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  • Skinner's successor

    Just a thought question. If you wanted to build a new pipe organ that mostly closely resembled the Skinner sound, which builder would you choose and why? Are there any builders that actually have that as their goal?

    Remember, no fighting. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion! :->

  • #2
    Sorry to be a stickler, but the "Skinner sound" can mean a number of things. The early organs, like St. John the Divine before the rebuild, have their personality; the middle organs, like Woolsey Hall as it stands today, have a different personality; the later organs, where Ernest M. wasn't so involved, are quite different indeed, and are infrequently as lauded.
    The spirit behind Skinner's organbuilding is perhaps best captured by Schoenstein & Co., although the organs differ in their execution. Both builders emphasized the solo colors and choruses, sought to make more expressive organs, and used windchest construction techniques to optimize speech. I shouldn't use the past tense for Schoenstein, since they are still working hard at this goal. But again, the sounds differ. On one hand, I regularly practice on a small 3-manual Schoenstein, and am completely besotted; the solo and accompaniment possibilities are marvelous, the choruses are bold but not overpowering, and you hardly notice the lack of any mixtures. On the other hand, it's hard to study in NYC and not be a Skinner fan; most of my Skinner experience is with an organ with a state trumpet, and the effect of such a robust organ in such a large space is hard to pass up. Apples to oranges, but both executions have their appeal.
    While the spirit of Skinner is today quite popular with organists and organ aficionados, quite few builders are imitating his style, and few willingly would at customer request. With exceptions, the boutique builders like Fisk and Dobson have other ideas (exceedingly good ideas), and the less able builders would likely do poorly at the task. Maybe Austin could, though I am decidedly not fond of the universal windchest.
    If you want to play an organ with a true Skinner sound, in short, play an organ built by Skinner.
    As of 7/16/2013, no longer active on forum.
    Practice hard, practice well.

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    • #3
      Methinks that Schantz could do it if they were commissioned to do so.

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      • #4
        Schoenstein is probably the closest modern American builder to the ideals of Skinner when it comes to the symphonic organ concept, but they do have their own ideas and approach which is somewhat different than Skinner's. They're the first builder I think of when it comes to a modern interpretation of the symphonic ideal which was also Skinner's goal. Other builders could probably emulate the Skinner approach, and some have, but not many are pursuing E.M.'s approach as a defining concept.

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        • #5
          Do you have a preference between Schoenstein and Skinner?
          It must be said that, while the high-pressure voicing of Skinner is pretty much a dead art today, his style of building diapasons is coming back into vogue, especially among the less classically-oriented builders. Speaking with a bit of the octave, they are a real treat to the ears.
          This organ appeared on the forum recently:
          http://russellorgans.com/opus/ithaca/index.html
          It is very interesting in its disposition. It is also very expressive. Does anyone know the instrument well?
          As of 7/16/2013, no longer active on forum.
          Practice hard, practice well.

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          • #6
            If the narrated LDS Conference Schoenstein represents their magnum opus I pity anyone who thinks that the LDS organ is even REMOTELY skinneresque. To suggest that it is would be a huge insult to Skinner. The voicing of the diapasons as heard on the narrated CD is so aweful, so geigen like, tubby, and dull that it is amazing what people will accept as good because of a builder's name. The strings are strident and lacking in any refinement. Skinner was everything that this particular organ is not. The solo orchestral reeds are well so so. The chorus reeds much better. The solo tubas while nowhere near Skinner are good in themselves. The ensemble overall both flue and reed is quite good. The basses in the pedal not so good especially the speech of the low flues. Overall quite disappointing and not in the least even a hint of Skinner. Forgive me but I have listened to the demo CD countless times and my assessment stands as stated.

            As for other builders: NONE are remotely Skinner. Not Austin, not Schantz, not Reuter, not Casavant. not Fisk not Dobson. Barden has in his barn many vintage Skinner ranks and is building a huge job in New England around 12000 pipes.That is Skinner. I forgot to mention: NOT QUIMBY either!

            http://www.churchofthetransfiguration.org/organ/
            Last edited by suavial; 05-15-2013, 07:00 PM. Reason: added link

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            • #7
              What is a "Skinner sound"; no one sound covers all the period's of the firm's organ building. And, that firm has been out
              of business for so long that you are better to simply forget them. Many much finer builders than Skinner have emerged
              and are the mainstay of organ building now. You are totally incorrect about the St. John the Divine organ. Before 1954
              that organ was quite inadequate and only after quite radical treatment did the sound evolve to what it needed to be
              in that huge, reverberant building. Have you actually heard this organ? Don't wallow in the mud about the name Skinner.
              EMS had very little idea what an organ should be; he was far too interested in orchestral effects and odd sounds to really
              be considered a master organ builder. Later, under GDH, it was an entirely different story and their organs brought
              back and revealed the real, hidden glory of what an organ is supposed to be.

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              • #8
                Well that was inflammatory, but the 1900s in organbuilding does tend to have that effect on discussions. EMS had in his mind a type of instrument that you don't appreciate, apparently, but that instrument is still an organ. By appreciating Skinner organs, I am not wallowing in the mud; I am just appreciating instruments that are well built, sound quite fine, and give a distinctive sound to certain bits of repertoire. You're shouldn't play Bach on a Skinner organ, sure, but are you going to play an orchestral transcription or a late romantic work on a Flentrop? If baroque and late romantic organ music are both valid and worthy of being performed, they're worthy of being performed on appropriate instruments. If you don't think late romantic music is worthy of being performed, then I guess your logic is consistent, but ouch, that's harsh.
                EMS, you'll remember, has been a great inspiration to many composers. When asked what inspired his peculiar and lovely sound combinations, Karg-Elert responded that he had studied the specifications of contemporary American organs. Vierne spent a while on tour America before writing his final works, and we see such stops as the French Horn being asked for in the Sixth Symphony, for instance (not to mention that Vierne wanted to remodel the dying organ at Notre Dame with many orchestral influences, including unit chests and whatnot). These are just two examples. Karg-Elert sounds lovely on Sauer organs, but also sounds lovely on Skinner organs. Vierne sounds lovely on Cavaillé-Coll organs, but also sounds lovely on Skinner organs, especially his later works. Contrary to your musical view, perhaps, but still valid as a performance practice. Which is better? De gustibus non est disputandum.
                And yes, I perform on a number of organs in NYC, including St. John the Divine (for pay). Do you?
                As of 7/16/2013, no longer active on forum.
                Practice hard, practice well.

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                • #9
                  The organ realm has many opposing views within it. I am trying hard to appreciate all organs for what they are and can be and not limit my likes to a single style or era or period. To me anything that has organ tone is an organ irrespective of how that tone is generated. I like Hammonds, digital organs, analogue organs, pipe organs, cinema organs, reed organs and all musical instruments. There was a time in my youth when I did not.

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                  • #10
                    EM Skinner and G.Donald Harrison worked peacefully together on the 1928,1931 pipe organ at Yale University. It re-uses much good tonal and mechanical material from a 1915 Steere and 1902 Hutchings. In 1931 Harrison made some minor revisions: The bottom octave of the 32 Bombarde had its wooden bells replaced with metal; a new English Horn for the Orchestral Division; and a new Trumpet Harmonique 8 unenclosed voiced on 25'' wind and said to be the very first stop with parallel French-type shallots, the scale being exactly like the Tuba Mirabilis 8 next to it, and the previous Skinner Orch Trombone 8 on 25'' removed.

                    EM Skinner began a slow evolution in 1924 with three annual visits to Boston by Henry Willis III of London. Skinner adopted some of Willis' suggestions such as the Flute Triangulaire 4 in 1925 and presumably some mixtures dubbed 'Willis Mixtures' in later times.With the arrival of G.Donald Harrison in July 1927 a gradual forward progress began that eventually saw Skinner and Harrison part ways. Still, Aeolian-Skinner retained much from EM Skinner for many years to come.

                    Harrison upon arrival in 1927 made some revisions to three university organs already planned with the Willis Swell reeds on 10'' wind. Diapasons with a more prominent quint were introduced that are quite nice. Harrison responded well to the demands of the evolving tastes in the 1930s and went on to pioneer the organ reform movement in the USA.That movement would move on and on until a neo-baroque era came and went. Today there are many different organs built in the USA: some along modified lines of the ''American Classic'' genre, others more along symphonic lines, yet others along period specific designs.

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                    • #11
                      Skinner may be the best of the American Symphonic style, but not the one and only. Yes, some of his work that has been restored in its original form is stunning. One municipal installation of the mid-twenties is a gem. Every stop, every pipe is a musical masterpiece.

                      Yet Austin, Kimball, Welte, Moller, Casavant and many other excellent builders, including Wurlitzer and Robert Morton as well as Kilgen, built superb examples of the American Symphonic organ, some still in existence today, and happily so.They are musical marvels,; work well with chorus, orchestra and as solo instruments. No other style of organ here or anywhere in the world has the splendor and beauty that these organs have. They are a big part of American Organ History and many are worthy of respect and restoration, just as much as masterpieces by Cavaille-Coll,Schnitger, Silberman and Willis.

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                      • #12
                        Here's an intact Skinner from the '30's at St. Peter's in Morristown NJ

                        http://www.stpetersmorristown.org/mu...41c6287762.htm

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                        • #13
                          In 1984 a replica pipe was built and voiced of the above organs Great First Diapason 8 c25 pipe [middle C] a 40-scale 2/9 mouth common metal pipe that was awesome to see and hear...

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                          • #14
                            A Symphonic AMERICAN pipe organ to die for.....

                            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xECU3S5NKbA

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                            • #15
                              Under what circumstances do you perform at St. John the Divine, New York, for pay? Wouldn't you have to get permission
                              from their staff organists to play there?

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