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  • Methuen Memorial Music Hall Organ


    I'm sure this has been answered before, but I can't find it. 

    When they "restored" this organ, how exactly did they link the new console? It was originally a tracker, correct? So having installed an electronic console automatically disables the original console completely? To me, that seems like a slap in the face to purists everywhere! 
     
     
     

  • #2
    Re: Methuen Memorial Music Hall Organ



    It was rebuilt in 1909 with all new chests by the Methuen Organ Co located in a shop adjoining the hall




    later that shop was purchased by EM Skinner as was the organ and hall...circa 1930




    he started business in 1936




    the WNC organ was fabricated in that shop in 1937




    rumors abounded that EMS used pipes from the organ to build the WNC instrument in 1938




    When GDH of A-S rebuilt the organ in 1947 the old console shell was retained but rebuilt to A-S standards using the terraced knobs




    The console that is extant at the bottom of the case is the original




    Iam unaware that it is anything more than a relic or for aesthetics




    but Methuen Organ Co rebuilt this organ from storage and supplied new chests and therefore the playing action would have been likely an electric one to the best of my knowledge




    A-S kept much original pipework but added significant amounts of new material




    A recording of the facade 32 is an awesome sound --very fundamental

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Methuen Memorial Music Hall Organ



      In retrospect not all of G. Donald Harrison's rebuildswere wise - although he seemed to be very forward thinking at the time.




      At Methuen however,action and windchest changeshad already been made long before.




      Although a purist might detest a change to such an instrument, in this casesome of the alterations might have been a good thing. The old Walcker was built with cone valve (ventil) chestsoperated by pneumatic lever. Many organists of the day complained about the horrible delay between pressing the key andhearing the sound. To further exacerbate the problem the original console was buried far into the massive casework, such that the organist could not hear the instrument.




      In "The Organ In New England" (Barbara Owens) are some contemporary accounts:




      S. A. Emery spoke of this organ as the one which 'spoke day after tomorrow' andB. J. Langsaidhe had to start playing a half hour ahead of the concert just to get the music out in time.




      The 1905-1909 rebuild by the Methuen Organ Company provided a new console andnew windchests of the pallet-slider type, actuated by an electropneumatic mechanism; in 1946/47 Aeolian-Skinner madethe consolemoveable and provided it with a new pedalboard; they also provided a combination action; they made no further changes to action or chests at that time.(source: http://www.mmmh.org/mmmh-history.htm)




      Bypassing the old pneumatics would improve the organist's impression of the action;unfortunately there is still a delay between key and speech. Having the console away from the case helps but one further obstacle is that many pipes are submerged under the impost level of the organ.




      At the time I played it the combination action sounded like a teacart being pushed down a staircase! [:D] Someone else provided me with that pictoral description, I can't take credit for it. It is a very tricky organ to play, and to register.




      I think Andover has recently done some remedial work to thecombination action (?). I know they added Great chorus reeds in 1970/71 but this would have been done more recently (if it did happen).




      As Sesquialtera mentioned, the original console is still there but I'm pretty sure it was disconnected when the organ was moved. An SSL system has been implemented and I would imagine the current action uses electric pull-downs for the pallets. TheA-S consolewould be connected via a coax cable, like most modern consoles.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Methuen Memorial Music Hall Organ

        Soubasse32,

        *sounded like a teacart being pushed down a staircase*  -  ROTFLMAO...................

        Well, at least the pipework doesn't sound like a herd of long-tailed cats in a room ful of rocking chairs.............



        Cheers.


        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Methuen Memorial Music Hall Organ



          [quote user="stentordiaphone64"]*sounded like a teacart being pushed down a staircase* - ROTFLMAO...................Well, at least the pipework doesn't sound like a herd of long-tailed cats in a room ful of rocking chairs.............[/quote]




          If you think that is funny, how about this...




          Again I'm sorry not to recall who wrote this, but I remember reading someone's account of going to an organ recital of Messiaen pieces.




          The combination action was mercilessly noisy, and the listener had the distinct impression of those lovely oiseaux being picked off by a shotgun!




          [:D]

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Methuen Memorial Music Hall Organ



            Ivery respectfully disagree on the characterization that GDH rebuilds were in some way unwise.I have seen some andI believe that the man was a genius likeI believe that EMS was also. The rebuilds that Harrison carried out were not on any one make of pipe organ.He rebuilt many many organs from various pedigrees.I have extensively read all the known material published of Harrisons far back as 1918 when he wrote a fine article in the UK about the upcoming Livrpool Willis III. I have also read all known other materials attributed to Harrison and have played at least some organs he either built or rebuilt.




            There are those who followed him at A-S that have not regarded him highly. However he was the man thatI feel helped return the organ back to the traditional ensemble first and then the bells and whistles after.He took on some jobs that were less than ideal to keep a staff working and well-fed. Even so, he was broke after the War and the Tabernacle in Utah paid his way out there to design their new organ in the late 40s. In 1948 he accepted 50,000 bucks from Joe Whitefords dad and made Whiteford a VP and personal assistant.




            In 1954 Harrison got fed up with Fox at Riverside and turned the job over to Whiteford who wrote the spec more along his preferences with Virgils approval. At the conclusion Harrison refused to sign the nameplate cause Virgil forbade a Positiv section.So the organ had preps for several more divisions--celestial; positiv and string.By far and large the organsI have played by GDH like John the Divine are glorious and without equal.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Methuen Memorial Music Hall Organ



              The animosity between G. Donald Harrison and E.M Skinner is well known.




              Harrison systematically destroyed just about every instrument that meant anything to Skinner. Although these rebuilds were of course the idea of other people, one can't help feel that he carried out his task with a special gusto. Harrison often had a hand in convincing churches that Skinner's tonal schemes left a lot to be desired.




              It is shocking to read of the number of 32' Diapasons that went to the scrap heap, in the name of a 'clarified ensemble'. Skinner was heartbroken!




              The end result of these draconian rebuilds is that there are hardly any original Skinners left. The few that do exist give us a glimpse of a special sort of tonal magnificence that is all too rare. There is a magic about a fine Skinner, thatall too manyAeolian-Skinners seem to miss.




              One can applaud the return of "traditional ensemble", but now these "traditional" organs are omnipresent. Where does one turn in order to hear a full-blooded romantic/orchestral work, pray tell? Girard and Woolsey are two pinnacles that tower over very sparse territory.




              History has also shown that these "traditional" organs were nothing of the sort! If you want Baroque, you get a distant approximation of what Bach would have known (which in some cases was a warmer sound). If you want something approaching French romantic, again it is far from the mark.




              I find the GDH concept of the 'reedless Great' and overly prominent 4'can make for ananemic result. This was carried to an extreme as time went on (and by his successors); by far I prefer his instruments from the 1930s.




              Aeolian-Skinners can be very fine instruments, but it has only recently become evident that Skinners are equally fine - perhaps moreso because of their relative rarity.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Methuen Memorial Music Hall Organ



                AH Marks was a retired scientist from Akron Ohio who is credited with the rubber-making process of vulcanization. He was a genuine lover of organs and became the president of the Skinner company in 1920. He absorbed the Steere firm located in the former Johnson shop in Westfield Mass. The principals at Steere were former Skinner people.The clamor that started early in the 20s for clarification is said to be the product of a new generation of younger organists studying abroad.Marks business savvy made him reach to England for assistance beginning early on. EMS traveled there again in the very early 20s [having last been there in 1898] and was blown away by the grand chorus V at Westminster RC Cathedral in London; a magnificent pipe organ down to this very day designed by Lewis and executed by Willis III.




                Subsequent assistance from Willis III resulted in several trips to the states over a number of years. As early as 1924 the sound of Skinner began to improve so that a simple swell gedeckt from that period is a clean tone. The diapasons continued to be narrow high cut-up stops that were characterized by a strong octave harmonic and a 'churchly' sound. The strings were outstanding as were the subtle effects and the orch reeds. In 1919 Osacar Pearson joined the reed dept at Skinners having worked for Estey.He was a native Scandinavian and from a school or era where voicing skill was private and he would not voice in front of others. He would become the head reed voicer in 1928 and remain till 1969. He died years later at age 101. It was he that aided Harrison in developing the A-S reed pallette later on.




                Marks wanted the firm to move forward with the trend of greater clarity and brightness that was being demanded. In 1927 Willis-IV was born and thats when Harrison moved to the USA in July of that year to take up work at Skinners. Marks was a sly and astute man and could see that GDHs knowledge of the UK organ was going to provide the edge that Skinner Co wanted. In the 20s they built a large volume of prestigious organs. The firm wanted to remain on the cutting edge. The clientelle included prestigious and wealthy churches and institutions. Old organs already there were either removed or absorbed into the Skinner designs.




                In 1930 Skinner and Harrison were no longer friends but competitors.EMS blamed Marks for giving Harrison too much influence in th design of the organs. So EMS quietly sold all his Skinner Co stock and bought the Methuen organ, hall and organ shop . Marks paniced and offered EMS a lucrative sum extending 5 years just so the name would remain Skinner. EMS wasnt at all interested but was forced by family to accept.Later there was a struggle on scaling and other tonal matters between GDH and EMS. Harrisons diapasons were clean and incisive and bore a very prominent quinty quality. EMS wanted to use his formula of narrow high cut-up diapasons even some with leathered upper lips. Also GDH was using trumpet models found in England that are to my ears very lovely; but EMS said they were 200 years old.




                Marks realized that the future of the firm was with GDH not old EMS. So, he ruled that whoever sold the job would scale it and supervise it. For a time you had two different products with many similarities coming out of Boston. The very last Skinner on the Skinner Co opus list is Girard College Philadelphia and was sold and supervised by EMS. It is a magnificent instrument. The new firm-a merger of Aeolian and Skinner began to operate. The home organ market would dry up fast owing to depression years in the 30s.




                The deal on the scaling and supervision was busted in 1934 when EMS sold a job to Grace Cathedral in Frisco. The contract that the client wanted stated clearly that the job would be under the direction of GDH of the A-S Co. EMS tried in vain to eliminate that requirement. The organ was done under GDH and what a beauty it is.




                The reason many Skinner organs were revised by A-S was that it was improperly believed that EMS was in error on his concepts and that the clients who bought the organ originally from EMS also had money later to hire A-S to update such to the American Classic concept that GDH and Emerson Richards developed. Other firms brought their own English expertise from Willis III-- Whitelegg, Piper,etc. Harrison re-used what he felt he could from existing instruments for the sake of economy. He went through various phases during his career. Many fine organs he did are full-toned although when an 8ft principal was the only one on a great, it could be a bit timid though very lovely.Some customers wanted a Diapason 8 instead of the principal and these were refined quinty-sounding stops fuller than the principals.The aforementioned is a generalization and there are exceptions.




                The 4ft principals that Harrison made of large scale were 54 scale at 4ft like at Woolsey at Yale.I do not disagree with that concept asI have experimented with it and found it useful when you have other stops following the traditional scaling formula adjoining the fatter 4 smaller 8.. The other firms took it too far i feel and we have a 1960s Moller rebuild here in town with an anemic 8ft and stronger 4ft.In the 60s the Riverside A-S gallery organ was rebuilt. The crew from A-S stayed on there as curators and rebuilt the organ up front in 1966-67. I visited there en route to Europe in 1970 and Fred Swann did a nice private demo for me of the old and new work.I asked him why he replaced the 1954 A-S principal choruses and he indicated that they were too fluty.They were: all 2/7 mouths that went to the GF Adams tracker at St Thomas in 1969. meanwhile the Grand Choeur reeds at St Thomas removed circa 1966 or thereafter went to Riverside on the reedless Great after being revoiced to 3-3/4'' from 5'' and given a more Germanictone.




                After GDH died and Whiteford took over ,the trend was to underscale and also get caught up in a lot of tapered stops. The divisions at WNC that Whiteford put in in the 60s have been dubbed a ''garden of gemshorns''.After Skinner closed quite a number of Whiteford/A-S organs and some Gillett/A-S organs were rebuilt by various firms as well as former A-S people that went into business for themselves. In all of these cases the scaling was increased.




                Ido not feel that GDH ruined any organ per se. The Symphony Hall Boston did have a 32 open that was pitched in favor of a bearded wood 32 violone. Similarly where possible GDH replaced the EMS wooden 32 bombarde with a new metal one. The 1930 job at St Peter in Morristown NJ has an original metal 32 bombarde with tapered shallots. In 1931 GDH went to Yale and replaced the 1902 wooden resonators of the bombarde on 25'' with metal ones. The first parallel shallot 32 was a rebuild in 1948 of the 1930s bombarde 32 at All Saints in Worcester Mass. That was a long and difficult task that Oscar Pearson succesfully pulled off.




                The first parallel shallot trumpet from A-S was the Trumpet Harmonique on 25'' at Yale in 1931 also by Oscar Pearson. In 1933 GDH did a job with all parallel-shallot chorus reeds either at All-Saints or St Mary the Virgin--probabaly the latter butI am uncertain. In the late 30s GDH and friend Emerson Richards experimented with the french-type chorus reed on more moderate wind and found that the tone was unforced. The chorus reeds of the GDH-era of the French-type were a cross between Willis I and ACC. There was not that very brassy quality that continental reeds possessed but a more smoothish intonation like father Willis yet brighter. After Oscar Pearson retired Herb Stimpson took his place and under his leadership some magnificent chorus reeds resulted. More ecalt than the previous. The finestI have played from that time are at National Presbyterian in DC.




                Say what you will about EMS or GDH. They were both geniuses in their own right and prima donnas too.I like both of them and ifI could have my ideal organ it would have the finest of both men.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Methuen Memorial Music Hall Organ

                  Soubasse32,

                  I am an avowed Skinner fan even though I am a Cavaille-Coll junkie out to my fingertips.  Girard College Chapel  Woolsey Hall are indeed the pinnacle of surviving Skinner prowess.  You brought up a fine point about the reedless greats - on many Skinners I have seen but one reed - French Horn 8.  Don't get me wrong, I love Skinner's approximation of a French Horn.  The one at Saint John the Divine in New York takes my breath away.  What in the world was GDH smoking when he started with reedless greats?

                  Cheers.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Methuen Memorial Music Hall Organ



                    The Girard organ is not unaltered. Carlo Curley had Burger and Schaeffer send out solo chorus reeds to be revoiced. The Gt harmonics is a moller scharff. The pressures were changed. Austin rebuilt the console using all electric instead of pneumatics. Some alterations have been reversed but I do not believe all.




                    Woolsey was a combined effort of EMS and GDH. So if you want an original EMS go to Cleveland Public Auditorium.The pipes are original except that Bombarde 32 No1 has been raised to 45'' wind and in 1976 a new 5m Klann console was installed.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Methuen Memorial Music Hall Organ

                      [quote user="stentordiaphone64"]Soubasse32,


                      I am an avowed Skinner fan even though I am a Cavaille-Coll junkie out to my fingertips. Girard College Chapel Woolsey Hall are indeed the pinnacle of surviving Skinner prowess. You brought up a fine point about the reedless greats - on many Skinners I have seen but one reed - French Horn 8. Don't get me wrong, I love Skinner's approximation of a French Horn. The one at Saint John the Divine in New York takes my breath away. What in the world was GDH smoking when he started with reedless greats?



                      Cheers.



                      [/quote]




                      Thomas Murray gave a lecture on GDH designs in which he explains that GDH divided the Great into 2 sections. The first was either reedless or had a baroque-type reed at 16' to use as a solo against the choir or positiv flutes and mutations. The other section appeared in larger organs as a ''bombarde'' division where the reeds were in chorus fashion on 7'' wind using no2 A-S shallots and if the installation were large enough the previous ''first diapason'' in the older Skinners was the Bombarde section diapason 8'. Also Harrison liked the greats to be flue dominated. He felt that reeds were too emotional and was striving for an intellectual appeal with flue tone. However the gt cornet iv-vi gave that section a reedy quality.




                      In this area there are 2 large organs--one is a 1930s and 40s 4-87 Moller; the other is a 1900s-1960s-90s Austin. Both have 2 greats each---none of the 4 greats in these 2 organs have reeds. So if you are unhappy recall that other builders followed suit and joined the reedless gt bandwagon too.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Methuen Memorial Music Hall Organ

                        [quote user="soubasse32"]


                        The animosity between G. Donald Harrison and E.M Skinner is well known.




                        Harrison systematically destroyed just about every instrument that meant anything to Skinner. Although these rebuilds were of course the idea of other people, one can't help feel that he carried out his task with a special gusto. Harrison often had a hand in convincing churches that Skinner's tonal schemes left a lot to be desired.




                        It is shocking to read of the number of 32' Diapasons that went to the scrap heap, in the name of a 'clarified ensemble'. Skinner was heartbroken!




                        The end result of these draconian rebuilds is that there are hardly any original Skinners left. The few that do exist give us a glimpse of a special sort of tonal magnificence that is all too rare. There is a magic about a fine Skinner, thatall too manyAeolian-Skinners seem to miss.




                        One can applaud the return of "traditional ensemble", but now these "traditional" organs are omipresent. Where does one turn in order to hear a full-blooded romantic/orchestral work, pray tell? Girard and Woolsey are two pinnacles that tower over very sparse territory.




                        History has also shown that these "traditional" organs were nothing of the sort! If you want Baroque, you get a distant approximation of what Bach would have known (which in some cases was a warmer sound). If you want something approaching French romantic, again it is far from the mark.




                        I find the GDH concept of the 'reedless Great' and overly prominent 4'can make for ananemic result. This was carried to an extreme as time went on (and by his successors); by far I prefer his instruments from the 1930s.




                        Aeolian-Skinners can be very fine instruments, but it has only recently become evident that Skinners are equally fine - perhaps moreso because of their relative rarity.




                        [/quote]





                        If you will but scan the A-S and EMS opus lists you will find that the actual number of Skinners rebuilt by A-S is not that large. The clientelle that could afford Skinner also later could afford A-S and so they got what was celebrated then as the best. As the organ reform movement progressed the camps divided. Power Biggs jumped ship from A-S to Hermann Schlicker and Biggs talked Grace Episcopal to scrap 2 organs; a 1912 4m Skinner and 1928 West End GDH/Skinner in favor of 2 Schlickers. Rumor has it that they want the Skinners back.




                        The clients with the bucks get the new and improved. A-S is passe and Fisk is the panultimate. The Chicago St Chrysostom scrapped their 1980s Gillett 4-90 for a new 2m-33rk Fisk.




                        The American Classic organ that still is being built can render music of all sorts in a pleasing fashion and expose the uninitiated to a wider body of lit than the American Symphonic could or the period focused organs that play a limited part of the lit very well and all the other less well. For example if you have a period focused organ ala Bach where will you be able to do the French school of the 1800's? More than one authentic organ per venue is desirable but not many can order 2 new organs at one time that covers most of the lit.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Methuen Memorial Music Hall Organ

                          Cleveland Public Auditorium isn't functional....yet.  If you want a true 100% unaltered Skinner, just come to Battle Creek

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Methuen Memorial Music Hall Organ

                            Hi Sesquialtera16,

                            Thanks for your patient explanation to my bitch and rant about GDH and his alteration schemes.  I'm still not going to let him totally off the hook although.  If my memory serves me, Woolsey has Hutchings and Votey pipework still speaking inside the casework.  I knew Girard had been *adulterated* but not to the extent which you have shared.   Yes, I'm still dyspeptic about all those who jumped on the bandwagon of reedless greats.  

                            Too much noble organ tone has been lost when certain organbuilders are cut loose on existing instruments.  Yes, there are some unmitigated *pieces of crap* installed in some Churches and they deserve to be put out of their misery - EUTHANIZED!!!!!!!!!

                            Cheers.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Methuen Memorial Music Hall Organ



                              [quote user="sesquialtera16"]If you will but scan the A-S and EMS opus lists you will find that the actual number of Skinners rebuilt by A-S is not that large. [/quote]




                              I'm not about to let that remark go unchallenged! [:O]




                              I mentioned that many of the organs that meant something to Skinner were rebuilt by Harrison, not necessarily that they all were.




                              When you really DO start making a list of AS rebuilds of Skinners quite a few very important organs turn up:




                              St. Thomas Church, St. John the Divine, St. Bartholomew, St. Paul's Chapel at Columbia University, Fifth Church of Christ Scientist, NYC; Washington National Cathedral, the Hill Auditorium at University of Michigan, Finney Chapel at Oberlin, Sage Chapel at Cornell, the Chapel at Princeton, Kilbourn Hall at Eastman School of Music, Symphony Hall, Boston (which Skinner worked on for Hutchings). I could go on...




                              This is a pretty impressive list by anyone's measurements, especially considering these are just off the top of my head! If I were to systematically go through the Kinzey/Lawn compilation I'm sure dozens more would turn up.




                              Now about reedless Greats:




                              [quote user="sesquialtera16"]He felt that reeds were too emotional and was striving for an intellectual appeal with flue tone.[/quote]




                              A-S organs do have an intellectual suavity about them, but for heaven's sake you need fire in the blood when you play Romantic repertoire! When GDH tossed the Great reeds out he flew in the face of centuries of organbuilding wisdom and tradition.




                              As far as the 4' line leading the ensemble, I'm not convinced. The unison pitch is -and must be - 8' in the manuals, 16' in the Pedal. To invert the scaling turns the tonal pyramid on its head.




                              [quote user="sesquialtera16"]In this area there are 2 large organs--one is a 1930s and 40s 4-87 Moller; the other is a 1900s-1960s-90s Austin. Both have 2 greats each---none of the 4 greats in these 2 organs have reeds. So if you are unhappy recall that other builders followed suit and joined the reedless gt bandwagon too.[/quote]




                              Here you are indicting GDH - he singlehandedly started a trend that unfortunately rippled through the entire industry. This design has no basis in historical precedents; anyone seeking to play some of the greatest European literature on any of these organs will have to jump through hoops in order to convincingly register according to the requirements of theliterature. This unfortunate design still crops up in new organs to this day.

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