The Hazel Wright Organ is located inside Christ Cathedral and is the fifth largest pipe organ in the world, with more than 17,000 pipes, more than 300 stops and nearly 300 ranks. It plays from all four corners of the building, giving listeners a “surround sound” experience.
Hazel, as the instrument is affectionately known, was first built in 1982 in what was then the Crystal Cathedral under the Rev. Robert Schuller. She got her name thanks to the generosity of Hazel C. Wright, a Chicago-area donor. Hazel is arguably the most widely heard organ in the world, thanks to the popularity of Schuller’s “Hour of Power” broadcasts that millions tuned in for each week.
The bulk of Hazel, which was guided by the vision of famed organist Virgil Fox, was made by combining a 1977 Fratelli Ruffatti organ originally built for the Garden Grove Community Church with a 1962 Aeolian-Skinner organ from Philharmonic Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City.
Since then, Hazel has had several additions, including digital components and connectivity with the Arvella Schuller carillon located inside the Crean Tower next to Christ Cathedral.
After the Diocese of Orange’s acquisition of the Crystal Cathedral campus in 2012, the Catholic Church’s leadership saw that Hazel was in need of major restoration. That $3-million process, which included sending the entire organ back to Fratelli Ruffatti’s workshop in Italy, was completed in early 2022.
The Diocese also improved the acoustics for Hazel when it finished its transformation of the Crystal Cathedral into Christ Cathedral in 2019.
On June 10, 2022, Bishop Kevin Vann blessed Hazel in a special ceremony that also featured music from Josep Solé Coll, the principal organist of St. Peter’s Basilica and organist for the liturgical celebrations of Pope Francis.
Fans and supporters of Hazel are also invited to contribute in the ongoing effort to keep the organ playing. Please visit the special donation page through the Orange Catholic Foundation to learn more and to give.
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