* Required fields
Event submitted for review.
Thank you.

For questions or comments, please contact me at webmaster@organfocus.com

Essays

Carol Williams Eastern Europe Tour 2004

by Carol Williams, Essays

Carol Williams Eastern Europe Tour 2004

Carol Williams Toccata “Suite Gothique”, Op. 25 (Léon Boëllmann) (MP3)  Copyright 2001 Melcot Music I am the Civic Organist of San Diego and I spend all my time performing concerts — either in San Diego or around the USA and abroad. I love to travel and feel it is a vital part of my exisitence as it keeps me on my toes! Going to a new country and savoring a different organ and acoustics is fascinating. In 2004, I had two visits to the UK, a trip to Canada, Germany, Poland and Czech Republic. My visit to Poland and Prague were extremely fascinating and I have highlighted some of the moments I spent on this wonderful tour. I flew from San Diego early on August 9th and arrived in Prague, the “City of One Hundred Spires”, the next morning. After being met at the airport by Irena Chribkova, the organist of St. James Basilica, I was given the hospitality of the quarters of the Basilica, located close to Prague’s “Old Town Square”. At night, one could hear the chimes of the 1410 Town Hall Horologe. On another night, a dramatic thunderstorm highlighted the historic skyline of this, one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, and I recommend a visit if you ever have the opportunity. The oldest organ in St. James’ dates from the beginning of the 18th century following a major fire at the church in 1689. The present instrument, reconstructed by Rieger-Kloss, is extremely powerful and magical acoustics enhance the listening experience. The stunning 1705 case is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen in my travels. Major work by Rieger-Kloss was done between 1981-82 including restoring the specification of the early work of Abraham Stark in 1705. The present instrument has four manuals with ninety-one speaking stops. There is also a small choir organ of mechanical action with slider chests in the gallery to the right of the chancel but the builder is unknown yet, its pipes show numerous similarities with the large organ at the rear of the church. I did not use this instrument in my concert, but I really enjoyed playing it. My concert was part of the 9th International Organ Festival and this year was in honor of Petr Eben who celebrated his 75th birthday on 22nd January. In the program, I included the moving Requiem from his Faust For Organ composed in 1976. The concert was sponsored by the American Embassy and the U.S. Ambassador to Czech Republic was in attendance. The concert was recorded for later broadcast by Prague Radio — I truly relished the opportunity to present a program on this magnificent organ. Following Prague, I flew via Vienna and Kraków to start a concert tour of southern Poland. The first was at the Monastery in the historic town of Jedrzejow. The Monastery dates from 1210 with the present organ being constructed between 1745-54 in the workshop of Polish organ builder Józef Sitarski. The instrument has four manuals, the fourth being a “pull-out” beneath the lowest fixed manual. It’s sole purpose is to transpose — a most unusual feature. The stop knobs are actually cast bronze handles and the instrument’s entire mechanism has survived intact. The blue and gold screen is stupendous and is located on the western wall of the main isle of the church. The wood casing was executed in the monastery workshop with the ornamentation coming from the wood-carving workshop of the Kornecki family of Kraków. My concert was part of the International Festival of Organ and Chamber Music, initiated in 1993, and takes place every July and August. Staying...

Read More

The Guilmant Organ School at First Presbyterian Church, NYC

by Dr. William F. Entriken, Essays

In 1846, when First Presbyterian Church moved from Wall Street to its current location on Fifth Avenue, sacred music in the worship service was very different from what we know today. First Presbyterian, like many 19th-century Presbyterian churches, was a conservative congregation, and no musical instruments were allowed in the sanctuary except for the human voice. At this time, choral music in most American churches was provided by a solo quartet, as was the case at First Presbyterian. In the conservative tradition of First Presbyterian, the quartet was only allowed to sing unaccompanied metrical settings of the Psalms from the musicians’ gallery in the back of the church. Since instruments were not permitted in the sanctuary, the quartet had to retire to a room in the belfry to get pitches from a pitch pipe. However, the quartet was allowed to sing the works of Palestrina, Vittoria and Orlando di Lassus in the chapel, but only as entertainments and never at worship services. In general, there were many rules on how Presbyterians were to conduct themselves, and it was considered a sin to speak in the sanctuary after the service. As early as 1855, the session wanted to install an organ in the sanctuary to attract younger worshippers, but James Lenox, ruling elder and controlling financial supporter opposed the idea of a musical instrument in the church. James Lenox reasoned that since his father, Robert Lenox, who had given the land on Fifth Avenue, had not worshipped with an organ, the congregation did not need one. In 1887, seven years after James’ death, the session finally voted to purchase an instrument from the premier organ builder, Hilborne Roosevelt, at the cost of $12,000. The organ was installed in the rear gallery in 1888, and was considered the finest in the city and received wide attention. The first men to play the organ were Mr. Henry Belden and Mr. Sumner Slater. Little is known about their training or what they played. Dr. Harlan, pastor at that time (1886-1890), writes…”As long as this [organ] had taken place it was now time to take off the brakes, and that instead of having the same as formerly, they would now put on some trills and frills which they otherwise previously had not had.” The congregation was divided over the trends that were taking place. Major changes began to take place when, on December 1, 1891, Dr. Duffield, a strong visionary leader with progressive ideas and a lover of music, was installed as pastor. In March of the following year, William C. Carl at age 27 was employed as the first Organist and Choirmaster. Duffield and Carl had met a few months earlier onboard a ship returning from Europe. Carl had just completed an extended stay in Paris, studying with the world famous organist, Alexandre Guilmant. Born in Bloomfield, New Jersey, in 1865, Carl had already established himself as an organist before going to Paris, and in 1882, had been appointed organist at First Presbyterian Church in Newark, New Jersey. Immediately after his appointment in March of 1892, Carl began a series of organ recitals that were so successful, the church was filled to capacity at most concerts and the police had to control the crowds on Fifth Avenue. During this era, Dr. Duffield and Carl presented concert versions of Parsifal to overflowing crowds at the church, since copyright law prevented production of the opera at the Metropolitan Opera. Full production of Parsifal was allowed only at Bayreuth. As more churches were built in the latter part of the 19th century, the number of organ...

Read More

The organ in St. Stephen-in-the-Fields, Toronto, Canada

by Ross Trant, Essays

As is often the case, the story of the pipe organ at St. Stephen-in-the-Fields Church in Toronto is very much tied in with the story of the building itself. The ups and downs of the instrument certainly coincide with those of the parish. The Church is located in the West – Central part of Toronto’s inner city. The address is 103 Bellevue Avenue, but the entrance currently in use is on College Street, a major thoroughfare that runs east and west. If you are looking for the building, it is located on the south side of College Street, between Spadina Avenue and Bathurst Street. It is easily reached by public transportation, with the College streetcar close by. St. Stephen’s was built by the Dennison family, wealthy landowners whose home, Bellevue House, was near the site of the Church. Constructed of brick, the building was designed by the well-known ecclesiastical architect, Thomas Fuller who later moved to Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, known, when the Church was built in 1858 as Bytown. The original building consisted of just the nave of the present structure. So far I have been unable to get any information about the organ then installed, except that it stood on a small gallery over the West door. Less than ten years after it was built, the Church was gutted by fire. The Dennison family as patrons of St. Stephen’s had the building reconstructed. As much as possible of the original became the Nave, and a large Chancel and Sanctuary, with a Lady Chapel were added to the East end of the building. The Chapel was (and is) located on the North side of the Chancel, and a spacious organ chamber was built opposite. The chamber was designed well, and is entirely within the building. There is a large opening into the Chancel, and another was provided into the South aisle, the display pipes forming a rerados for the Altar in another chapel located in the aisle. Architecturally the Church has a very ‘English’ look, although as one who lived for a time in England, I never saw a Church, urban or rural, that quite matched St. Stephen’s. While it has been described as a Gothic Revival structure, that is not entirely accurate, and, in fact, it shows some of the attributes of an ‘A” frame building. The walls of the Nave are low, with the windows set into dormers while the roof rises to a ridge far higher than the walls. After the fire, the broad Nave seated some 900 people until recent changes. There was a spacious aisle on each side separated from the central Nave by rows of pillars and Gothic arches. The ‘new’ Chancel and Sanctuary are lofty, and a display of 16′ organ pipes is easily accommodated in the case. The acoustics were excellent, and are still very good, even though drastic changes have been made to the structure. More about that later. Still, the exterior has been preserved, and the structure declared of historic and architectural importance. Again no information is currently available about an organ in the Church until the present one was installed in 1906. There was a large harmonium in the Chapel on the South side of the Nave, and this did have enough power to accompany hymns when the pipe organ failed to function. That instrument has since disappeared. The Church’s location today is highly urban and inner city by nature. When the Dennison family built it, St. Stephen’s was in the country, and thus St. Stephen-in-the-Fields. The fields were real. While the Church did have a few...

Read More

Toronto and the Pipe Organ

by Ross Trant, Essays

Cathedral Church of St James | St Paul’s Church | Church of St Mary Magdalene | Church of the Advent With its population of almost three million people, Toronto, Canada’s largest city, is surprisingly little-known as a truly great tourist centre in other countries. However, it has much to offer, and for the visiting organist it can be a goldmine of wonderful sights and sounds, especially sounds. There are giants like the four manual, 137-rank Casavant in St. Paul’s Church, Bloor Street, and the even larger five-manual instrument in Metropolitan United Church and tiny instruments such as the ten – rank Casavant pneumatic in the Church of the Advent. And the whole gamut in between. Some of the instruments in this large city are fascinating because of their musical merit, others have interesting historical connections, especially with outstanding musicians. There are those whose visual effect give an outward sign of the art of organ building. Then there are the instruments with all these attributes. One thing that most visiting organists will discover is the ubiquity of the name Casavant, probably the best-known organ builder in the country. Consoles bearing the name of this internationally known firm abound. However, in many cases the curious student of pipe organs will discover that the instrument may have begun its life at the hands of another builder. While the name Casavant certainly dominates the scene, there are other names to watch for as well. Casavant instruments demonstrate the many different design periods in the company’s history. Among the outstanding builders represented in Toronto is Samuel Warren and his descendants and off-shoots, such as Karn-Warren and Woodstock. The names of Morel, Jacques, and Canadian Pipe Organs will be found on instruments built by entrepreneurs who began their careers with Casavant. Another prominent organ builder once located in Toronto, was Breckels and Mathews, a firm which for a time was simply known as Mathews Pipe Organs. Two rather prolific organ builders in the Toronto area, but definitely not in the same league as the above, were Franklin Legge and Edward Lye and Sons. Both of these concerns, sadly, built often strictly to price, leaving much to be desired, especially in the area of tonal design, voicing and scaling. The Lye firm did, in its early years, produce some quite good tracker instruments, but went downhill when they began to use electro-pneumatic action. There are some fine instruments bearing the names of Lye and Legge, but research always shows these were electrified examples of other builders’ work, notably Warren and Breckels and Mathews. The Legge firm was taken over by the Eaton department stores, and under that name did some quite good work. One former employee is the area representative for Casavant, Alan Jackson who has produced some excellent instruments. With such a large population, Toronto has many churches and other buildings with pipe organs. Two more builders whose work may be experienced here are Gabriel Kney (formerly Kney and Bright,) and Schlicker. This gives some idea of what to expect when an organist visits Toronto. The dominance of Casavant in larger churches and institutions may be surprising, but understandable. Other more recent builders include Gibault-Therien, Keats-Geissler, Hallman, Gober and Helmut Wolfe. Yes, lots to see and hear! Now to some interesting specifics, as we consider some of my favourites. The Cathedral Church of St. James [http://www.orgalt.com/organs.html] ; [http://www.stjamescathedral.on.ca/] A quiet oasis in downtown Toronto, St. James Cathedral stands within its wall, surrounded by green grass, amid the bustle of traffic and the hype of commerce. If you seek this place, you will be looking for the corner of King and Church Streets. You...

Read More

The Future of the Pipe Organ

by Caspar von Glatter-Götz, Essays

During the year 1999 and on into the beginning of the new century, the question about the future of the pipe organ was the subject of lively discussions at various organ gatherings throughout Europe, as well as the United States. Probably the turn of the century provided the right occasion for bringing up this debate. I was invited to speak at one of these events in Switzerland, along with 3 other well- known organ-builders. When I prepared for this occasion I realized that there is really no clear answer to the question. Then, after listening to the statements by my colleagues, my assumption was confirmed. One can say that a little of everything is being built these days: from style copies to historical imitations, to contemporary design. Furthermore, all systems, such as mechanical, electric, pneumatic or others are being used. All different musical styles from French, to German or baroque are evident. Obviously, each of these different types of organ has its admirers; otherwise there would be no demand for them. Our concern is that not enough wholly contemporary organs are being built these days. Where is the creativity for organ cases of stunning contemporary design? Such designs are not easy to realize, for it is in fact very difficult to fit an organ into the various styles of architecture organ-builders are confronted with. Since most of us have been trained as organ-builders and not as designers or architects, this creates a problem in the profession, but one with a relatively simple solution. Why not use the professionals who do indeed have the required knowledge about architecture and style as well as the skills needed to carry out good design? The organ-builder can supply the architect or designer with the parameters he has to consider. We have been doing this for several years now and are very pleased with the results of this co-operation. Of course, organs do not have to look like the Walt Disney Concert Organ designed by Frank O. Gehry in order to be labeled contemporary. There are unlimited possibilities for designs and detail. Although we are a relatively young company, we do have a few interesting examples of contemporary organ design to show. You are welcome to look at our web-site. ( http://www.gg-organs.com ) We are also attempting to spark interest in sculpture- like organs for public buildings or other large spaces. Such instruments could be used as decorative eye-catchers, but still serve the more conventional function of an organ – mainly to make music. Many people do not realize that an organ does not only play Bach or accompany weddings, funerals and the like, but can also be used for jazz or other forms of more contemporary music. Pipe-organs are usually associated with church by the majority of people, but there is a welcome trend these days to put organs into new concert halls and conservatories. I just wish they would be more visually spectacular. But I think there is hope that in the future more interesting looking and beautifully sounding organs will be built ! picture of the Disney Hall organ taken from Glatter-Götz website. Organ design by Frank O. Gehry. © 2000 Caspar von...

Read More

Organbuilding in the Middle Rhine Tradition

by John H. Nisbet and Dr. Jürgen Rodeland, Essays

The full essay with links to historic organs restored by Oberlinger can be seen here. The Usual Narrow Focus of the History of German Organbuilding When international organ experts discuss the German tradition of organbuilding, significantly not more than two outstanding names of historic organbuilders, each one of them symbolizing a well-known historic organ style are mentioned: Arp Schnitger, representing the Baroque organ of Northern Germany, and Gottfried Silbermann, the principal builder in the Thuringian-Saxonian organ style, who is also connected closely with the famous name of Johann Sebastian Bach. This somewhat narrow focus to the rich and sophisticated history of German organbuilding, neglecting the different styles of other regions, is based on the early “Orgelbewegung” in the 1920’s. The Discovery of the Middle Rhine Organbuilding Tradition The scientific and musical interest in other German organ styles came into being at least one generation later. The historic organ style to be introduced here, the “Middle Rhine Tradition”, was first discovered by Franz Boesken, who began his research for his monumental Middle Rhine Organ Survey in the late 1940’s. The result of his laudable life’s work, interrupted by his early and sudden death in 1978, is remarkable: A monograph about the organbuilders Stumm, the most important historic workshop of our region, that existed for 6 generations. Three volumes of his Middle Rhine Organ Survey with more than 2500 pages (the third one published posthumously). The fourth volume, containing more than 1000 pages, will be published in 2000 or 2001, more than two decades after his death. A couple of essays about several organs and organbuilders, and about the foreign influences to the Middle Rhine Organbuilding. Surely, the most important contribution by Franz Boesken was founding a basis for further research on the organbuilding history of the Middle Rhine in the following decades. In the 1990’s, three doctoral theses about three historic organbuilding workshops of the Middle Rhine were published: “Die Orgelbauwerkstatt Schöler in Bad Ems” by Jürgen Rodeland, Musikverlag Emil Katzbichler, Munich/Salzburg 1991. “Die Orgelbauwerkstatt Dreymann in Mainz” by Achim Seip, Orgelbau-Fachverlag Rensch, Lauffen a. N. 1993. “Die Orgelbauerfamilien Engers und Schlaad in Walslaubersheim bei Bingen” by Manfred Wittelsberger, Musikverlag Emil Katzbichler, Munich/Salzburg 1994. These three monographs complement one another to a cross-section through the Middle Rhine organbuilding tradition of two and a half centuries: from the founding of the Schöler workshop in 1748 (closed in the third generation in 1837), to the change of style in the 19th century (Dreymann, two generations working 1821-1862), to one of the longest surviving traditional manufacturers in the late 19th century (Engers and Schlaad, working 1810-1892, building mechanical slider chests until 1892). The complete articulation of the Middle Rhine tradition has not been finished, and will never be finished. However, our actual knowledge at the beginning of the third millennium enables us to confirm that the tradition of organbuilding in the Middle Rhine is no less interesting than the traditions that gained scientific and musical interest previously in the 1920’s. Geographical Definition Before discussing the style features of Middle Rhine organbuilding, it is useful to define this area more precisely. The special meaning of “Middle Rhine”, i. e. the river valley between Bingen and Koblenz, containing some well-known tourist sites of interest like the famous Loreley Rock, would be too narrow as far as organbuilding is concerned. The Middle Rhine in this narrow sense is marked in red in the map at right. Franz Boesken had in mind a larger area that formed more or less a cultural unity in the recent centuries. This area, indicated roughly in the ellipse, is almost identical with...

Read More
12