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Aeolian-Skinners don't get no respect!

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  • Aeolian-Skinners don't get no respect!

    The latest edition of the Allen Organ eNotes landed in my Inbox yesterday. It contains this little gem that represents a recent theme in this publication:

    "The hall [Janet Wallace Auditorium at Macalester College in St. Paul MN] housed an older Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ, Op. 1446 from 1964 that was in unfortunate disrepair. The college decided that the costs of repair and for relocation within the new hall were prohibitive."

    And so they ripped out a worthless old pipe organ and replaced it with . . . a wonderful new digital imitation of a pipe organ--probably one whose samples came in part from old Aeolian Skinners!

    I seem to recall a few months ago that Allen was crowing about another installation in which a church trashed an Aeolian Skinner in favor of a digital pretender.

    Are we so in love with new things that even these historic instruments are in danger?

    I feared the worst for the A-S at Macalester, but a little reading on OHS seems to suggest that a church in Minnesota bought and refurbished it, adding a few ranks but keeping the vast majority of the original pipework. So why couldn't the college--which probably has a larger endowment that a church--see its way clear to do the same?

    While researching Opus 1446, I also ran across Opus 1024. This instrument currently resides at an Episcopal church in Amarillo TX:

    http://www.standrewsamarillo.org/org...fications.html

    At the time it was acquired, everyone raved about it being in all-original condition. So what did the church do? Hire a builder who trashed the original combination action and relay system, added and moved ranks, and changed the chest configuration. Yep, lots of respect for history there.

    Don

  • #2
    Are we so in love with new things that even these historic instruments are in danger?
    Yes, we are, and it doesn't only apply to organs. Historic buildings, etc. are also at risk in the "progressive" United States.

    David

    Comment


    • #3
      It does seem a lot of us would prefer to spend our own money our own way rather than take on someone else's pet projects. Or maybe we should go to a fully socialist society provided the leadership promises to take on these projects.

      I'm sure that college isn't doing anything worthwhile with their endowment so I guess they should have taken this one on.
      When I become dictator, those who preach intolerance will not be tolerated.

      Comment


      • #4
        Times are changing on the preservation of existing organs. The last I installed my organ, I hired a professional organ builder. I asked about changes and improvements for the instrument. His advice was to leave it alone as originally designed, play it for a year and then decide if any changes are required. He was correct, the original designers really knew what they were doing, changes are not really required. For a six rank unit organ (single chamber), it has a really big sound. Any more would probately overwhelm the music room.

        Comment


        • #5
          It isn't just Aeolian-Skinner organs that don't get respect. In fact I would submit that because of their popularity they probably get more respect than other builders who were putting out good quality but didn't have the PR machine that A-S had. If anyone has ever heard a good Kimball instrument, either from the early years of the last century or from the few years leading up to their demise during WWII, they built some rock-solid instruments with an amazing tone to them. One has only to listen to the 1938 Kimball at St. John's Cathedral in Denver to hear what a glorious sound they had. Unfortunately all too few of these instruments remain because nobody placed any value on them. After all, Kimball wasn't on the East Coast, so what good could they possibly be doing?

          My point? Take a good look at the value of what you *actually* have to work with, not just the nameplate on the console. I've seen A-S and EMS instruments that weren't worth the electricity committed to them, while I've seen instruments by builders of lesser renown that are a true joy to play, and are well worth preserving.

          Kind regards,
          Shawn

          Comment


          • #6
            There is an undercurrent in this nation that Aeolian-Skinner in not the organ of the academics. Thus too often wherever their influence prevails the Skinners bite the dust unless some worthy souls come along and rescue them from the parts bin.

            Comment


            • #7
              For the life of me, I can not understand how anybody could remove an Aeolian-Skinner and put in an Allen computer.

              While I am certainly open to electronic organs (I play one every Sunday), and I certainly agree that electronic organs hold a valuable and legitimate place in the organ landscape, I can not see trashing an Aeolian-Skinner for an electronic that (in 20 years) will be obsolete.

              They could have at least arranged to have the Skinner removed and given ample opportunity for someone to restore and re-install it somewhere.

              Comment


              • #8
                Some institutions do not appreciate the value of the pipe organs they already have and will eliminate it in favor of a digital. Well, at least maybe somebody else will take it and enjoy it.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Thomas Murray shows a Skinner some respect
                  -Admin

                  Allen 965
                  Zuma Group Midi Keyboard Encoder
                  Zuma Group DM Midi Stop Controller
                  Hauptwerk 4.2

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    A nice piece on the University of Chicago Skinner
                    -Admin

                    Allen 965
                    Zuma Group Midi Keyboard Encoder
                    Zuma Group DM Midi Stop Controller
                    Hauptwerk 4.2

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Here is an interesting Web page on E.M. Skinner opus 537, currently installed at St. Paul's Church in Princeton NJ:

                      http://www.pjmorgans.com/HTML/projec...princeton.html

                      I heard this instrument in the early 90s, prior to its restoration, and spoke to the organist briefly. He called it "Virgil Fox's" organ, but I did not question him on the connection. Now I see that it was built for the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Virgil's alma mater, so he would indeed have played it during his student days.

                      Even in a questionable state of repair, it had an unmistakable Skinner sound--sweet but not cloying--with a fine ensemble and good solo stops. The organist mentioned that a campaign was underway to raise the funds to restore it; I am happy to see that the campaign was successful and that the builder apparently took a great deal of care to maintain the organ's integrity.

                      Does anyone else know more about its time at the Peabody? Has anyone heard it since the restoration was completed?

                      Don

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I was once told that one company has destroyed more historic Skinner and AEolian-Skinner organs than any other company. Who? AEolian-Skinner! In the name of progress, taste changes, and keeping the business solvent, many AEolian-Skinner organs were alter beyond original recognition. I think the USA is just coming of age to realize that it has a history to preserve. I love reading stoplists of rebuilt organs in the UK that include something like, Great: Open Diapason 8 (1683 with builder's name). Playing a stop like that would probably reduce me to a puddle!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Relax everyone--this organ found a new home: https://www.facebook.com/events/169829649702471/

                          Perhaps the college didn't have the funds to restore & maintain this organ, so let's not condemn them without knowing all the issue, but rather be happy the organ found a new home.

                          The organ has been rebuilt & enlarged by Holtkamp. See: http://database.organsociety.org/Sin...?OrganID=35772

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            It costs none of us a cent in maintenance, repair, upkeep, or rebuilding costs to criticize the decisions other people make about the organs that their institution bought and paid for, and in many cases, are still paying for.

                            As much as a fifty-year-old Aeolian Skinner organ is likely a far better musical instrument than a new Allen of any size, the rebuilding costs of the pipe organ combined with 25 years or so of maintenance and tuning costs is enough to buy several large Allens, enough that even if they only last 25 years each, there'll still be one working 125 years from now.

                            Sometimes (often), the artistic bottom line is not the only bottom line, especially when you're the one writing the checks.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Aeolian-Skinner built many organs that were below their usual standard. Without knowing the organ in question we cannot
                              tell what its quality was or why an Allen was put in. Many older pipe organs these days are without homes and that
                              number is increasing because churches are not using organs now and many churches abandon or sell their building
                              and leave the organ behind.

                              Comment

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