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Pneumatics to Prestants: The Organ Reform Movement in America

Submitted in fulfillment of the requirement of Junior Independent Study by: Bryan E. Rodda John Russell, Advisor May 13th, 2005

Cover Photo: Duke University Chapel, Durham, North Carolina. Dirk Flentrop, Builder. From Flentrop in America.

Ta ble of Contents: Introduction: Setting the Stage for Reform


Beginnings: Organ Reform Between the Wars


Round T wo: Tracking Reform in the 1950s and 1960s


Step Three: C.B. Fisk and the Modern American Organ


Con clusion: Musings and Reflections

Appendix: Th e Organs

32 35

Germanic Museum


Cleveland Museum of Art


Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church


Busch-Reisinger Museum


Mount Calvary Church


Ashland Avenue Baptist Church


Duke University Chapel




“And we shall be reminded that the organ, for all its massiveness and power, is indeed the most fragile of instruments, its beauty perpetually threatened by the foolishness of men.� - Michael Murray


Introduction: Setting the stage for reform “Our organ builders found themselves in the embarrassing position of having to accept those inventions which made possible a reduction in prices, and therefore success in competition. Everything else, the purely artistic, was compelled to stand aside. The past forty years, the age of invention in organ building, will not appear some day on the pages of history as the great years of artistic progress, as many among us believe.” -Albert Schweitzer, in 1906

The organ has one of the longest and most involved histories of any musical instrument. Primitive organs existed before the fall of the Roman Empire; eventually churches became the major builder and supporter of organs, particularly following the Reformation in order to support the increased singing of hymns. The close relationship with the church led to many of the majestic organs in some of the most expansive cathedrals in the world. By the time of the Baroque era (ca. 1600-1750 AD), organs were experiencing a “golden age”1 across northern Europe with both legendary builders like Arp Schnitger and Gottfried Silbermann active and composers like Dieterich Buxtehude, Johann Pachebel and J. S. Bach writing for the instrument. Indeed at this time the mechanical action, or “tracker”2 organ and timepieces were the two most complex mechanical objects that humanity had built.3


Grout & Palisca. A History of Western Music. 6th Ed. pg. 346 The term tracker is a reference to the lever system that directly connects the keyboards to the pallets that allow the wind into the pipes on mechanical organs. 3 Owen, Barbara et. al. “Organ” The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Pg. 565 2

-2Pre-reform American Organs The first organs to arrive in the United States were imported by the colonizing powers of Spain and England in the 1600s and early 1700s. Throughout the colonial period and the first several decades of the independent United States, the continent’s economy was not robust enough to support native organ building companies; therefore, virtually every early instrument was imported from European builders. Domestic firms arose by the American Revolution, however, and American companies have been building organs ever since. By and large the organ’s home remained inside Protestant churches during the 18th and 19th centuries, with the notable exception of the Puritans, who shunned music during their worship services.4 Roughly one–hundred-and-fifty years after the first domestically built American organs, the turn of the twentieth century saw two major changes in organ culture: one, virtually every new organ was constructed with the aid of a new technology, electricity, causing the mechanical action organ to fall out of fashion; and two, the organ proliferated into entertainment markets across America. The first few decades of the century saw the development of the “cinema” or “theater” organ, designed to emulate an orchestra and also to produce all manner of novel electrically aided sound effects. These organs were used particularly for improvised musical entertainment during silent movies. Also, selfplaying organs, targeted toward the domestic estates of the wealthiest capitalists of the time, were developed. The organ may never have been more popular, nor installed in a larger myriad of locations, including hospitals, restaurants, museums, private homes, and


Owen, Barbara et. al. “Organ” The New Grove. Pg. 619-620

-3department stores in addition to more traditional locations of churches and concert halls.5 Organ concerts were common, and commonly sold out. As one example, the dedication concert of the E.M. Skinner organ in the Cleveland Municipal Auditorium in 1922 drew more than 20,000 people, and reports indicated that as many as 5,000 more people were unable to fit into the hall.6 Ironically, this period of unprecedented interest in and building of organs was often not reflected in the musical quality of the actual instruments themselves. Theater and cinema organs proved ill suited for performance of much of the organ’s traditional repertory. Mixture stops, which emphasize the upper harmonics of an organ’s tone and standard elements on classical European organs, were overlooked in favor of several stops all voiced at the fundamental pitch. The result was an increased feeling of thickness in the organ’s tone, at the expense of clarity between the different voices. That clarity, however, is a requisite for proper performance of the organ’s staple repertoire: polyphonic literature like that of the Baroque era and J.S. Bach. After describing one such “decadent” instrument that included all manner of orchestral effects and electrical wiring and was billed as producing, “wonderful and unique tonal effects” inside a New York City church, Joseph Blanton declared that, “The organ could sink no lower.”7 The Organ Reform Movement In this milieu, where the American organ was being used ever more as an instrument of mass entertainment and not as a serious musical instrument, the Organ Reform movement, or Organ Revival, was born. The basic tenets of the movement, as


ibid. Pg. 630. Ochse, Orpha. The History of the Organ in the United States. Pg. 329 7 Blanton, Joseph. The Organ in Church Design. Pg. 54-55. 6

-4laid out by German thinkers like Albert Schweitzer, were: 1) organs should use low wind pressures, 2) pipes should not be “nicked,”8 3) swell boxes would not be used, 4) the action of both stop levers and the keys should be entirely mechanical, and 5) the Werkprinzip should be employed.9 The last concept deserves further explication. The Werkprinzip means that each division, or manual, of an organ should be separate from every other division. Musically, each division should be complete and independent, and also the stops should be carefully balanced against the whole division and the division balanced against the entire organ. Visually, it implies an encased organ with divisions arrayed in a logical manner. On the whole, the Werkprinzip insures the proper “classical” tonal design of an organ, which is of considerable importance for the playing of polyphonic textures. Blanton in fact calls such organs “polyphonic.”10 The purpose of this project is to trace the Organ Reform movement throughout its history in the United States. This paper will not and cannot serve as a comprehensive analysis of every builder or performer or voice active in the movement, as time will not allow it, yet the goal is to survey the whole history of the Organ Reform movement in America to grant, if nothing else, a detailed snapshot of the major builders, performers and voices that have shaped and are presently shaping how and why organs are built the way they are in America. To accomplish this goal, the Organ Reform movement will be discussed in three separate time periods. First, the beginnings of the movement will be traced through the 1920s and 1930s. Allowing for the passage of World War II, during which most organ 8

To nick a pipe is to chip off small chunks of the languid of a pipe. Excessive nicking makes the attack of the organ unclear. 9 Blanton. The Organ in Church Design. Pg. 56 10 ibid. Pg. 59

-5firms were called into the service of the war effort, the discussion will restart in the 1950s and 1960s, when the original tenets of the movement will be reexamined, and finally the discussion will focus more recent builders and trends. Several of the early contributors to the early reform movement may have names familiar to anyone with a passing interest in the instrument: the Aeolian-Skinner Company, Walter Holtkamp, and E. Power Biggs, for example. The Aeolian-Skinner Company under G. Donald Harrison was responsible for early changes in the tonal design and voicing of instruments, resulting in the development of the “American Classic” tonal conception. Holtkamp installed a famous Rückpositiv division in 1933 on the E.M. Skinner organ––whose inaugural concert was referenced above––and Holtkamp was, for many years, arguably the leading American organ builder.11 E. Power Biggs is the dominant performer of the early period thanks to his nationwide weekly radio broadcasts, and he also became a major proponent of mechanical action organs in the second era of reform in the 1950s and 1960s. During those post-war decades, Robert Noehren emerged as another key voice in favor of classical tracker action design and the virtues of historically accurate organ making. E. Power Biggs also offered his support, and both organists spent time studying, playing and recording on older European instruments. The plethora of organists who did travel to Europe––often on Fulbright Scholarships––spurred the major debate over the suitability of mechanical versus electrical action, and generally saw the reemergence of a few true mechanical organs. The period also saw the revival of the freestanding organ


Whitney, Craig. All the Stops: The Glorious Pipe Organ and Its American Masters. Pg. 70

-6case, which was a hallmark of European organs that Harrison and Holtkamp had not included in their designs. By the 1970s a host of different organ builders were building very different instruments, but in terms of the Organ Reform movement, Charles Fisk is most important. He was an influential American builder and really the first domestic builder who succeeded at pushing his instruments past the level of Harrison and Holtkamp. He began to build exclusively tracker action instruments, and even built organs on uneven wind pressure. He also argued for the authenticity and tonal advantages of such instruments in various writings to professional publications. Also, he built several instruments tailored specifically toward certain builders and time periods in the hopes of producing historically and tonally accurate instruments for the various schools of organ music.


Beginnings: Organ Reform Between the Wars “Et Non Impedias Musicam”12

-Walter Holtkamp Motto

In the broadest terms, the progenitor causes of the American Organ Reform movement were two: first, a conscious revolt against the substitute orchestral tonal ideal of turn-of-the-century American organs, and, secondly, a developing understanding of the concept of historically accurate musical performance, involving organs, their repertory, and their unique place in music history. The two concepts are actually concomitant, for interest in historical organs brought their dissimilarities with the orchestral organs into stark relief, while the revolt against decadent organs spurred interest in the “classical” repertoire of the organ. The builders and players discussed in this chapter all contributed in some manner to the Organ Reform movement in its infancy during the 1920s and 30s. Albert Schweitzer contributed his research on J.S. Bach and European organs, G. Donald Harrison added his “American Classic” tonal philosophy to organs; E. Power Biggs performed the classic repertoire and commissioned both new organs and new organ music. However, Americans cannot claim the full responsibility for beginning their own Organ Reform movement. Virtually every factor pushing toward reform reflected the influence of European thinkers and organ builders. Ochse noted that European organists, particularly French organists like Guilmant and Dupré, made widely popular concert tours of the United States, and many American organists had the opportunity to study in


Roughly, “And impede not that which is musical.”

-8France with Widor and Guilmant, bringing their experiences on European organs back to America.13 The German Albert Schweitzer, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and a remarkable man in many respects, wrote two quite influential pamphlets: one on the music and performance practices of J.S. Bach and the other on the art of European organ building, in 1905 and 1906, respectively.14 By the 1920s, his ideas had led to Germany’s Organ Reform movement, the Orgelbewegung, which signaled a recommitment to historical building practices inside that country, but Schweitzer’s influence was not limited to his native country. His reputation as a humanitarian gave him an international stature that he could use as a, “…platform from which to influence the course of organ building in Europe and the New World alike…Organ Reform movements worldwide owed much of their impetus to Schweitzer,” a biographer reports.15 Schweitzer’s ideas had a direct influence on Walter Holtkamp, who had read and studied Schweitzer’s work in the native German, and Schweitzer specially requested to meet Holtkamp and play his Rückpositiv on the organ at the Cleveland Museum of Art during a tour of the country in the late 1940s.16 Schweitzer thus represents one musical historian whose work created a new interest in music of earlier times, including inside America. This new scholarship coupled with new performance editions of the collected works of J.S. Bach and others drove the interest of American organists in the music of earlier periods. This, in turn, certainly led many organists to realize that the “orchestral” instruments, or theater organs, or “Unit organs” simply would not do justice to the dense


Ochse. pg. 376 Owen. “Organ.” The New Grove. pg. 631. 15 Murray, Michael. Albert Schweitzer: Musician. pg. 54. 16 Barnes, William Harrison & Edward B. Gammons. Two Centuries of American Organ Building: “From Tracker to Tracker.” pg. 19 and 50. 14

-9polyphonic textures that characterized much early music. In fact, Hendrickson suggested that, “The organ lost its polyphonic ability in the early 20th century,” and that “polyphony and how to provide for its successful musical realization were at the heart of the Organ Reform movement.”17 This precept will be reflected in the stop lists of reform organs that include more mixture stops and pitch variation among the ranks within each division of the organ. The tonal array of the turn-of-the-century organs Hendrickson is deriding as non-polyphonic could be termed “horizontal” because divisions would contain many ranks all pitched at one level. In complex textures, such an organ produces a muddled tone, and the lack of higher pitches keeps the listener’s ear from latching on to the various moving lines. Thus it was that, on the whole, “organists became convinced that the design of the organ must relate to the music of the organ,”18 and the reform movement blossomed during the 1920s and 30s. Two builders most came to embody the early reform movement: G. Donald Harrison and Walter Holtkamp. The Early Reformers: G. Donald Harrison George Donald Harrison (1889-1956) was an Englishman by birth whose formative years of organ building training came within the Willis organ-building firm in England. In 1927 he came to America to work for the E. M. Skinner organ company, and in the following decade his tonal philosophy was to be as influential as any contemporary American builder. First, however, the company had to undergo internal reform––the firm’s namesake, E.M. Skinner, did not support reform ideals. He was, in fact,


Hendrickson, Charles. “Tonal Architecture IV: Polyphony.” The American Organist. pg. 79. 18 Ochse. pg. 376-77.

- 10 responsible for many of the most orchestral instruments of the 1920s, but as clients preferred Harrison’s tonal approach more and more, Skinner left the company that bore his name. It would, therefore, be Harrison’s instruments that would become synonymous with the Aeolian-Skinner brand. By the mid-thirties, after Skinner had departed, Harrison began to build organs that marked a new approach to tonal architecture within organs. His design, which came to be known as the “American Classic” organ, included independent organ divisions capable of standing on their own, a more robust offering in the pedal division, and the inclusion of various Baroque-style stops, particularly after he visited Germany in 1937.19,20 The concept of an independent division is quite important. A division of an organ typically refers to the ranks of pipes and stops controlled by one particular manual, or keyboard. Unlike the prevalent orchestral or decadent or horizontal organs, which were characterized by a preponderance of stops within a division that would all speak at the same fundamental pitch level, Harrison’s independent divisions would each include some stops pitched at the fundamental, and some pitched an octave or two octaves above and usually an octave below. Such a division would have a strongly developed vertical dimension, which allows a solidity of tone for both the melodic line and harmonic elements of music. Harrison worked to eradicate the muddled, thick sound of the orchestral organ. He “helped start a revolution…a rejection of excess in favor of cleaner lines.” Whitney goes on to suggest an interesting comparison of Harrison with his


Owen, Barbara. “Harrison, George Donald.” The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. pg. 62 20 Ochse. pg. 380.

- 11 contemporaries in other arts, stating that Harrison’s work was, “in the spirit of what Frank Lloyd Wright was doing in architecture and Ernest Hemingway in literature…”21 Harrison did produce influential organs. Perhaps chief among them was the “Baroque Organ-Experimental” at the Germanic (now Busch-Reisinger) Museum at Harvard University, completed in 1937. This 25-stop organ was entirely unenclosed, with stops of German descent, was mounted on low wind pressure, and had a lighter, clearer sound than the typical American organ of the time.22 The stop list indicates the return of vertical variety to each division of the organ; each division also came equipped with a mixture stop and a mutation stop.23 The instrument was remarkable as is, but when the rising star organist E. Power Biggs, who had been involved in commissioning the organ, negotiated a deal to perform a weekly radio broadcast from the organ, Americans (and organists) across the country became familiar with its neo-Baroque sound. This organ is profiled in the appendix to this paper. Another organ, actually constructed in post-war America, but really illustrating the full “American Classic” tonality Harrison created, was his organ for the Mormon Tabernacle in St. Lake City. This massive 11,000 pipe organ reflects Harrison’s, “eclectic tonal philosophy” that was “to strongly influence American organ building for the next two decades.”24 Harrison’s overall contribution to the Organ Reform movement was demonstrating the advantages of better, clearer tonal organization within divisions of the organ. His instruments were not strict replications of the great European builders. 21

Whitney. pg. 56. Whitney. pg. 89-91. 23 A mixture stop contains multiple ranks of pipes, meaning that it sounds more than one tone for each pressed key. A mutation stop, by contrast, has only one rank of pipes but the pipes do not sound at the fundamental pitch level. 24 Owen. “Harrison, George Donald.” The New Grove. pg. 62 22

- 12 Rather, he collected the influences of Silbermann and Cavaillé-Coll and his English organ upbringing and tied them all into a style that granted the eclectic nature of his “American Classic” organ.25 Though he died during the first few years of the resurgence of organ building in post-war America, “his influence on American organ building was considerable,” and is still reflected in the design of American organs today. The Early Reformers: Walter Holtkamp The other major early reformer was Cleveland-area builder Walter Holtkamp (1895-1962). A native of Ohio, Holtkamp’s firm was significantly less well known than Aeolian-Skinner and Harrison, yet in several areas Holtkamp’s organs represent more radical reform than Harrison.26 Holtkamp’s designs accepted Harrison’s tonal conception, but Holtkamp favored smaller and even more cohesive designs. In fact he considered independent divisions essential to the definition of an organ. He preferred a smaller organ with a better placement within its room than a large organ stowed away in a chamber.27 Holtkamp rarely used an enclosed positiv or choir division, and rarer still were the times his organs had more than three manual divisions.28 Other Holtkamp innovations included the reintroduction of mechanical action and slider windchests, and lower wind pressures for his organ divisions.29 Another crucial development Holtkamp created was the unenclosed, freestanding organ. In many ways, Holtkamp’s organ building practices were fifteen to twenty years ahead of the practices of the Organ Reform movement as a whole during the 1930s. 25

ibid. pg. 62. Ochse. 386-87 27 Garrett, Lee. “American Organ Reform in Retrospect, Part 1.” The American Organist. pg. 58. 28 Phelps, Lawrence. “A Short History of the Organ Revival.” Church Music. pg. 21 29 Garrett. “American Organ Reform in Retrospect, Part 1.” pg. 58. 26

- 13 Holtkamp was the first builder to build organs that were consistently freestanding within the rooms in which they were heard, bucking the persistent trend––even among Harrison’s Aeolian-Skinner organs of the time––to enclose organs completely inside of chambers hidden behind rows of non-speaking façade pipes. Indeed, Holtkamp, “…did more than any other American builder to get the pipes out of their tombs and at the same time demonstrate the aesthetic value of a beautifully designed arrangement of pipes.”30 He honestly considered the aesthetic of the organ important, and he, “insisted that design should be functional, and that the appearance of the organ should express its character.”31 Thus it was that his firm was the acknowledged leader at the art of visual design for the organ, and Holtkamp himself as its master.32 While Holtkamp was largely responsible for new trends in freestanding organ construction, he did not advocate mounting organs within cases; later reformers would be responsible for the reemergence of the organ case.33 Holtkamp’s first well-noted and significant organ was actually a reconstruction of the 1922 E.M. Skinner organ in the Cleveland Museum of Art. Holtkamp made one novel addition to the organ by adding a nine-rank Rückpositiv;34 arguably the first newly constructed positiv division in America. The addition was unenclosed and unencased, standing with the pipes clearly visible in the open air above the museum’s garden courtyard. Holtkamp made his 4’ Prestant pipes (a speaking diapason façade rank) out of


Ochse. pg. 388. ibid. 388. 32 Phelps. pg. 21 33 Owen. “Organ.” The New Grove. pg. 634. 34 The Rückpositiv is the portion of the organ situated behind the organist’s bench. In German Rück means “back” or “behind”. 31

- 14 copper, an unusual metal to use.35 Details of the specification and pictures of the Rückpositiv can be found in the appendix. Quickly after this organ Holtkamp innovated once more, making a one-manual “Portative” organ in 1935 that had mechanical action and slider chests. This organ was arguably 30 years ahead of its time;36 the real tracker revival in the Organ Reform movement would not arrive until the imported organs of von Beckerath and Flentrop and also those of Charles Fisk during the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Builders, however, were not the only people involved in the Organ Reform movement. Every fresh, inspired, innovative organ needed a player, and for several decades the most visible American organist was E. Power Biggs. The Early Reformers: E. Power Biggs Edward George Power Biggs (1906-1977) influenced American organ culture from the 1930s through his death. He was an acclaimed performer, and probably the most widely heard American organist of all time. Biggs always seemed to know that he was destined to be a professional performer, so much so that he spent a few years determining what his best stage name would be. After trying such names as “Edward G.P. Biggs” and “Power Biggs,” he settled on E. Power Biggs, a name that Whitney said was, “…as majestic and as catchy as Johann Sebastian Bach.”37 Later in his career, Biggs would become a major voice in support of mechanical action organs, but during the thirties and forties he was more influential as a performer. Biggs cultivated a close working relationship with G. Donald Harrison of the AeolianSkinner Company during the thirties, which led eventually in 1937 to Biggs cajoling


Barnes. pg. 29-30. ibid. pg. 35-36. 37 Whitney. pg. 81-82 36

- 15 Harrison to install the “Baroque Organ-Experimental” organ that Harrison had pieced together in the Skinner factory into the museum’s main gallery.38 The organ was hardly intended as anything more than a demonstration instrument; in fact, some of its stops, action and pipes were rejected parts of other projects Harrison had done.39 Owen notes, however, that the organ was triply blessed with a good placement in the museum, good acoustics, and a good stop list.40 Perhaps she should have added a fourth advantage: the playing of E. Power Biggs. Sen. Emerson Richards, who besides helping run the government was a well known organ scholar who had also traveled widely and seen many of the finest organs of Europe, said of Biggs’ playing of Bach on the Germanic Museum organ that, “…he revealed to us a music so new, so arresting, and so alive that we cannot believe it is the same old stodgy, uninteresting and decadent set of notes that have been running through the fingers of our organists since the middle of the last century.”41 Biggs’ skill in performance, particularly on the Germanic Museum organ, would lead shortly to his increased fame. The morning of September 20, 1942, marked the beginning of Biggs’ weekly radio concerts on the Germanic Museum organ. Carried nationally by CBS radio affiliates, the series was positively received. “With the war on and few other distractions available, this series became a smash hit with classical music lovers across the country” Whitney reports.42 During the war, concert-going was discouraged and recordings far too luxurious for most Americans, but, “…virtually every home, no matter how poor or


Owen, Barbara. E. Power Biggs, Concert Organist. pg. 36-37 ibid. pg. 37. 40 ibid. pg. 39. 41 Richards, Emerson. As quoted in Whitney, pg. 92. 42 Whitney. pg. 100. 39

- 16 remote, had a radio.”43 The broadcasts literally made millions of Americans familiar with the sounds of a reform-style organ, with an excellent player at the helm to boot, for the first time. Biggs became a standard of the airways, and he quite possibly played the Germanic Museum organ to the largest live audience ever to hear an organ concert immediately following a nationwide moment of silence to remember the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in April 1945. An estimated 70 million people heard the broadcast.44 The weekly series also gave Biggs the freedom to commission and premiere new works. Biggs commissioned or premiered at least 17 contemporary American composers, including Piston, Rorem, Pinkham, Sowerby, and Harris, for original works for solo organ or organ and instrumental ensemble. In this way, Whitney notes, “Biggs was not only performing the classics; he was adding to the organ repertory.”45 Composers probably enjoyed the arrangement too, knowing full well that a Biggscommissioned work would have a nationwide premiere on one of the radio broadcasts. Interestingly, Biggs may have felt an added desire to commission composers because he had a particular admiration for the craft of composition. Owen says, “He stood in awe of very few things, but the art of musical composition was one.”46 Changes were afoot in the American organ world between the two World Wars. In the short span of 25 years, builders and organists had seen the organ enjoy a common popularity it has never regained since. Many of these popular organs were of the orchestral imitation style; it was a sign of the pervasiveness of the reform trends that by 43

Owen. E. Power Biggs. pg. 68. ibid. pg. 68. 45 Whitney. pg. 103-4. 46 Owen. E. Power Biggs. pg. 51. 44

- 17 the early 40s E. Power Biggs was playing nationwide popular organ concerts of serious organ repertory on one of the most classically oriented instruments in America at the time. Biggs deserves credit for acquainting the American ear to the organ as an instrument and sound in its own right. G. Donald Harrison, the man who had designed the famous Germanic Museum organ Biggs played, was also a man who helped turn the focus of organ building back to the musical integrity of the instrument. He took Skinner’s orchestral ideal and turned it on its head, preferring to allow the divisions of the organ to be more independent and cohesive. His tonal structure was often described as eclectic––pulling some stops from both the German and French schools––and the style became known as the “American Classic” design. It could probably still be argued today that virtually every new American organ owes some design aspects to Harrison’s philosophy. But where Harrison tended toward the large eclectic instrument, Holtkamp pushed for the concept of smaller organs with stronger ensembles and more advantageous placement. Holtkamp’s work anticipates more directly the undercurrents of reform to follow World War II. More than any other builder, he was stubborn on one point––organ placement and visual design mattered. Organs should be seen while they are heard, and should not be cloistered away from sight. Freestanding instruments around the country owe their impetus to Holtkamp’s lead.

- 18 -

Round Two: Tracking Reform in the 1950s and 1960s “It is an interesting fact that musicians and others take the mechanical action of modern pianos for granted even though an electric action with which the pianist could regulate the force with which the hammers strike the strings could be worked out. If this were done, musicianship would suffer just as it does in the case of organs with electric action and, of course, there simply is no need for it.” -Robert Blanton Not surprisingly, the post-war boom times saw a flourish of new organs being constructed in America. Holtkamp and Harrison became the “superstars” of American organ building during their respective mature years.47 In terms of the Organ Reform movement, however, both men had already made their advances and contributions; the reform of the 50s and 60s would move in new directions. Increasingly, the post-war era saw American organists getting firsthand experience overseas with “classical” European organs. The post-war Fulbright Program, especially, sent a parade of American organist teachers and players overseas to immerse themselves in several hundred years of European organ building.48 Fesperman calls the Fulbright exchange program a “significant catalyst” in the process of changing American attitudes toward the organ.49 E. Power Biggs will return to the discussion as a central figure who traveled extensively in Europe on concert tours starting in the mid-fifties. Even earlier, Robert Noehren took an organ tour of Europe and wrote several influential articles in The Diapason; he and Biggs would become the leading domestic supporters of 47

Colebred, R.E. “Trophy Builders and their Instruments: A Chapter in the Economics of Pipe Organ Building.” The Diapason. pg. 11. 48 Sadly, of course, World War II laid claim to several notable instruments. 49 Fesperman, John. Flentrop in America. pg. 30.

- 19 tracker action organs, influencing the construction of the first major American organs by von Beckerath and Flentrop, respectively. Recognizing the relative technical incompetence––and extreme rarity––of American tracker organ builders to their European counterparts, Noehren and Biggs helped spur the importation of new organs into America by European builders. Two builders deserve mention above all others who imported organs to America: Rudolf von Beckerath and Dirk Flentrop. Indeed, these two builders were really the impetus behind all of the radical American reform of this time period, “…in the past fifteen years (1955-70) the importation of organs by Rudolph von Beckerath of Hamburg and Flentrop of Zaadam has had more influence on the advance of the ‘reform’ movement that the work of any American builder.”50 Beckerath’s Trinity Lutheran Church instrument, installed in 1956-57, was the first major installation of a Europeanconstructed mechanical action instrument in America in the modern era. However, Flentrop probably ends up the most influential of the two, completing several major instruments over a 20-year period that gained him a leading reputation. Of American builders of the time, it is probably a fair summary to say that the vast majority of firms spent the 1950s and 60s catching up their designs to the work of mature Harrison and Holtkamp. Many firms emulated the tonal philosophy and design ideals of these legends, yet not until the instruments of Charles Fisk will an American firm again be on the forefront of the reform movement. As a consequence of the increased European influences on American thinking, the 50s and 60s was a time of watershed change in the attitudes of many American


Barnes. pg. 127.

- 20 organists—yet not in the actual building of organs. Phelps notes this ironic dichotomy between a decided interest among organists for traditional open-toe, nickless, lowpressure pipe making and voicing, and the aversion of American firms to attempt to build such instruments. “Thus,” he says, “those who wanted a clearer, transparent instrument had no choice but to import their pipes from Europe.”51 The American market for European instruments was forming. Noehren and von Beckerath Robert Noehren was one of the first Americans of the post-war era to travel overseas to hear and play historic classical European organs. He is described as, “an influential organist and teacher and among the boldest of reformers,” and his travels in Europe in 1949-50 led to his conviction that mechanical action organs deserved a hearing in America. While abroad, he collected data on the scaling and voicing of the instruments he played, and upon his return to the states, wrote several articles about his experiences for publication in The Diapason in 1950-51.52 Noehren has particularly strong words of praise for the Arp Schnitger organs that he examined: “One of the most significant characteristics of the Schnitger conception is the way each voice has been balanced with the other voices of its respective division and matched in strength with its corresponding voice in other divisions. For instance, if the principals 8’, 4’, and 2’ are drawn in combination, one can be sure the equivalent pedal stops will balance and complement the strength of the Hauptwerk and Pedal, but still represent a contrasting sound…I have never heard another organ so beautifully planned for the playing of music.”53


Phelps. pg. 27. Garrett. “Reform in Retrospect, Part 1.” pg. 59. Also, the full essays can be found along with many others in An Organist’s Reader: Essays, a collection of Noehren’s lifetime writings on the organ world. 53 Noehren, Robert. An Organist’s Reader: Essays. pg. 26. 52

- 21 Schnitger was at his prime in the Baroque era, and is often cited as one of the master builders of all time. His instruments, naturally, were entirely mechanical action, and represent the height of Baroque organ building. Thus, they will serve as a model for the more radical reform ideas brewing in the United States. Schnitger’s instruments were also encased in wooden cases, and tonally were textbook examples of the Werkprinzip. When Noehren comments above on the independence yet interrelatedness of the various division of a Schnitger, he is referring to the Werkprinzip tonal ideal. Schnitger’s organs would visually display the various divisions in the casework; pedal ranks would be placed in a case on either side of the manual divisions, and those divisions would be clearly separated––Rückpositiv behind the player, Brustwerk immediately above, and Hauptwerk (the Great division) above the Brustwerk. Noehren comments that the end result of his trips abroad was a paradigm shift in what he considered a good organ, “My world had turned around since those first days at the organ in Buffalo, and I was beginning to think that good organ building and mechanical action were synonymous.”54 Literally his very next words will serve as a segue into the first builder profile, “By 1955 I had persuaded a Lutheran Church in Cleveland to purchase what was to be the first large organ with traditional casework and mechanical action in this country during the twentieth century: an organ of four manuals and 66 ranks, built by the late Rudolf von Beckerath of Hamburg, Germany.”55 That organ is situated inside Trinity Lutheran Church in Cleveland, Ohio. This Beckerath instrument has been called, “the turning point in American Reform,” by Phelps, and he says that the instrument contained sounds as yet unheard in American 54 55

ibid. pg. 204. ibid. pg 204.

- 22 instruments. The author has firsthand experience on the Trinity Lutheran Church instrument, and can attest to the richness and diversity of tones it produces, including sharp and distinctive reed tones (the 8’ Oboe on the Schwellwerk in particular––see the appendix for the full registration and a picture). Also, the integrity of ensemble between the principle chorus of each manual is clear, and each manual is capped with more dramatic reeds than seem typical of American builders. Noehren did not exaggerate; Blanton agrees that at most it was one of four organs nationwide at the time of installation that were completely encased,56 one way in which this organ was truly radical for its time. Clearly, full casework on an American instrument was extremely rare, but so too was a tracker instrument built with the classical approach to overall tonal design. This Beckerath instrument, which would have counted as normal for his European designs, astonished many American listeners, and led to several more commissions for Beckerath organs in the states. Among these, his four-manual instrument for St. Paul’s Cathedral in Pittsburgh, installed in 1962, is most notable.57 Biggs and Flentrop E. Power Biggs, like Noehren, took an extensive concert tour of Europe in the post-war era. He spent three months abroad in 1954, performing over thirty concerts in fourteen different countries.58 Taking with him somewhat primitive recording equipment,59 Biggs compiled a significant album, The Art of the Organ, upon his return to the states. The trip helped make Biggs into a leading advocate for tracker action 56

Blanton, Joseph. The Organ in Church Design. pg. 80. Phelps. pg. 27-28. 58 Owen. E. Power Biggs. pg. 115. 59 Biggs by this time was recording exclusively for the Columbia Records label. According to his biographer, Barbara Owen, he ended up taking about 500 pounds of recording equipment with him as a “portable” recording studio on the trip. 57

- 23 instruments. For example, of an instrument in Holland in the church where Jan Sweelinck was once organist, Biggs wrote, “How magnificent are the sonorities of Sweelinck’s music as heard in his own church! One seems never to have heard the music before.”60 In a 1973 Smithsonian Institution oral history interview, Biggs recounted his trip and the affect it had on his musical thinking: “Playing the great historic organs of Europe had, for me, the impact of a revelation. For the first time, I became aware of the enormous reservoir, the sum total, of the art of the organ in its building and tonal aspects from five or six centuries…Many things thus suddenly came into focus––the importance of tracker action, of articulate voicing, of the organ case, of the windchest, and so on…One suddenly realized the truth and enormous vitality of all that Schweitzer had written about many years before.”61 Biggs, never one to shy away from a challenge, set himself on the task of getting an authentic European tracker instrument installed inside the United States. Biggs had met Dirk Flentrop on his 1954 tour; recorded on an instrument Flentrop had restored in 1955, and considered his firm to represent the finest in modern European building. To Biggs’ mind, Flentrop became the logical choice as builder for the new organ in the BuschReisinger Museum at Harvard.62 Dirk Flentrop’s first mechanical action organ in America actually came with him in 1939 to the World’s Fair held in New York City. However, the organ was hardly the star of the show, and not unlike the earliest portative organs of Holtkamp, its potential fell on deaf ears. Fesperman says, “…the time was obviously not yet ripe,” for mechanical action instruments like Flentrop’s.63 Thankfully, Flentrop tried again, nearly


Biggs, as quoted in Owen. E. Power Biggs. pg. 114. Biggs, as quoted in Owen. E. Power Biggs. pg. 116. 62 Owen. E. Power Biggs. pg. 129. 63 Fesperman. Flentrop in America. pg. 30. 61

- 24 twenty years later, which led to almost twenty more years of leadership in American building. Flentrop should probably be considered more influential than Beckerath on the overall thinking of American organists and builders of this time, for at least three reasons: first, he provided many organs to leading academic institutions––including all-important practice instruments, so that many of the new generation of American organists at some point played his organs. Secondly, Flentrop was more than simply a builder––he is described as having an “educational zeal” when it came to his organs; a zeal that patiently explained to building committees the virtues of classical design and solid building principles, and thus rather than compromising standards actually made many committees into converts.64 Thirdly, Flentrop had the distinct opportunity to build three prominent, large-scale concert instruments at three preeminent American institutions: the Harvard organ mentioned below, one in Warner Hall at Oberlin, and his largest American instrument in the chapel of Duke University. Fesperman considers Flentrop a key impetus toward change in the instruments used to train rising organists. He says, “Daily exposure to a responsive practice instrument may well do even more for the bright student than expert teaching.”65 To this end, Flentrop, with the support of Fenner Douglass, whom Flentrop had met while the former was in Europe on a Fulbright, created 13 different organs for the Oberlin Conservatory alone; in sum, he shipped 43 organs to academic institutions around the country.66 Each of these installations surely won over many young organ students,


ibid. pg. 21. ibid. pg. 56. 66 ibid. pg. 89-92. 65

- 25 which, since those very students were set to become the next generation of organ buyers and designers for schools and churches, provided a base of top quality instruments in American schools that had been lacking. Secondly, Flentrop was described as a zealous educator. He had a strict philosophy on organ building, and was more apt to inform building committees and architects of its virtues than accept compromised contracts: “Nowhere in his correspondence are there attempts simply to merchandise instruments, but always a patient campaign to convince the respondent of the best possible solution, with clear indication of the point at which further compromise would destroy the integrity of the design.”67 Also, Fesperman goes on to explain that a lost contract often affected Flentrop not so much through the loss of potential income as through the inability to see his vision of the design come to be. Flentrop had a nifty––and educational––way to handle the potential difficulty of putting together a large instrument without getting a chance to hear the organ in the eventual performance space. He would often send ahead small portative instruments to test out certain stops or pipe scalings in the hall or church to get a realistic sense of the acoustics.68 At many academic institutions, Flentrop would let the school keep the portative as a practice instrument, serving again to train young organists. Lastly, though, the discussion returns to Flentrop’s first major instrument, installed at the impetus of E. Power Biggs in place of the E.M. Skinner/G. Donald Harrison instrument at the Busch-Reisinger Museum at Harvard University. This installation, in 1958, instantly put Flentrop’s name on the map, so to speak, of major organ builders. The 33-stop, 3 manual instrument was fully mechanical action and

67 68

ibid. pg. 21-22. ibid. pg. 27.

- 26 enclosed in wooden casework, with a clear indication of the Werkprinzip. This organ is pictured and a specification of the instrument is given in the appendix to this paper. A significant organ simply due to its size and novelty as a mechanical action, classical style instrument, Biggs clearly added to its importance through his concerts and, more importantly, his recordings on the instrument. Interestingly, Charles Fisk, at the time an employee of the Boston-area Andover Organ Company, maintained the Busch-Reisinger instrument; Flentrop and Fisk enjoyed a long and collegial correspondence as a result, and later Flentrop would help Fisk get the contract for the Mt. Calvary Church in Baltimore, one of Fisk’s first major instruments.69 Flentrop’s three major instruments at American institutions of higher learning––the 3-manual, 44-stop instrument for Warner Hall on Oberlin’s campus in 1974 and a 4-manual, 66-stop instrument for Duke University’s Chapel in 1976,70 along with the Harvard organ covered in this chapter are masterful examples of his work, showcasing exemplary placement, wooden casework, classical tonal design and architecture with visible Werkprinzip, and full mechanical action. These organs represent, with von Beckerath, the height of reforms in the 1950s and 60s, and served to establish once more a place in American organ building for the tracker instrument.

69 70

ibid. pg. 48-49. See the Duke organ’s stop list and picture in the appendix.

- 27 -

Step Three: C.B. Fisk and the Modern American Organ “There are no secrets in organ building. The only secret is putting everything together in the correct way.” -Dirk Flentrop The third historical era in the American Organ Reform movement is probably also the least distinct in beginning and ending dates. In broad strokes, however, it can be characterized as having arrived when native domestic organ builders began to build organs that reflected the paradigm shift in the thinking of many organists. That is, the innovating American organ builders of the third era will finally extend beyond the work of Harrison and Holtkamp and catch up to the work of the European builders. By the end of the 1970s, “the argument of ten years earlier about the validity of tracker organs was over––the decade had seen that question settled in the affirmative, with at least a grudging recognition...that trackers were here to stay.”71 Not everyone will be a reformer; the plurality of instruments constructed in modern America remain electropneumatic and often exhibit non-organ reform elements––a particularly glaring example is the tendency to keep organs sequestered inside chambers, a regression from the advances of Holtkamp half-a-century earlier. This chapter will focus primarily on the significant American builder C.B. Fisk and his disciples. Originally planning to be a physicist, but dismayed over the ethical implications of his work on the Manhattan Project, Fisk was an innovator in many aspects of organ design, including the use of uneven wind and the development of 71

Garrett, Lee. “American Organ Reform in Retrospect, Part 2.” The American Organist. pg. 72.

- 28 historical period organs. He knew quite personally other reformers like Dirk Flentrop Walter Holtkamp, under whom he apprenticed for a time. In terms of the overall reform movement, Fisk was ahead of his time, since his first important mechanical action instrument at Mt. Calvary Church in Baltimore was installed in 1961, and therefore he serves as a logical bridge into modern reform instruments. Consideration will be given both to his ideas and his instruments. Fisk’s other importance is in his active set of disciples. One such builder, John Brombaugh, built an organ in 1972 that Garrett considers perhaps “the most Baroque-style organ of the 20th century.”72 Closing this discussion will be a consideration of the present-day status of the organ in America. In general, there seems to be as many styles of building as there are organ-building firms. Recent reformer: Charles Fisk Charles Brenton Fisk was not originally going to be an organ builder. He had planned on being a physicist, having received a degree in the subject from Harvard University and having worked on the Manhattan project during World War II. He says, however, that in graduate school he “at last realized that my chief interest was unquestionably music, and that my chief contribution must of necessity combine physics and music.”73 Owen says of Fisk that though his output, in terms of volume of instruments, was small, “the work and thought of Charles Fisk have had an incalculable impact on the direction which American organ building has taken in the second half of

72 73

Garrett. “American Organ Reform, Part 1.” pg. 63. Fisk, C.B. As quoted in Owen, Charles Brenton Fisk: His Work. pg. 1

- 29 the twentieth century.”74 His first organ that caught widespread attention was for Mt. Calvary Church in Baltimore. The commission from the church would have gone to Flentrop, but he redirected the building committee to Fisk due to a backlog of orders and a trust in Fisk’s abilities.75 In the final design, Fisk was able to create a dream instrument: the organ was to be a full two-manual instrument, encased, arranged and tonally designed in the Werkprinzip idea, placed in the rear gallery of the church, and visually stunning as well. “This organ was to be without compromise,” Garrett writes.76 The organ also was the first mechanical action instrument in the Americas to utilize suspended key action, a style of mechanical action designed to be lighter and more sensitive to the organist’s touch.77 It should be clear by now that this instrument has traits that place it firmly outside of the mainstream American builder of the 1960s––Fisk would maintain such a lead in domestic building for at least a decade. Another writer argues that with the Mt. Calvary instrument Fisk showed himself to be the first American builder that was worthy competition to the dominant European powers of Flentrop and von Beckerath.78 A picture of the wonderful case of the organ and its full registration can be found in the appendix. Fisk is also remarkable and influential because he wrote plenty about his philosophy of organ building. Perhaps his most famous writing is “The Organ’s Breath of Life,” an article originally published in The Diapason in 1969. In it, Fisk argues against the common conception among organists and builders that the unsteady wind


Ibid. Preface. Fesperman. Flentrop in America. pg. 49. 76 Garrett. “American Organ Reform, Part 1.” pg. 62. 77 Ibid. Pg. 62. 78 Coleberd. pg. 13. 75

- 30 supply of the great old organs was an undesirable trait nicely solved by twentieth century technology. He says instead that, “Works of art founded on inadequacies (uneven wind) always turn inadequacy to their own account: The inadequacies simply become essentials. And so it often is with the unsteady wind of old organs.”79 He points out that the revered organs of Schnitger had uneven wind, and uses an example to draw his most significant––and contentious––point. “The very variableness of the effect of the wind upon music of diverse kinds suggests the instrument has a temper, that it likes one player but not another, one composer but not another. It seems alive. You even seem to hear it breathing.”80 The article launched a controversy because of the suggestion that unsteady wind could be superior to the steady wind of modern organs, a source of pride to many builders. Fisk also shared his thoughts on proper placement, calling it “the most important of the factors which determine the effectiveness of an organ.”81 He also noted that the architect is responsible for the upper limit of the quality on any organ to be built in the architect’s building. Architects will either consider the needs of a choir and organ in their designs, or they will not, with consequences to the sound of the instrument, Fisk argued. Further, Fisk wrote about the use of tin in pipe construction, arguing strongly that tin should be used wisely, and not abandoned by builders;82 elsewhere he discusses the problems encountered in designing the proper flue openings.83 All in all, it should be evident that Fisk was important through his instruments and also through his writings and


Fisk, C.B. As cited in Owen. Charles Brenton Fisk: His Work. pg. 113. Ibid. pg. 114-115. 81 Ibid. pg. 109. 82 Ibid. pg. 123-124. 83 Ibid. pg. 121-122. 80

- 31 philosophy on organ building. His firm is regarded as a leading designer in the organ reform tradition in American to this day, though Charles Fisk himself is no longer living. Fisk’s Disciples Fisk’s last legacy is in his disciples who have started their own firms and who are shaping present-day organ culture in America. Three such builders are Fritz Noack, George Bedient, and John Brombaugh. Noack has been a consistent builder of encased mechanical action instruments; Bedient has made period-specific instruments as well, like his French Classic organ in St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.84 Brombaugh will get a bit more attention for two reasons: one, he has created the most Baroque-style instrument and he introduced hand-hammered pipe metal for an organ in Lorain, Ohio, a first among modern American builders.85 Brombaugh’s most interesting instrument is a 1972 two-manual organ for Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Toledo, Ohio. This instrument features an ornamented 16th century case design with a strong visual effect, suspended mechanical key action, unequal temperament, and a slightly unequal wind system.86 Its specifications are found in the appendix. The organ serves as an example of a neo-Baroque instrument whose creation was made possible thanks to the slow churn of reform over the past several decades.


Garrett. “American Organ Reform, Part 2.” pg. 74. Garrett. “American Organ Reform, Part 1.” pg. 63. 86 Ibid. pg. 63. 85

- 32 -

Conclusion: Musings and Reflections “…The ideal which must govern artistic organ building throughout all time––the ideal which insists upon making an organ sound like itself and not like something else.” -Francis Burgess, in 1907 The focus has been on the builders and players of American organs who have shaped and changed the collective thinking on organs back toward the classical concepts of organ design and construction. To that end, this paper has followed the Organ Reform movement in America from its beginnings with Albert Schweitzer and the German Orgelbewegung through the earliest reform ideas of G. Donald Harrison and Walter Holtkamp. Harrison has left a legacy in his “American Classic” design that still influences many––albeit largely non-reformer––organist and builders today. Holtkamp was particularly revelatory as the master of visual aesthetic design. After the war, organists flocked overseas to see and play instruments of the European masters firsthand; many, like E. Power Biggs and Robert Noehren, later arranged to import organs from foreign builders such as Flentrop and von Beckerath. More recently, Charles Fisk has led or trained many of the staunchest reformers active in America in the present day. In sum, the key builders and actors driving the substantial changes brought about by the American Organ Reform movement have been profiled in an attempt to show the evolution of their thought and understanding of the complexities of the organ. It was noted in the introduction that organs are unique among all instruments in the breadth and depth of history surrounding their construction, use, function, and literature. It should also be apparent that the organ is distinctly different from every other

- 33 musical instrument in so far as organists themselves do not own their instruments. The flutist owns his professional level flute; the saxophonist her professional line instrument, and both will possess the same essential component parts. Any saxophone, for example, regardless of brand or quality, will possess a bell, body, key mechanism, neck, mouthpiece, ligature and reed. Even the modern piano is sufficiently standardized that any concert hall quality piano will exhibit 88 keys, almost nine feet of total length, three pedals, and an even playing action. Yet the organist is presented with a new challenge at every console. Each organ’s component parts will vary: in size and shape, tonal design, available stops, placement within the room, “feel” and type of the action, and builder. This is not necessarily a problem: the best organs are by their nature custom built to fit the performance space and requirements of performance by skilled builders and their firms, so no two self-respecting organs should be exactly alike. Consequently, there is incredible diversity among styles and types of organs built throughout history and even inside present-day America. Further, the craftsmanship required of the masterful instruments explains why the best organ builders can enjoy a reverent status perhaps equaled only by the great violinmakers. Hopefully, this paper’s focus on builders has epitomized this other idiomatic trait of the organ: its great builders are legends onto themselves. For all of the musical advances of the Organ Reform movement, however, it seems incorrect to end this paper by trying to substantiate the idea that reform ideals and instruments now dominate the organ culture in America. In fact, the majority of American builders remain fairly conservative in relation to its precepts. Most new constructions remain electro-pneumatic; they also are often relegated to chambers or

- 34 hidden behind decorative screens, rather than the more acoustically sound position inside the performance room. Thankfully, reputable builders have at least bought the tonal scheme of G. Donald Harrison and the eclectic “American Classic” ideal, but this hardly moves most American firms past the immediate post-war era in thinking and design. Also, the danger in the “American Classic” style is the implicit attempt to make the organ acceptable for many genres and time periods of organ music without having an instrument that can faithfully perform any one period or genre. David Fuller wrote, “Our thinking on organs will always be muddled as long as it takes compromise as its point of departure,”87 and he probably had the “American Classic” idea in mind. Perhaps a good part of the difficulty is economic. Rare indeed is the institution like the Oberlin Conservatory, which possesses the resources needed to support both a large imported Flentrop, a specially designed French style Fisk, and a mean-tone Brombaugh; rarer still is a church with such capabilities. Thus, the eclectic stop lists of most American organs may stem from churches that do not want to rule out the performance of the French repertoire along with the standards of the German school, or the English. Ironically, however, perhaps mostly through ignorance, organ buyers seem to think––or perhaps they are told––that their instruments will perform all the literature moderately well, in a best compromise solution, without any acknowledgement of the necessity of wooden casework or advantageous placement that is inherent in any of the “classic” schools of organ design and construction. It is quite unfortunate, for American church- and concertgoers alike that the overall consciousness of builders and organists collectively still seem to relegate the organ to second-class status among musical instruments.


Fuller. As quoted in Garrett. “American Organ Reform, Part2.” pg. 72.

- 48-


- 48-

Ger manic Muse um Cambridge, Massachusetts

1937 Aeolian-Skinner: G. Donald Harrison




Quintade 16’ Principal 8’ Spitzflöte 8’ Principal 4’ Rohrflöte 4’ Quint 2 2/3’ Super Octave 2’ Fourniture IV (1 1/3’)

Koppelflöte 8’ Nachthorn 4’ Nasat 2 2/3’ Blockflöte 2’ Terz 1 3/5’ Sifflöte 1’ Zimbel III (1/2’) Krummhorn 8’

Bourdon 16’ Principal 8’ Gedeckt Bass 8’ Nachthorn 4’ Blockflöte 2’ Mixtur III (4’) Posaune 16’ Trumpete 8’ Krummhorn 4’

4 Couplers 8 General Combinations Crescendo Pedal Commentary: This “experimental” organ by G. Donald Harrison was among the first new organs built completely unencased. E. Power Biggs negotiated with Harrison to get the organ––which was originally stored at the E.M. Skinner factory––placed into the museum. A key instrument in the reform movement for two primary reasons: one, the stop list. Observe the mixture stops in each division: the Fourniture in the Hauptwerk, Zimbel in the Positiv and Mixtur in the Pedal. Also, each division has a significant “vertical” array, with stops spanning four octaves: 16’-2’ on the Pedal and Hauptwerk, and 8’-1’ on the Positiv. Secondly, E. Power Biggs used the organ for his influential weekly radio broadcasts during the 1940s and early 1950s.

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Busch-R eisin ger ∗ Muse um Cambridge, Massachusetts

1958 D. A. Flentrop organ




Prestant 8’ Roerfluit 8’ Octaff 4’ Speelfluit 4’ Nasard 2 2/3’ Vlakfluit 2’ Terts 1 3/5’ Mixtuur IV

Holpijp 8’ Prestant 4’ Roerfluit 4’ Gemshoorn 2’ Quint 1 1/3’ Mixtuur II Kromhoorn 8’

Zingend Gedect 8’ Koppelfluit 4’ Prestant 2’ Sifflet 1’ Cymbel I Regaal 8’



Bourdon 16’ Prestant 8’ Gedekt 8’ Fluit 4’ Mixtuur III Fagot 16’ Trompet 8’

Hoofdwerk-Pedaal Rugpositief-Pedaal Borstwerk-Pedaal Rugpositief-Hoofdwerk Borstwerk-Hoofdwerk


Commentary: This organ replaced the Harrison “experimental” organ thanks to E. Power Biggs. After his tours of Europe’s great instruments, Biggs imported this organ to satisfy his new requirements in organ building: namely, mechanical action and wholly encased organs. Notice both here and in the picture the clear employment of the Werkprinzip, as evidenced by the “vertical” voicing and clearly demarked chests for different divisions of the organ. Pedal chests sit to the side of the main organ, with the Rugpositief situated behind the player, the Borstwerk immediately above the console, and the Hauptwerk placed firmly between the two pedal towers. This manner of construction, in line with the “great” European builders, is evidenced clearly in this instrument.

This is the modern-day name for the Germanic Museum at Harvard University. Owen lists this stop in her appendix to E. Power Biggs: Concert Organist. It is not listed in the registration given in Flentrop in America. ∗


- 48-

Cle ve land Museum of Art Cleveland, Ohio

1933 Walter Holtkamp Rückpositiv 1922 E.M. Skinner Organ

Rückpositiv Bourdon 8’ Prestant 4’ Rohrflöte 4’ Nazard 2 2/3’ Gemshorn 2’ Tierce 1 3/5’ Larigot 1 1/3’ Piccolo 1’ III Fourniture Commentary: This small, nine-stop Rückpositiv was added to the 1922 E.M. Skinner installation. It was reputed to be the first new Rückpositiv constructed in the Americas. Holtkamp teamed up with organist Melville Smith and museum curator Arthur Quimby on the project; the latter two gentlemen wanted the Rückpositiv to make the Skinner instrument more suitable for playing Bach’s complete organ works. Garrett argues this was the first time an American builder and performer had collaborated with the express goal of making an instrument suitable to a specific area of the organ repertoire.

- 48-

Trinity E vange li cal Luthe ran C hur ch Cleveland, Ohio

1957 Rudolf von Beckerath Organ




Quintadena 16’ Principal 8’ Rohrflöte 8’ Octave 4’ Spitzflöte 4’ Nasat 2 2/3’ Octave 2’ Mixtur VI Tromet 8’

Gedack 8’ Principal 4’ Koppelflöte 4’ Octave 2’ Waldflöte 2’ Quinte 1 1/3’ Sesquialtera II Scharf IV Dulzian 16’ Barpfeife 8’

Gemshorn 8’ Gemshorn-Celeste 8’ Quintadena 8’ Blockflöte 4’ Gemshorn 2’ Zimbel III Oboe 8’



Holzgedackt 8’ Principal 4’ Rohrflöte 4’ Principal 2’ Sifflöte 1’ Terzian II Scharf III Krummhorn 8’

Principal 16’ Subbas 16’ Octave 8’ Octave 4’ Nachthorn 2’ Rauschpfeife III Mixtur VI Posaune 16’ Trompet 8’ Trompet 4’

Commentary: This is the first large instrument von Beckerath exported to the United States. Observe from the picture the classic tonal design of the Werkprinzip: pedal towers on either side, with the other divisions in vertical alignment from the Rückpositiv up through the Kronpositiv. The writer’s firsthand experience with the instrument was revealing–– though in need of cleaning and restoration, the richness and clarity of the tone was still self-evident.

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Mo unt C alvary C hur ch Baltimore, Maryland

1961 Andover Organ Company: C.B. Fisk




Bourdon 16’ Prestant 8’ Roerfluit 8’ Fluitdous 8’ Octaaf 4’ Spitsfluit 4’ Quint 2 2/3’ Superoctaaf 2’ Blokfluit 2’ Mixtuur IV Cymbaal III Cornet III Trompet 8’ Zymbelstern

Holpijp 8’ Quintadeen 8’ Prestant 4’ Roerpijp 4’ Nasard 2 2/3’ Octaaf 2’ Terts 1 3/5’ Quinta 1 1/3 Siffluit 1’ Scherp III Krumhoorn 8’

Subbas 16’ Lieflijk Gedekt 16’ Octaaf 8’ Gedektpommer 8’ Superoctaaf 4’ Vlakfluit 4’ Nachthoorn 2’ Ruispijp IV Mixtuur IV Fagot 16’ Trompet 8’ Schalmei 4’

Commentary: This is the last organ Charles Fisk built as president of Andover Organ Company and before starting his own firm. The organ shows the strong influence of Flentrop––note the Dutch spellings––who was originally approached about the project, and with whom Fisk consulted during its construction. The organ has brilliant casework, which was much more ornate than the case of the rare other American organs that possessed them.

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Duk e Uni ver sity C hap el Durham, North Carolina

1976 D. A. Flentrop Organ




Prestant 16’ Bourdon 16’ Octaaf 8’ Roerfluit 8’ Octaaf 4’ Quint 2 2/3’ Octaaf 2’ Terts 1 3/5’ Mixtuur V-VII Cornet (treble) V Bombarde 16’ Trompet 8’ Trompette 8’

Prestant 8’ Gedekt 8’ Octaaf 8’ Fluit 4’ Nasard 2 2/3’ Octaaf 2’ Fluit 2’ Terts 1 3/5’ Larigot 1 3/5’ Mixtuur V-VI Scherp IV-V Schalmei 8’ Cromorne 8’ Trompet 4’

Prestant 8’ Baarpijp 8’ Gedekt 8’ Quintadeen 8’ Octaaf 4’ Fluit 4’ Nasard 2 2/3’ Fluit 2’ Terts 1 3/5’ Mixtuur V-VI Trompet 8’ Hautbois 8’ Vox Humana 8’

Trompeta Magna 16’ Clarin 8’ Trompeta Batalla 4’

en chamade



Gedekt 8’ Principaal 4’ Fluit 4’ Nachthoorn 2’ Cornet III Hautbois 8’

Prestant 16’ Subbas 16’ Quint 10 2/3’ Octaaf 8’ Quint 5 1/3’ Octaaf 4’ Nachthoorn 2’ Mixtuur V-VI Bazuin 16’ Trompet 8’ Trompette 8’ Clairon 4’ Cornet 2’

Commentary: This organ represents the pinnacle of Flentrop’s instruments in America, and is his largest organ in the states. As the picture attests, Flentrop shows that an organ can be as visually stunning as it is aurally.

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Ashlan d Aven ue B ap tist C hur ch Toledo, Ohio

1972 John Brombaugh & Co. Organ




Bourdon 16’ Praestant 8’ Holpijp 8’ Ocatve 4’ Spielflöte 4’ Octave 2’ Mixture III-X Trumpet 8’

Gedackt 8’ Praestant 4’ Rohrflöte 4’ Octave 2’ Quinte 1 1/3’ Sesquialtera II Musette 8’

Subbass 16’ Octave 8’ Fagot 16’ Trumpet (Gt.) 8’

Commentary: Lee Garrett considers this organ in the same spirit of Fisk’s organ for Mt. Calvary Church, completed over a decade earlier. In this beautifully encased organ is found the first modern examples in America of hand-hammered metal pipes, an unequal temperament, and also a flexible wind supply. Garret says the organ is the “fullest realization of the seed sown by Schweitzer,” and, thus, a fulfillment of the Organ Reform’s ideals. The instrument makes no compromises in its stop list for the music of eras other than the German tradition.

Pnuematics to Prestants  

My junior year independent study, completed at The College of Wooster. I studied the Pipe Organ Reform Movement in the United States.

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