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  • 19th century organs in New England, U.S.A.

    There is interesting information about the how the poetry of Emily Dickinson was influenced by the hymns sung in her local Amherst church, particularly it seems, those of Isaacs Watts. I have been trying to find out what sort of organ would have been used in New England churches at that time, namely the first half of the 19th century.
    Although in some churches instruments were not allowed, it seems to me that these hymns would have been accompanied by an organ.
    I have searched for information but have not found anything other than the name of one organ builder, but then there was no information about what registrations were available.
    Any help would be appreciated.

    Thank you,

    Ian

  • #2
    Ian,

    Try the Organ Historical Society's webpage. Choose Search, and then the State. That may help you in your search.

    I do know that there were some Hook & Hastings in the 2nd ½ of the century, but not the first ½.

    Hope this helps.

    Michael
    Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
    • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
    • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
    • 11 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 7 Pianos

    Comment


    • #3
      Many thanks for that Michael. I had looked at that site but not carefully enough as I had missed the stop lists database. There is a stop list for an organ in Massachusetts from 1805, which seems to be what I was looking for. It has what I assume are the expected stops, although it appears some organs only had three stops. Anyway here is the list which I found useful:

      8' Open Diapason
      8' Dulciana
      8' Melodia
      4' Principal
      4' Flute
      2' Fifteenth
      Cornet (treble)
      Sesquialtera (bass)
      8' Oboe

      I understand the Melodia was popular in America in the 19th century, although I should be honest and admit I am not sure exactly what it would sound like.
      Last edited by ianstewart; 12-07-2010, 07:46 AM.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by ianstewart View Post
        Anyway here is the list which I found useful:
        • 8' Open Diapason
        • 8' Dulciana
        • 8' Melodia
        • 4' Principal
        • 4' Flute
        • 2' Fifteenth
        • Cornet (treble)
        • Sesquialtera (bass)
        • 8' Oboe
        I understand the Melodia was popular in America in the 19th century, although I should be honest and admit I am not sure exactly what it would sound like.
        The stoplist you shared appears like it would be a one-manual instrument with a split keyboard. There is a (much) later instrument in Corinth at the Baptist Church like that. It doesn't allow for much tonal variety or varied repertoire, however, it was what was authentic for them at the time.

        A Melodia is a fairly mellow flute. If you want to hear what it sounds like in different instruments, try the Encyclopedia of Organ Stops. I'm sure you can find a recording there. My pipe organ has an 8' Melodia, but unfortunately, it's not assembled yet. Maybe when I retire!

        Hope this gives you more information than you need.

        Michael
        Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
        • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
        • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
        • 11 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 7 Pianos

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by myorgan View Post

          Hope this gives you more information than you need.
          Thank you again Michael, I now have the information I need, also the melodia sounds like a stop I would find useful.

          Although a keyboard player, I do not play organ but this year I was commissioned to compose a work for pipe organ and violin which was played on a Catalan neo-Baroque organ in a church in Collbató, near Barcelona. Researching Spanish organs was really enjoyable.
          Reading Emily Dickinson's poetry gave me the idea of using an early 19th century American sound in a new work being performed for organ and saxophone in London - this time on a newly renovated English Romantic organ. Because this work would benefit from quite pure organ sounds, and I have a general idea of what 19th century American organs sound like, I thought it would be good to do research and use a similar selection stops to get a unified, and hopefully, an authentic sound.

          Comment


          • #6
            There is a historic organ by the 19th century American organbuilder Eban installed in the National War Memorial's Hall of Memories in Wellington, New Zealand.

            It was imported into NZ from the USA in 2007 and was a gift to the people of NZ from the ancient Order of St Lazarus.

            I think the organ may have been built around 1850, or possibly earlier.

            I understand the organ was originally built for St Dunstan's Episcopal Church in Ellsworth, Maine, then it ended up in various private homes around New England before being purchased by the Order of St Lazarus and gifted to New Zealand.

            The organ is one manual with seven stops, some of which can be coupled down onto a pedalboard.

            I have several photographs I took of the instrument just after it was installed in NZ's National War Memorial, but I'd have to search for them. I'll see if I can locate the photographs sometime over the next week or two, and if I do find them, I'll post some of them to this thread.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Kiwithrottlejockey View Post
              I understand the organ was originally built for St Dunstan's Episcopal Church in Ellsworth, Maine, then it ended up in various private homes around New England before being purchased by the Order of St Lazarus and gifted to New Zealand.
              How odd!!! I have played the Allen Organ in that church, perhaps about 15 years ago? That would have been a nice environment for a pipe organ!

              Interesting how the conversation took a left turn!

              Michael
              Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
              • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
              • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
              • 11 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 7 Pianos

              Comment


              • #8
                Emily Dickinson attended what is now known as First Congregational Church, Amherst, as a child. The OHS database has no information for their organ(s) prior to 1906 Austin (now gone). Amherst having been a fairly prosperous place it can be assumed that this church (associated with Amherst College) had a fairly significant organ. North Congregational Amherst still has their mid 19c Johnson organ, since rebuilt by Steere (19c) and by Andover about 25 years ago. This organ is about 20 stops, and First Church would have been a much more significant parish. New England organs were fairly similar to those of British origins into the 1850's. Installation of the Boston Music Hall Walcker began a period when influences became much more cosmopolitan.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Thank you for all your replies. Interesting information about the organ from Maine Kiwithrottlejockey - and that it has found its way to another continent after all these years.

                  Thank you for that information Westminster. The work of mine that is being performed is in a church with a newly renovated English Romantic organ, so it means the organist should be able to get a similar sound. In the notes on the score I listed the stops above to give the organist an idea of the sound world.

                  Am I right in thinking that on these organs there would be few mutations and no mixtures?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Considering the cachet of the parish and just totally speculating, the organ at First Church might conceivably have been by Johnson (30 miles away), a 3 manual of about 30 stops, which would have had a Great through 12th, 15th and Mixture, possibly a 16 principal, a Swell likely with mixture, no celeste (much too early) and a minimal Choir with Clarinet, likely TC compass. Pedal 16 Open Wood and Bourdon, possibly but not likely, a 16' reed. The 1860 Hook at Woburn, MA Congregational, of about this size has a wonderful pedal reed, styled "Grand Possaune" (sic).

                    Vis-a-vis your stoplist: this might be close for the Great of a two manual organ of this period except for the divided tierce mixture, which in New England organs wouldn't have been seen past the very early 1850's. Somewhat later Tierce mixtures reappeared normally in the Swell as "Dolce Cornet". The emphasis was generally strong on the "Dolce", the pipes usually of Dulciana quality. The American Melodia is an inverted mouth open wood flute pretty much the equivalent of the British Hohl Flute. On a 3 manual of the later 1860's one begins to encounter Doppel Flutes as the Great Flute, The Melodia being moved to the Choir. The earlier Great 4' Flutes, generally Chimney Flutes in construction were giving way to harmonic flutes by the end of the decade. The 4' Flute then appearing on the Choir became generally a Flute d'Amour of wooden stopped diapason construction with pierced stoppers. The 60's were a period of great transition. There was, until it was relocated to Berlin(?), a 3 manual 1870 Hook right across the street from the Woburn Congregational. The differences between these two organs were astonishing. Hard to believe that they were built by the same builder only 10 years apart!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Further to previous post: Great Tierce Mixtures disappeared very quickly in New England organs once equal temperament started being used about 1845. AFAIK there is no evidence of anything other than quarter comma meantone having been used in New England until then.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Sorry it has taken me so long to thank you for your reply Westminster, our internet connection had been broken since last Friday morning.

                        That information is really valuable, and will help me with the performance of my work in early January. It is good to know that it should be possible to emulate the melodia stop on an English Romantic organ as well.

                        I never realised that quarter comma meantone was used on New England organs, that is really surprising. As I understand it that tuning means you get beautiful major thirds but the fifths are even flatter than in equal temperament. Although it is a controversial subject, over the years I have found the equal tempered fifths sound wrong to my ears. However it is something I have to live with as most of the music I compose includes keyboards and saxophones!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Ian,
                          This book will provide you with some good info
                          http://www.ohscatalog.org/ochisoforinu.html

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Westminster View Post
                            AFAIK there is no evidence of anything other than quarter comma meantone having been used in New England until then.
                            Could someone please explain what they mean by "quarter comma meantone?" This is the first time I've ever heard that expression.

                            Thanks in advance.

                            Michael
                            Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
                            • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
                            • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
                            • 11 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 7 Pianos

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Do a web search on "quarter comma meantone", but be ready for some serious math. Wikipedia has a good article, but the computations are hard to follow. Some of the other references may be a little less complex. As a start, I'd recommend this one:
                              http://josephknowles.wordpress.com/.

                              David

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