Harry Wilkinson Dead at 92

harry wilkinson

Harry Wilkinson, Musician

This brief obituary is from philly.com, January 20, 2015.

HARRY, age 92, Jan. 15, 2015. DR. WILKINSON, was Professor Emeritus, West Chester University Music Theory and Composition Dept. and well respected organ professor. He is survived by many friends, colleagues, and students, especially Bruce Shultz. His Funeral Mass will be celebrated on Friday, Jan. 23, 2015, 10 A.M., Old St. Mary’s Church, 248 S. 4th St., Phila., PA 19106. Friends are invited to his Visitation after 9 A.M. in the church. Int. Private. In lieu of flowers, gifts in his memory may be made to the St. Francis de Sales Organ Restoration Fund, 4625 Springfield Ave., Phila. PA 19143. (O’LEARY F.H., Springfield, PA)

And this is from the full obituary from The Inquirer (Philadelphia) online:

Harry Wilkinson, 92, of Philadelphia, a longtime music professor, organist, and church musician, died Thursday, Jan. 15, of congestive heart failure at his home. Born in Saginaw, Mich., in 1922, he had a long and distinguished career as an organist and church musician, Yale organ curator Joseph Dzeda said in an online remembrance. “A gifted improviser at the organ, he began his early studies at age 12 with Harry C. Banks, Girard College organist,” Dzeda said on www.wanamakerorgan.com, the website of Friends of the Wanamaker Organ.

If you don’t already have Harry’s recordings at Girard College, they are available for sale at Pro Organo. Fred Hohman, producer of these recordings,  recently wrote a remembrance of Harry: “It has been said that no one knows the Girard College Chapel organ as well as Harry does. And I think no one else ever will. I believe that completely. Harry grew up with that 1933 Skinner, and that ultra-rich acoustic, which, thankfully, is preserved to this very day. Even though the tonal palette of the Girard College Chapel organ, and so many other organs like it, is sheer magic, the musical magic only seems to take on a special glow when the organist handles the magical instrument like a master magician. And that Harry did!”

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Trinity’s Casavant in its New Home

Fond du Lac Learning Center

The organ I remember being installed in Trinity Church, Princeton, New Jersey, during my days at Westminster Choir College was, as you are no doubt aware, removed. It was always out of place and out of proportion in the church, standing on a platform at the rear of the church, rising uncomfortably close to the top of the A frame ceiling, but we got used to it because of the sound.* Then, the sound went out of favor, and the organ, Casavant Opus 3364, was removed. Its new home, where it will be rebuilt, revoiced, and included as part of the installation of a new organ, is in Wisconsin in an old church that was abandoned but not demolished. (Thank goodness for that.) If you have photos or other information including progress reports, please post them!

Wahl is handling the work:

The nucleus of this instrument originated as a Casavant organ located at Trinity Episcopal Church, Mercer Street, Princeton, New Jersey.  The original installation, at 42 stops, was the largest Brunzema era North American tracker instrument.  While a sizable church instrument, its specification was dictated by the space available under an A-frame ceiling over a restricted balcony location.

The new venue is a much larger decommissioned Catholic church.  The acoustics of the room, with approximately five times the previous volume, is much more spacious and supportive of all, but especially low, frequencies.  The taller ceiling and larger balcony allows the possibility of expanding previously restricted divisions.

More information from Wahl is at wahlorganbuilders.com/organs/rebuilt/FondduLacLearningCenter.shtml.

This is St Patrick’s, decommissioned in 2008.

Read about the original Casavant installation on the OHS Database.

* Yes, an entire discussion could evolve on the sound. For some, the flexible winding was a big problem, but it wasn’t for me. When I heard the Finale of that Vierne once, the shaking sounded like a circus calliope! It made me smile and I just pretended that there were a few boys back there pumping like mad to keep up with all those pipes singing out that Vierne!

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Paul Jacobs Plays the Livre du Saint-Sacrement

Paul Jacobs Carries Torch for Organists

Today, Paul is performing the complete “Livre du Saint-Sacrement” (“The Book of the Blessed Sacrament”) in Davies Symphony Hall. This should be stunning! If you go, please post your review or some of your thoughts for us to read.

“Some organists lost sight of the point of music making. They became more concerned about what their peers thought of them than general audiences. As their playing gradually became more ‘correct,’ the audiences for organ music diminished,” he says.

The same could be said for much of what ails in classical circles. But Jacobs is steadfast, undeterred in his belief of the power of the music: “Audiences simply want to be moved. The essence of a piece is deeply spiritual, something that speaks directly to the heart in a pure and real way. The essence of any work of art, I believe, attests to an immaterial reality which connects itself directly with the human soul.”

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Printing and Presentation Are Truly Superb

“The music I ordered has now arrived intact. A rich collection of masterpieces, printed by a master. I send grateful thanks. Printing and presentation are truly superb, as ever.” —United Kingdom

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This Felgemaker is Wanted by St Mary’s Church

Organ Restoration underway at St. Mary’s Catholic Church

Here’s another organ from the past, moved and now desired to keep for the future and receiving a fund raising project to get it done.

Fundraising is underway to renovate the historic organ at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Pierce City. According to research by the Dobson Pipe Organ Builders company of Lake City, Iowa, the organ appears to have been built in 1889 by the Felgemaker organ company, based in Buffatlo, N.Y., and installed in Pierce City shortly after new current church building was finished in 1913.

“They told us the organ in its present condition is worth $400,000,” said Frances Boman, a church choir member who is helping lead the fundraising effort. “A new one that size would cost $400,000. Restored, the organ would be worth $500,000. We really can’t replace it, and we can’t let it fall apart.”

The instrument has more the 650 pipes in 12 ranks. It appears that no substantial repairs have been made on the organ since the late 1940s. Markings on the instrument provided a number and historical tracing. Except for the addition of a modern electric pumping mechanism, the organ appears to have its original parts and never undergone modification.

From Dobson: Another St. Mary’s Church, this one in Pierce City, Missouri, has commissioned us to restore its c. 1890 A.B. Felgemaker, a project that includes the restoration of the original hand-pumped bellows. This 12-rank organ was built for the First Presbyterian Church of Clearfield, Pennsylvania, and was later moved by Felgemaker to Pierce City.

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Hector Olivera’s Most Recent Award

Pipe Prowess

Read about Hector’s most recent award in this praiseworthy article. There are those who would be impressed with even this small bit of his life:

Olivera began playing the pump organ at age 3, sitting on his father’s lap in Buenos Aires. At age 5, he was appointed organist of the Church of the Immaculate Conception and played at a Mass for Argentinian First Lady Eva Peron, just months before her death. At 6, he enrolled in the Buenos Aires Conservatory to study music. At 12, he entered the University of Buenos Aires. At 18, he was offered a scholarship to the Juilliard School of Music and came to New York.

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Charles Dodsley Walker Dead at Nearly 95 Years

Charles Dodsley Walker (March 16,1920 – January 17, 2015)

These obituaries are from the New York Times and legacy.com.

“Charles Dodsley Walker’s musical talent was clear early on: as a youngster in New York City, he sang in the boys choir at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine where he also studied organ. After his first performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion when he was ten, he decided to be a church musician. He never wavered from this decision.”

“The Canterbury Choral Society mourns the death of our beloved founder-conductor, Charles Dodsley Walker.”

To gain an understanding of his life and legacy, there is required reading on Neal Campbell’s blog:

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Let’s All Go to the Brighton Dome!

Three Organ Recitals Boast Historic Instrument

It’s great to see this unusual organ being used! For details on the organ, see domeorganbrighton.co.uk at the bottom of brightondome.org. I’m not sure what happened to the link, but today it took me to a mobile phone company! Until this is sorted out, we can always go to wikipedia.org.

Brighton Dome hosts a run of three organ recitals this spring, featuring internationally-renowned and local organists Michael Wooldridge, Michael Maine and John Mann. The concerts will be performed on Brighton Dome Concert Hall’s very own historic instrument, offering audiences a rare chance to hear the venue’s 1936 tailor-made Hill, Norman & Beard dual-purpose concert organ.

Spokesman Chris Challis said: “The organ found fame in the early 1940s courtesy of the Wonder Boy Organist, Brightonian Douglas Reeve – whose Pack Up Your Troubles shows were the hottest ticket in town.

“A large, four manual classical organ, with conventional great, swell, solo and accompaniment keyboards and 42 rows of pipes in four chambers, the organ has many special effect stops, such as orchestral bells, marimba, harp, bird whistles and sleigh bells.

 To hear a sample of John Mann (photo above) playing, visit youtube.com.

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Don’t You Wish You Hadn’t Torn Down So Many Theatres?

‘Our Hospitality’ at First Presbyterian in East Hampton

I always remember the old example of “ambivalence,” or being of two minds, as: “Ambivalence is when you hear that your mother-in-law has just been killed going over a cliff … in your new Cadillac.” Oh my. Here is such a story for me. One of my favorite Buster films, “Our Hospitality,” will be shown (I’m sure as a projected DVD) with live organ accompaniment — Hurrah! Oh, it’s going to be in a church.

If our well-meaning ancestors had left more of the great movie theatres alone, with their organs, if they had maintained the buildings and instruments, but that’s one of those impossible “ifs” unless you have access to a Tardis. Churches have for millennia been special places, set aside for emotional freedom, religious expression, strengthening of faith, sanctuary from oppression, beautiful artwork which puts the history of the church into solid, visible objects. Organs in churches were designed to do a few things well from service music, accompanying, and hymn playing to concerts. For the most part, they do not have what it takes to accompany a film comedy. Theatre audiences will roar during “Our Hospitality.” Are such outbursts suppressed a bit when everything’s in a church? Of course.

What else are you going to do? The monasteries served as safekeeping archives for books during the Dark Ages, and perhaps the churches with organs will fulfill a similar function for our beloved theatre organs.

On Saturday, January 24, at 7 p.m., East Enders will get the opportunity to experience a rare cinematic and musical treat. The First Presbyterian Church of East Hampton will screen Our Hospitality, a 1923 silent film classic starring Buster Keaton, accompanied live on pipe organ by film organist Bernie Anderson.

If you’ve never seen a silent film presented with live accompaniment, this will be a great chance to experience what is a unique art form presented by an organist who is a widely hailed master of the art. Anderson appears regularly at Loews Jersey Theater and the Union County Arts Center, two New Jersey venues known for screening silent films with live organ accompaniment. He has appeared several times at the East Hampton church in past years.

Go get ‘em, Bernie!

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Jennifer Pascual Concert in Albuquerque

NYC Music Director Gives Organ Recital

“Pascual has become one of the world’s premier organists. Since 2003, she has been the music director and organist at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, one of the most prestigious sacred music positions in the country. Pascual is the first woman to hold that post.”

“On Jan. 25, she will give a recital at the University of New Mexico’s Keller Hall. The concert is sponsored by the Albuquerque chapter of the American Guild of Organists.”

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