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Austin organs reorganizes

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  • Austin organs reorganizes

    I have heard a report that Austin organs has gone out of business. The word is that they were on shaky ground financially and a church refused to pay a big sum of money that was owed to Austin, and that did them in. If that is true, shame on that church. Austin should have taken them to court.

  • #2
    Re: Austin organs closes its doors

    Curious rumor! There seems to be no further confirmation of this. The Austin Organ Company web site remains up and running.


    • #3
      Re: Austin organs closes its doors

      The website might be up and running but I know (first hand) of an organ company that lost a 50% deposit on a "ton" of Austin rebuilt neumatics. They are out of business.



      • #4
        Re: Austin organs closes its doors

        I don't believe they're shutting down. A friend's church contracted them to build a new 4 manual console for their 1911 instrument. He hasn't mentioned it to me that they were not going to be able to complete the project. Hope they aren't closing they build fine instruements.


        • #5
          Re: Austin organs closes its doors

          Appears to be true. Just got a confirmation from inside source at a major builder (still in business). Reason given was "poor management." Isn't that what brought down Aeoline-Skinner and Moller? I suppose all this is going to ooze out slowly, in bits an pieces. Very Sad!!


          • #6
            Re: Austin organs closes its doors

            Indeed that is very sad news! Austin is one of the last of the old, great American organ builders. The first church that I was organist for had a 3 manual, 46 rank Austin that had been built new in 1933 then completely rebuilt in 1976 during my tenure as organist. It was a fine instrument both before and after the rebuild. The string celestes on that organ (2 of them) made the congregation sit back and purr like kittens. From what I have read, the organ that finally broke Moller's back was the 5 manual behemoth in Calvary Church in Charlotte, NC. Don't know the specifics however.
            Mike Cala


            • #7
              Re: Austin organs closes its doors

              I actually heard that Austin organs closed about 3-4 weeks ago from a good friend of mine... I wasn't sure if it was true or not


              • #8
                Re: Austin organs closes its doors

                The story of Moller as I was told by an organ tech from Kansas City, The Moller family sold their organ company to a corporation that had nothing to do with the music industry. The corporation waited untill the Calvary Church organ was finished, then drained Moller's bank accounts dry and forced them into bankruptcy. There were 30 churches that had given
                $50 thousand dollar deposits for new organs, and that money was also taken (or stolen) by the parent corporation. I have played the Calvary Organ. That is one fabulous instrument that will play from Clasical organ, to Theater organ.


                • #9
                  Re: Austin organs closes its doors


                  Austin's Legacy Plays On

                  Hartford Organ Maker To Resume Business, Adding Joy To Asylum Hill Church Concert
                  By MATTHEW ERIKSON
                  Courant Staff Writer

                  May 6 2005

                  The news that Austin Organs in Hartford is starting up business again after a two-month break is a welcome relief to its many customers.

                  Marilyn Austin, board chairwoman of the 112-year-old Hartford company, said Thursday that Austin Organs Inc. will resume business, but "it will be a graduated startup."

                  The company will take care of orders it had not filled as of the close of business on March 7, she said, and take care of whatever repairs need to be done. Austin made the announcement after a meeting with a turnabout management team exploring options for the reorganization of the company.

                  "I think it's very good news and well-measured thinking," said John Rose, organist at Trinity College in Hartford. "It's doing something on a scale that can regain people's confidence in the marketplace. They have a venerable history and a very good reputation for building solid instruments. I hope they can pull it off. It's also very good news for Hartford."

                  Still, the idea that Austin would no longer make or service the organs had been bad news - but not a death sentence for the instruments.

                  "The dire handwringing [when the company's closing was announced] I don't think was appropriate in terms of being concerned about the viability and maintainability of the instruments," Rose said. "I'm totally convinced that any Austin organ with a mechanical difficulty can be fixed by a qualified technician, whether they need to go to someone else or use different technology to solve a problem. That's the worst of it."

                  But now its customers can go back to the source.

                  Trinity's instrument is among the most distinctive and valued Austin organs in the area. Completed in 1971, it replicates the tonal design and console features of 19th-century French instruments.

                  What makes Austin organs so enduring and fascinating is that each instrument is custom-made and specialized to the sound preferences of its owner. The organ at West Hartford's Temple Beth Israel, for instance, features a shofar stop. The symphonic organ at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts includes a Chinese gong, snare drum and 25 chime tubes among its various effects.

                  Hartford's Immanuel Congregational Church, Christ Church Cathedral and Center Church all have Austins, as do St. John's Episcopal Church and Temple Beth El in West Hartford and First Church of Wethersfield. . The company has manufactured organs for customers in places from England to Beijing, as well as the world's largest outdoor organ, in San Diego's Balboa Park.

                  Many of those instruments share the company's unique, patented design - a single "universal wind chest" that blows compressed air through the pipes and allows a person to walk inside, where all the valves and every portion of the organ mechanism are visible. That feature is unchanged since company founder John Turnell Austin developed it in Detroit in 1893.

                  It makes repairs of Austin organs easier than for Aeolian-Skinner or Moller organs of similar vintage and style, say those familiar with the instruments.

                  "It makes it good from a service standpoint," says David Broome, tonal director of Austin Organs for 20 years. On the other hand, he says, the action of the instruments is unique, and many of the parts are made with special machinery.

                  Broome speculated before the news of the company's restart that even if Austin remained out of business, "a supply company would be able to make the parts eventually." Broome and his son Chris run an organ-restoration business in Windsor Locks. The Austin Organs Service Co. in Avon - independent from the organ-maker and headed by ex-Austin employee Bon Smith - has been in business since 1980.

                  When the company announced its closing on March 7, the music staff of Asylum Hill Congregational Church had to hustle to get its new organ console from the company's headquarters on Woodland Street near St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center. Organist Charles Miller received an e-mail that morning from Austin Organs president Kimberlee Austin, daughter of Marilyn and Donald Austin. (Donald Austin had been president of the company from 1973 to 1999.) The company was closing its doors at 3:30 p.m. Miller was asked to immediately remove the still-unfinished 900-pound organ console that Austin had been contracted to build for the renovation of the Hartford church's 1962 Aeolian-Skinner organ.

                  "We were not the only people on loading docks that day. There were several U-Haul trucks lined up," Steve Mitchell, the church's minister of arts, says about the "rescue." "There were a good 25 people there milling about trying to get things loaded. We saw trucks there loading pipes, wind chests and keyboards, and everything they could."

                  With the help of two of the church's ministers and Tolland organ builder Foley-Baker, Miller and Mitchell lugged the console from the moving van into the church sanctuary. (Luckily for them, it had casters.) Other spare parts belonging to AHCC were recovered from Austin, and a day later the church hired two of the 15 workers formerly employed with the company to finish building the console onsite. Finally, at the Easter morning services, after most of the two-year-long expansion was completed, Miller performed on the instrument for the first time.

                  Tonight at 8, the refurbished organ receives its formal dedication with a free concert by distinguished organist John Scott, director of music at New York's St. Thomas Church.

                  Renovations have also occurred at Center Church and Immanuel Congregational. On May 15, Larry Allen, former music director of Immanuel, will perform a dedication recital on that church's refurbished instrument.

                  More organists will flock to Hartford in June for the regional conference of the American Guild of Organists. And while future maintenance of Austin organs may seem secure, the long-term effect on the Hartford organ community of a slimmed-down company is bound to be a subject of discussion.

                  According to Rose, the current times have favored smaller, "boutique" builders such as C.B. Fisk in Gloucester, Mass., and Dobson Pipe Organ Builders in Lake City, Iowa, that specialize in mechanical-action organs instead of Austin's electro-pneumatic action.

                  "I think what Austin needs to assemble is the right group of people in the way that people perceived it in its finest," said Rose. "There was a lot of sadness in the extended Austin family, people who worked there. I hope that group can be accommodated. ... Maybe this is a new opportunity."

                  Ezequiel Menendez, organist at the Cathedral of St. Joseph, which has the largest Austin organ in Hartford, agreed.

                  "My reaction [to the reopening] is great, as long as the people who are involved with the company are the ones that brought the company up through many years. Otherwise, you're going to end in failure again."

                  According to Miller, the quality of the expanded organ at Asylum Hill Congregational Church - the new Austin console, with a new trumpet stop, an expanded bass sound and new ranks of pipes - is stellar. Other work on the instrument was done by Czelusniak et Dugal of Northampton, Mass., which installed the new pipes and rewired the organ.

                  The Austin factory "made sure all details were looked after," said Miller. "It's a gorgeous instrument, and it plays remarkably well."


                  • #10
                    Re: Austin organs closes its doors

                    I realize this is an old post, but I have just recently joined and would like to comment. I lived in Hartford and was closely associated with Austin Organs for a few years and can assure everyone who is reading this, that in fact it was VERY poor management indeed. When a company is alread in bankruptcy proceedings, it doesn't fare well to donate a $130,000 en chamade stop to a church who purchased one of your larger instruments. You also don't go into the hills of Glastonbury, CT. and purchase a multi-million dollar home. Rather you fight to keep your company up and going with everything you have in you.
                    Regarding Moller/Moeller. The main problem with their going into financial ruin was in fact The Organ That Ate Charlotte at The Mary Kay Cathedral (Calvary Church). They severly underbid to win the job. I used to work for a company who maintained the organ and can prove through photos somewhere around my house that towards the end as product was running out and money was scarce, much of the winding was done with PVC pipe, duct tape, etc. Some of the facade pipes which are dummies are made out of Tin-covered PVC pipe. I believe what happens in a lot of instances is that the "Presidents" of these companies get over-zealous and enjoy the rewards large contracts reap and they begin to spend it foolishly. What happens then is that these great institutions of organ-building are shut down and numerous lives are disrupted. Look at some of the Austin employees who had been there 50+ years. Now too old to find work somewhere else and all for what; because someone wanted a collection of flashy cars and a castle on a hill.


                    • #11
                      Re: Austin organs closes its doors

                      i know this thread is old, but i have something to say!

                      There is a church in the Boston area that i know of that was going to sen it's organ back to moller to have the pipes refurbished and have the whole thing redone. well, they put it off for a month, and during that month Moller went out of business. If they had sent their organ back before, they would have lost it. And it is an amazing instrument they have there! I think it's Christ Church of Hamilton, MA but i'm not sure.


                      • #12
                        Re: Austin organs closes its doors

                        Big Sam,

                        You scared us!!  


                        • #13
                          Re: Austin organs reorganizes

                          EDITING to change the forum subject as Austin has reopened. thanks