Organ Enthusiasts Tour Western Massachusetts

In Search of A Great Set of Pipes

I had hoped to go the OHS Convention in Western Massachusetts but couldn’t make it this year. Here’s a short piece about it and the purpose of OHS generally. This article by Rachel Rapkin was published in The Recorder on July 4, and the web version will not load reliably with some browsers, so I am including it here.

Drivers passing by the First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church on Friday probably wondered why two green charter buses were parked out front. Every year, members of the Organ Historical Society travel to a city touring sites of historic organs and Northfield was one of the many stops as the group celebrated its 60th annual convention touring throughout Pioneer Valley.

Bill Weary, a member of the OHS, said those who take part in the conference spend five days traveling from site to site, usually a church, comparing and contrasting various aspects of each historical pipe organ the group sees. Syracuse, N.Y., Chicago and Washington, D.C., have hosted the convention in years past. Western Massachusetts was chosen because the numerous organs within the area have been maintained and are still in operation. “The Connecticut Valley had so much wealth during the 19th and 20th centuries, that the churches could invest in these beautiful organs,” he said.

Lubbert Gnodde, a Vermont resident and acclaimed organist, performed on Northfield’s 1842 E. & G.G. Hook organ. As a child, he would listen to his sister play the electric organ at home and when he turned 5, he began playing the instrument by ear. He continues to practice at church and at home on his grand piano.

“Some organs can be abrasive sounding, like really loud and sharp, and this organ was filled with wonderful sounds,” he said. “I really enjoyed it … It’s about playing the pieces as beautifully and musically as you can rather than playing without any mistakes.”

Gnodde said many organs in churches these days are electronic, but they just don’t create the same sound quality as a pipe organ. He said it’s similar to making fake coffee; there isn’t a similar alternative. “A mechanical pipe organ, when you press the key down, it opens a valve somewhere and lets air into the pipe,” he explained. “An electric organ doesn’t have any pipes. It tries to imitate the sound of a pipe organ, but it can’t.”

Weary said he was amazed at how well Gnodde played the instrument, saying the older the organ, the harder it is to play. “When organs are this old, there is a difficulty and resistance to them, but (Gnodde) understood this instrument and made the most out of it,” he said. “I just loved the sounds he produced.”

Posted in Education/Information | Leave a comment

Great Organs of New York City by James Oestreich

On the Organ Trail in Manhattan

James Oestreich, Paul Jacobs, intelligent description, videos with commentary, and stunning photography, all in the Music Section of The New York Times. Though there are pre-roll ads in some videos, this is still a must-read article.

“Mr. Jacobs, the boyish-looking 38-year-old chairman of the organ department at the Juilliard School and a well-traveled concert performer in his own right, was giving a private tour of some of New York’s finest organs, including those of the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola on Park Avenue and the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, near Times Square. (St. Patrick’s and St. Ignatius are Roman Catholic, St. Mary Episcopalian.) The idea for the tour grew out of conversations over several years, in which Mr. Jacobs, originally from Washington, Pa., near Pittsburgh, spoke glowingly of the wealth of pipe organs in New York and of the qualities — the personalities, if you will — of specific instruments.”

Posted in Education/Information | Leave a comment

This, Too, Is An Organ: 0/1.5 Artizan (1929)

Merry Go Round’s Artizan Organ Draws National Group

Every time I visit a restored carousel with speakers instead of the organ, I just cry. The organ is a huge part of the experience. Notice that the Artizan company was located in North Tonawanda, the home of Wurlitzer. This one is worthy of a visit.

The carousel was built in 1927 by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company and the pipe band organ by Artizan Factories Inc. of North Tonawanda, New York in 1929.

The pipe band organ is stationed at the Merry Go Round’s center. First you see the organ’s wooden facade, a frontispiece decorated with crenulations and murals of flowers and mountain ranges. The facade is in three sections with hinges to allow for storage, a reference to the traveling nature of carnivals, said Ducharme, in an interview before the Organ Historical Society members arrived. “When you bought a merry go round, the organ came with the ride,” he said.

And, yes, I just made up the 1.5 ranks. <g>


Posted in Education/Information | Leave a comment

Not Oregon Trail but Organ Trail

Made in Chattanooga – Organ Trail

This is a much-better-than-expected news report on Richards, Fowkes & Co with Bruce and his wife Karla. Make sure you look for the loafers organ shoes! And, I wish all TV news segments on the organ were this well done.

Every Sunday, across the country and here at home, an Ooltewah business is helping churches fill their sanctuaries with music. While many churches that value traditional music have had organs for years, there’s also a new push for the sound of the pipes they play, so the next generation can hear a hymn on the instrument they were written for.

Bruce Fowkes says “it’s really the only single instrument that can lead a group of people singing.” At Christ Episcopal Church in downtown Chattanooga, this choir leader has been the musical centerpiece for more than 15 years. “The organ is not the biggest organ, but it’s very colorful and eveyr stop will stand alone,” Karla Fowkes said. While it’s organist Karla Fowkes who brings each note to life leave organ music up until here, her husband is the craftsman that built it to sing.

Posted in Education/Information | Leave a comment

More Complicated than Driving A Stick Shift Vehicle

Duquesne Completes $500K Renovation of Chapel Organ

Read about Ann Labounsky and the Jaeckel organ at Duquesne.

But the rich, vibrant colors that Ms. Labounsky had been waiting decades for came through clearly as she pulled on white stop knobs labeled with titles such as Soubasse, Bourdon and Quintaton — sliding easily over the bench and pulling off hand-and-foot coordination far more complicated than driving a stick shift vehicle.

The chapel, with its soaring ceiling and stained glass windows, was first dedicated in 1895. The original 24-stop, 1,290-pipe organ was installed in 1896 and then given a major refurbishing in 1964, a few years before Ms. Labounsky started teaching part time at Duquesne.


Posted in Education/Information | Leave a comment

RIP Sowerby, Hollins’s Last Overture, a Scherzo and a Dream

For the month of July, I offer pieces in many different styles. There is the most thoughtful and retrospective memorial to the troops by Leo Sowerby. There is the last of the Concert Overtures by Alfred Hollins, the great blind touring organist. Macfarlane’s Scherzo is among the easiest Scherzos I have ever seen, and then we end with a lovely Reverie from 1910. I have tried to include something for everyone.


1. REQUIESCAT IN PACE, by Leo Sowerby. Sowerby wrote this thoughtful piece upon his return to America in 1920 after service in the US Army. Though written to remember those killed in World War I, it is appropriate for any funeral or memorial service.

2. CONCERT OVERTURE IN F MINOR, by Alfred Hollins. Although he regularly played in his concerts the music of Bach, Mendelssohn, and Rheinberger, he usually included something from his own catalogue of 55 organ pieces. This is the third and last of his Concert Overtures, pieces used to open his concerts.

3. SCHERZO IN G MINOR, by Will C Macfarlane. Many of you have followed the progress of work on the great Kotzschmar Organ in Portland, Maine ( If you want a fast piece that is not terribly difficult, try this one by a former municipal organist on the Kotzschmar.

4. REVERIE, by James Rogers. Rogers wrote a lot of organ music (the list in included) and this is the second one I’ve restored. His “Reverie” from 1910 is a great Summertime atmospheric piece suitable for concerts and services.

MONTHLY DISCOUNT BUNDLE. To get the four pieces mentioned above, I offer a special price so you can buy all of the pieces above with one click and save money in the deal. I welcome your support, and if you don’t want to play a particular piece in the group, consider giving it to a student or another organist.

Thank you so much for your interest in this music.


Posted in Church, Concert | Leave a comment

Our Music Goes Down Well

Your latest arrived this morning, and I have already enjoyed poking my way through them on the piano. Thanks very much for the most useful ‘extra’, too. [console dustcloth] I used to work for the local organbuilder, and often wished that people would clean their hands and their keyboards! (very necessary in our sub-tropical climate.)

I’ve been using some of the pieces you have published on Sundays before or after our church services. They go down well! I am about to start a weekday organ recital as a “Lunchtime Concert,” though not every week as it’s an onerous job asking people to mind the church while I play. (Our church is not normally open during daylight hours unless there is a service coming up.)


Posted in Education/Information | Leave a comment

New Egil Hovland CD/SACD by Anders Eidsten Dahl

EGIL HOVLAND: Elementa Pro Organo

Read this review by Mel Martin of Audiophile Audition about these fine but little known works by the Hovland. If you are not timid about 20th Century organ music, then this is for you. “Anders Eidsten Dahl, organist – Lawo Classics Contemporary organ music from Norway, well-played and well-recorded.” This review is of a preview disc; it will be available for sale on July 10, 2015.

“This multichannel SACD features music by Egil Hovland. Hovland wrote large works — symphonies, concertos, operas, choral works, organ music, and more — and he composed smaller-scale works, such as chorales and biblical hymns. In some aspects of his compositional activity, Hovland was someone who sought out new paths and broke new ground. Anyone looking for something in Norwegian music that can be called “modernist” by twentieth-century standards will necessarily end up with Hovland, among others. His experimental works often led to intense debates. Hovland died in 2013.”

Posted in Education/Information | Leave a comment

Dudley Buck In the News Again

Eminent in His Day, Buck Known Now for Showy Works

I love this! Dudley Buck, photo and everything on the Music Page of The Boston Globe! Thank you, Matthew Guerrieri.

On Wednesday, the Methuen Memorial Music Hall’s summer organ recital series continues with Canadian organist Suzanne Ozorak playing a program including Dudley Buck’s Variations on “The Last Rose of Summer” (Op. 59). Buck was a quintessence of Gilded Age classical-music success; the New York Press, in 1908, called him “the leading living American composer.” The next year, Buck died — and was swiftly forgotten.

That precipitous posthumous fade belied a steady, industrious rise. Born in Hartford in 1839, Buck initially taught himself music with a book borrowed from one of his father’s clerks. The elder Buck, a successful mercantilist, discouraged his son’s musical ambitions, then munificently relented, funding a course of European training. Buck studied organ and composition in Germany, returning with a virtuoso technique (derived from a then-uncommon mastery of J. S. Bach’s organ works) and state-of-the-art harmonic expertise.

Wayne Leupold has published much of Buck’s music and I have brought out some of his titles as well.

Posted in Education/Information | Leave a comment

Brakel Plays St Augustine Cathedral New Organs

Cathedral to Dedicate New Organ with Public Concert

It sounds like the Cathedral in St Augustine has got all the organ power they are going to need for quite a while. Adam Brakel is playing, and it should be a real experience. Please write about it if you go.

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine will host a Blessing and Dedication Concert at 7 p.m. June 5 at 38 Cathedral Place. The concert will highlight the new Colby/Walker Gallery Organ that has joined the Cathedral’s Chancel Casavant Pipe Organ in the renovated and restored church.

The 87 rank Colby/Walker and the 57 Rank Casavant will lead worship for the Cathedral Parish and Diocese of St. Augustine and will enhance future organ concerts as well. The new organ was made possible by a gift from a generous donor.

The two organs are playable from either organ console, however, the Colby/Walker in the new choir gallery has full capability of the pipe organ in the chancel of the Cathedral, and the Casavant has limited accessibility to the Colby/Walker.

Posted in Education/Information | Leave a comment