Photo Bruce Shull                                                                Drawing José Luis Acevedo



Date of construction of the church: 1548
Date of construction of the organ: ca. 1700
Builder: unknown
Inscriptions: “Jesús Cano año de 1886”


Reconstruction of the organ: 1996-98, Pascal Quoirin (Academia Mexicana de Música Antigua para Órgano (AMMAO) directed by Gutavo Delgado and Ofelia Gómez)
Funding: Fomento Cultural Banamex


Left hand (23 keys)

1. Flautado mayor (8´)
2. Flautado bardón (8´)
3. Octava (4´)
4. Tapadillo (4´)
5. Docena (2 2/3´)
6. Quincena (2´)
7. Diez y novena (1 1/3´)
8. Veintidosena (1´)
9. Címbala (2/3´)
10. Lleno
11. Trompeta real (8´)

Right hand (24 keys)

0. Clarín claro (8´)
1. Flautado mayor (8´)
2. Flautado bardón (8´)
3. Octava (4´)
4. Tapadillo (4´)
5. Docena (2 2/3´)
6. Quincena (2´)
7. Diez y novena (1 1/3´)
8. Veintidosena (1´)
9. Címbala (2/3´)
10. Lleno
11. Trompeta real (8´)


Flautados: LH- 8´, 4´, 2 2/3´, 2´, 1 1/3´, 1´, 2/3´
Flutes: LH- 8´, 4
Reeds: LH- 8´ (interior)
Mixtures: LH- lleno
RH- 8´, 4´, 2 2/3´, 2´, 1 1/3´, 1´, 2/3´
RH- 8´´, 4´
RH- 8´ (interior), 8´ (exterior)
RH- lleno


Type: eight foot organ
Location in the church: in a side balcony connected to the choir loft on the LH, north (Gospel) side
Measurements of the case: 5.8 m height x 4.79 width x ca. 1.5 depth
Case finish: polychromed and gilded
Pipe finish: polychromed
Distribution of the façade pipes: correspond to the LH and RH, divided en five towers, each with the tallest pipe in the middle; two side towers with non-speaking pipes
Distribution of the interior pipes: chromatic with the bass pipes in reverse order
Keyboard: made of wood by Jesús Cano in 1887, restored 1997.
Compass: 47 keys with modified short octave (C, D, E, F, F#, G-c’’’), only example in Oaxaca of this layout
Key action: suspended with rollerboard (Cano, 1888)
Stop action: stop knobs on either side of the manual; stops divided middle c/c#
Labels: majority are original, though four on each side changed during the restoration
Windchest: rebuilt in 1997
Measurements of the windchest: ?
Vertical channelboards: three, LH and RH of the flautado 8´, RH of clarín
Offset chests: one, LH of the bardón
Bellows: one wedge bellows functioning as a reservoir bellows with blower, both new, may not be pumped manually.
Location of the bellows: to the left of the organ
Wind pressure: 70 mm
Pitch and temperament: a = 415 Hz, “Rameau”
State of conservation: good, though dirty because of church projects and abandonment.



Located in a high balcony on the left (north, Gospel) side of the church and extending out from the enormous choir gallery, this magnificent organ resounds in one of the most imposing visual and acoustical spaces on the American continent, the church of Santo Domingo Yanhuitlán. 

Even though the date of construction of the organ and the name of its builder remain unknown, it can be assumed that the organ was built in Oaxaca around the year 1700, since its case profile, with the characteristic Oaxacan “hips” on the sides, and its sumptuous façade decoration so closely resemble those of the organ located in la Basílica de la Soledad (1686). Most striking are the phantasmagorical designs painted on the front of the case, the richly gilded carvings, and the grotesque faces on the facade pipes. This is the only organ in Oaxaca decorated with Dominican symbols: the black and white cross and the dog carrying a torch. A lovely statue of Saint John the Baptist stands atop the organ. 

The organ of Yanhuitlán was reconstructed between 1996 and 1998 with the support of Fomento Cultural Banamex A.C. This intervention would be considered a reconstruction rather than a restoration, since many of the pipes and the interior wooden components were badly deteriorated and had to be replaced. The project was directed by the French organbuilder Pascal Quoirin in collaboration with the Academia Mexicana de Música Antigua para Órgano (AMMAO), directed by Gustavo Delgado and Ofelia Gómez).  

This instrument shows evidence of repairs and other interventions over time by various organ technicians. The restorers inherited an instrument that had been substantially changed during the 19th century (the keyboard is dated 1886). The most damaged pieces were replaced, including the rank of horizontal trumpets, many of the interior pipes, the bellows, the windchest, and various components of the action, with the goal in mind of recovering as far as possible the original character of the organ. Fortunately the original façade pipes with their painted faces and floral decoration could be restored. The background color of the case decoration was originally green, typical of Oaxacan organs of the period, but at some point, perhaps during a misguided fumigation, it turned copper brown, which is the color we see now.