Filomela Italian
Philomela Greek

These names mean “nightingale”, from the woman of ancient Greek myth who was transformed into a nightingale. They have been used for a number of very different stops. Audsley says:

In the first place, it has been applied, appropriately, to a small-scaled wood stop voiced to yield an extremely refined and soft flute-like tone, suggestive of the voice of the Nightingale. Clarke, in his “Structure of the Pipe Organ”, describes the Philomela, 8 ft. as a flute-toned stop formed of “Small scale stopped wood pipes, voiced with the sweetest and most delicate quality.”
In the second place ... the name is given to wood stops of large scale and powerful intonation. The Philomela, 8 ft., in the unexpressive Solo of the Organ in the Cincinnati Music Hall, built by Hook & Hastings in 1878, is thus described by the builders: “Open pipe of wood, having two mouths. Tone full, rich and mellow.” This stop speaks on wind of ten inches pressures. As a large-scaled, open, double-mouthed stop, the Philomela has been styled a wood Stentorphone.

Wedgwood and Maclean corroborate the second description, as does Sumner, who adds an alternate definition: “a sweet-toned flue stop of small scale and high pitch”. Irwin description is also consistent with the others:

An open wooden Flute of 8' on the manuals, always voiced with a clear, penetrating and particularly bright tone, but not necessarily a loud tone. It is never string-like in timbre. Occasionally this stop is formed as an open Doppelflöte. It can also be an inverted-pyramidal shape (square or rectangular in cross-section) with either inverted or beveled lips. Metal Philomelas are also heard.

Skinner, however, provides a rather different definition: “An extension of the Pedal 16' Open Diapason used as a manual stop at 8' pitch. Now obsolete.” Given the other descriptions of this stop, one may surmise that Skinner must have based his definition on a very small sample of actual examples.


Philomela 8', Solo; Mechanics Hall, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA; Hook 1864. (This is the earliest known example.)

Philomela 16', Great; First United Methodist Church, Middletown, Ohio, USA; Moller 1916 (removed 1974).

Philomela 2', Kronwerk; Luitpoldhalle, Nurnberg, Germany; Walcker 1936 (destroyed). (This is the only known high-pitched example.)

Philomela 8', Choir; Convention Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA; Midmer-Losh. (This is probably one of the examples known to Irwin.)

Philomela 8', Fernwerk; Elisabethkirche, Bonn, Germany; Klais 1911/90.


Audsley[1]: Philomela. Audsley[2]: I.XIII Philomela; II.XXXIV Doppelflöte. Irwin[1]: Philomela. Maclean[1]: Maclean. Skinner[1]: XII Philomela. Sumner[1]: Philomela. Wedgwood[1]: Philomela.
Copyright © 2001 Edward L. Stauff, all rights reserved.
Philomela.html - Last updated 28 June 2004.
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