Built by Dirk A. Flentrop of Holland, the Benjamin N. Duke Memorial Organ was completed in 1976, and is located in the great arch separating the narthex and the nave. Both tonally and visually, the Flentrop organ reflects the techniques of Dutch and French organ building in the 18th century.
The Flentrop is a tracker-action instrument that contains 5,033 speaking pipes, controlled by four manual keyboards and pedal. The main case houses four divisions of pipes; it rises approximately 40 feet above the gallery floor and is about 4 1/2 feet deep. A smaller Rugwerk division, located on the gallery rail, houses one division of pipes; it is 10 feet high and 4 feet deep. The cases are made of solid African mahogany, painted and decorated in gold leaf and various hues. The gallery, designed and built in Durham by William T. Muirhead, is constructed of solid oak in the classical style.
At Mr. Flentrop’s suggestion, the acoustics of the Chapel were improved to provide an ideal environment for the organ. When the Chapel was first built, its acoustics were deliberately deadened through the use of special sound-absorbing stone tile. The absorptive tile was sealed, increasing the maximum reverberation time, and a time-delay speech-reinforcement system was installed to accommodate the spoken word.
The organ was first played publicly in an informal preview for Duke University students on December 6, 1976, and in the Sunday morning worship service on Founders Day, December 12, 1976. An inaugural recital was played at 5:00 p.m. that afternoon by then-University Organist Fenner Douglass. [LINK to PDF program]
The Flentrop organ is used mainly for recitals and for hymns and voluntaries at worship services and University events. The organ gallery is not open to the public, but demonstration concerts are presented most weekdays at 12:30 p.m. Recordings of the Flentrop organ are on the Duke Chapel - Concerts and Music iTunes page.