe dream came true at the Kennedy Center last night at the debut of the Center's massive new pipe organ.

"I'm so pleased to welcome all of you to this very special concert that inaugurates our beautiful new organ and marks the beginning of a new era for music at the Kennedy Center," Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser told the crowd.

"The 5,000 pipes of our new organ range in size from those smaller than a pencil to some more than 30 feet in length," Kaiser says.

"A special feature of our organ is the Filene Stop, a set of 61 pipes retained from our original organ. Installing and adjusting each of these pipes took many months."

The original organ, donated by Catherine Filene Shouse, would sometimes make odd sounds and was never quite right for the space.

The $2 million for the new instrument was donated by Kennedy Center Chairman David Rubenstein, and will be known as the Rubenstein Family Organ.

"You know, an organ - now this one is big enough and loud enough I hope you agree - is only as good as the people who play it. And obviously we now have an organ in this hall that is appropriate for the hall, and we have an orchestra and an organist who know how to play it," said Rubenstein.

The new organ weighs about 20 tons, contains 89 visible pipes covered in 24 karat gold leaf in its fašade and includes a console (where the organist sits and plays) that can be moved almost anywhere on the stage.

Tickets to the concert were handed out free on a first-come, first-served basis, and it ended with a standing ovation.

Those who missed the show or didn't show up early enough to get in will soon have more chances to check out the organ.

"For those of you who love organ music, after each of three upcoming Thursday night National Symphony Orchestra performances, there will also be mini- recitals featuring this instrument that will be free with a ticket to that evening's program," said Kaiser.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)