DIYAPASON-L Digest #409 - Sunday, October 14, 2001
AIO Convention 2001
  by "Larry Chace" <>
Re: [Residence Organs]  AIO Convention 2001
  by <>
Re: AIO Convention 2001
  by "David Scribner" <>

(back) Subject: AIO Convention 2001 From: "Larry Chace" <> Date: Sun, 14 Oct 2001 13:54:18 -0400   Hi, all. I just returned from the 2001 annual convention of the American Institute of Organbuilders, held in Andover, Massachusetts (north-ish of Boston). This was my second AIO convention, and just as two years ago, I found it a very pleasant and informative event. It was again fun to meet some folks known previously only via e-mail correspondence.   Many of the participants attended a pre-convention concert on the Shanklin Conference Center's 4/34 Wurlitzer, presented by David Peckham, himself an organbuilder as well as an organist (church and theatre). David included = a demo of many of the organ's ranks, voices perhaps not well-known to many = of the builders in the audience. His "March and Procession of Bacchus" and "Victory at Sea" showed the "organ as orchestra"; we ended with "God Bless America".   On Sunday we travelled by bus to Methuen for Brian Jones's recital on the big Walker/Aeolian-Skinner. Brian didn't "demonstrate" the organ (in the sense of playing individual interesting stops), but he did present a varied, if short, program. I was quite taken by "Moto Ostinato" by Peter Eben, a piece quite fitting the almost-Holloween season. The organ sits very low within the massive case, and much of the sound comes reflected down from the ornate ceiling, and there is clearly no lack of brightness.   We then rode to Phillips Academy to hear a concert by David Higgs on the 2-manual 1981 Andover tracker. David did use many of the ranks as solos, but we had to guess which ones. The overall effect, I thought, was more pleasant than at Methuen, and there were some surprisingly "romantic" effects, including a Swell flute (8' Bourdon or 4' Flute) with tremolo = that was almost a Skinner Flute Celeste. The room may have made the = difference, as well as the fact that the organ is of "the right size".   Monday consisted of visits to three organ shops. First we drove to the Noack shop, in an former school building in a residential area of Georgetown. What appeared to be a typical New England barn was in fact = the modern erecting room of steel and concrete (but with board and batten exterior). Fritz Noack greeted us with a short speech emphasising the value of organs and organ music in difficult times, and we then wandered all around. A new instrument was partially assembled, and I noticed his use of 3/4" (19mm!) copper tubing as wind conductors to offset pipes, a very attractive an neat method, and one that provides good wind flow. The color CAD drawings of the organ being built were all around the shop and showed just how much detail is worked out on paper before wood is cut or metal is soldered.   Next was a visit to the Andover shop in a converted 3-story mill building in Methuen. A small 2m tracker was on display and they also provided an interesting mini-seminar on pipe decoration and stenciling. The 3-rd = floor pipe storage area (bursting at the seams!) yielded up a rare Haskelled Trumpet resonator, which was appropriately photographed. They had just finished the large Hook & Hastings for St. Joseph's Cathedral in Buffalo, and it was interesting to hear their reservoir man talking to a theatre organ builder about the use of double gussets (inside as well as outside) on high pressure reservoirs. (This was typical of the kind of exchanges that were going on between builders of all types of organs.)   Finally we arrived at the Fisk shop in Gloucester. This is a huge = facility in a modern industrial building; about 45 people work there, if I remember correctly. One end contains the pipe room with its granite casting table and about a dozen large benches for the pipe makers. Rolls of new pipe metal stood all around, probably in preparation for their next very large project (for Switzerland). In the middle of the building is the wood storage area and the rough-cut machines. Then comes a large workroom with dozens of benches (some 16' long) for general woodworking. At the far end is the erecting room, somewhat small by comparison to the rest of the facility, but held a new 3m instrument with several open 16' stops. On a nearby balcony I saw several old 16' open woods, including a Haskelled Diapason, waiting to be incorporated into future projects. This end of = the building also had the voicing rooms as well as most of the models. Fisk builds a 1/16-scale model of each organ and the surrounding portion of the room; this is done *after* the contract is signed and is part of the engineering work as well as for artistic reasons. These models stay in = the shop and when a new job is started, they even "audition" various previous instruments in the room model just to see how some designs might work. I especially enjoyed seeing as model of the *interior* of the big Meyerson Center organ. At all three shops, employees were on hand to answer questions; all conveyed the excitment they felt working as organbuilders.   On Tuesday we drove into downtown Boston and arrived at the Church of the Immaculate Conception for a demonstration by Thomas Murray. This was a true demonstration, with him describing each stop and playing little bits on each one. That this instrument is as musical and historic treasure = goes without saying. The only full pieces he played were Nielson's opus 22 "Gade" and "America the Beautiful", sung by 300 organbuilders and stupendously moving. After the last verse, he began an improvisation that became ever softer and more peaceful, fading at the end to silence. = Bravo.   We then drove to Ashmont for a "demonstration" on the 1995 3m Fisk at All Saint's Episcopal, a rather small but ornate building that we filled quite well. The young organist, Jeremy Bruns, choose to play a recital rather than to demonstrate the organ (voice-by-voice), and I must admit that we heard a lot of very loud full registrations. Even single voices seemed no less than "mp", and the contrast with Immaculate Conception was very dramatic. I'm not saying that the organ sounded *bad*, because the tone quality seemed very fine; there was just too much of it, as played. A 16' Open Wood in the Pedal (perhaps one of those "veterans"?) seemed = especially impressive in the Frank A-minor Chorale. I wish we could have heard the Swell's 8' Principal, which stands exposed at the *back* of the swell box, speaking into the narthex area; maybe we did. The church's 1902 Hutchings-Votey has been retained as a choir organ, since the Fisk is on a special gallery platform near the rear of the church.   After a box lunch, we drove to the Church of the Advent in downtown = Boston. (Actually, the buses could not navigate the narrow brick streets, so we walked several blocks in a charming -- and quiet!-- neighborhood.) The Chuch of the Advent has a 1935 Aeolian-Skinner and was *PERFECT* in the room. You could almost smell the incense when the strings and Dolcans = were played, and the crescendo from Dolces up to full organ and back down again was seamless, exciting, and inspiring! This was a true demo, with a narrator (Sean O'Donnell of the Barden shop) speaking from the pulpit with *no* amplification and the last-minute substitute organist, Frederick MacArthur, playing suitable passages on each stop and combinations = thereof. This is the way to show off the *organ* (rather than the *organist*)!   A few blocks away is the Church of the Covenant with its 1929 Welte, recently restored and slightly enlarged by Austin. Mark Dwyer and the new tonal director of Austin (whose name I forget) presented another demonstration that was quite interesting. We didn't hear everything, but we heard quite a few stops and combinations. Mark did play a couple of pieces, including a "Hanzel and Gretel" that sounded like he was using 2nd touch; he must have been "thumbing down", using two manuals with one hand. The swell shades here were lightning-fast (Wurlitzer-fast?) and he used them to swell effect. When he finished, the audience sat, wanting more, and so he played an encore (whose title I forgot). Very nicely done.   A small group of us wandered down the (Newberry) street and found a restaurant. After dinner, we stopped in at Old South Church, right on Copley Square. Skinner's opus 308, 1921, was installed here after being removed from its original home in Minnesota and has been enlarged by = Nelson Barden. The 32' Violone, Bombarde, and Open Diapason stand exposed and, best of all, the console was open for AIO attendees to play. This is a tremendous instrument and contains all the goodies you'd expect, and then some. A buildup from the Kleine Erzhaeler to full organ is almost unbelieveable, especially that 32' wooden Bombarde. Not rauchous or "blattey" or noisy, it simply *moves* the room and the listener. This is an instrument that *should* have been on the official agenda, but I = realize that they had simply too many interesting instruments. Frederick = MacArthur has made a CD of organ and brass here, and more recordings would be welcome! I found it intresting that most of the AIO folks I saw playing there drew as one of the first stops the 32' Dulciana in the pedal -- this most unusual rank fits nicely under all the strings and slush but is more precise than the usual 32' Bourdon. Yumm!   We then boarded a "B" train on the Green Line (subway) and rode out to Boston University. Not being sure which stop to take, I asked a couple of college students. They asked why we wanted to visit the BU student union, and I said that a convention of pipe organ builders was going to have a concert on the organ there. They said it was "really cool" to have the = big pipe organ there, and I was pleased to see that at least *this* one pipe organ is known beyond the groups usually associated with organs.   Of course, this is the Boston Symphonic Organ, an instrument built by Nelson Baden (and company) out of several Aeolin, Skinner, and other instruments of a basically residential nature. Nelson narrated the demonstration and Sean O'Donnell operated the player system, whose = computer monitor was projected onto a large screen so that we could "see" the keys, stops, and swell shades being operated. The story told by Nelson (with much humor) was one of "good fortune" and of University officials who supported and encouraged the project. Here, once again, is an example of an instrument that has power and refinement. Many soft voices build into = a full and cohesive sound, and of course, "orchestral" opportunities are built in due to the original builders' intent. The custom-built player system is comprehensive and capable of very precise reproduction, and Nelson talked about how much editing many of the old player rolls needed = to really bring out the orchestral effects. He also described the many times they demonstrate the organ to various groups, from grade school kids to senior citizens; he said we *must* keep the organ out where people can see it and heard it and enjoy it, for some of those school kids will grow up = to be the bankers and executives on church boards who will decide what sort = of instruments to install in their churchs. This project made me wonder = *why* it couldn't have happened at Cornell (where I work) or why I hadn't gone = to work at BU rather than at Cornell! Very exciting.   Wednesday consisted of lectures on a wide range of topics: "The organs of E&GG Hook", "Historically sympathetic rebuilding", "What to do when there is no work for skilled workers", "Relief pallets and servo mechanisms ", "Troubleshooting and repair of electro-pneumatic organs", "The architect and organs", and "Employee benefits: what can we do?". Sad to say, I = can't report on any of these, though I would have liked to have attended all of them. Instead, I was busy in the exhibition area, helping Allen Miller demonstrate some of the Z-tronics organ relay and combination action offerings. (I also did that during the various morning and evening exhibition times.) Allen was kind enough to let me exhibit a little project of my own, the "Add-A-Stop" 1-stop combination action, which, if nothing else, was a counterpoint to all of the complex systems being demonstrated at the convention. It was great fun looking at all the other exhibits and drooling over items that I know I won't ever be able to = afford!   Wednesday evening was the closing banquet. Organist Peter Sykes gave the address, on the topic "What can an organist say to an organbuilder?". He described his own introduction to organbuilding and how he as a youngster "assembled" an instrument at home. His comments were amazingly familiar! He also explained how a *real* organbuilding gently suggested that Peter's future might be better spent as an organist than as a builder. Peter talked about the value and importance of organ music as seen especially clearly in recent times and encouraged the builders to always keep themselves focused, saying that organ building "really *does* matter". In the end, the answer to his opening question was simply "thank you", and that said it all.   Thursday and Friday were dedicated to optional visits to many of the other important and interesting instruments in the greater Boston area. I was not able to attend, and so I hope that someone else can report on those adventures.   It was fun talking to people at random gatherings (at breakfast, in the exhibit hall, in the bar, etc.). I met a gentleman who was proudly = showing photos of his residence organ project, the 150-ish rank Atlantic City High School organ (Midmer-Losh), and the very large new music room he's built = to house it. Mr. Laukhuff showed off a sample double-tongued Trumpet, built from a photo in an old Laukhuff catalog and made, perhaps, just to prove they could do it. Giesecke showed sample C pipes for a free-reed Clarinet with normal shallots and tuning wire (except that the tongue fit into the shallot opening). Schopp had a wonderful array of pipework. And so on = and so on and so on....   This was a fine way to spend a few days and I was again struck by the coperative attitudes of folks who are competitors but colleagues even = more. They welcome non-builders to attend the conventions and they encourage builders to become members. Their next convention will be in Los Angeles in October 2002 and then in Atlanta in 2003, followed by "the New York area" in 2004. I can't wait. And many thanks to all the folks who worked so hard to put on this convenion!   (The AIO has a web site at: .)   Larry Chace      
(back) Subject: Re: [Residence Organs] AIO Convention 2001 From: <> Date: Sun, 14 Oct 2001 14:33:42 EDT     In a message dated 10/14/01 12:55:20 PM, writes:   >builders to become members. Their next convention will be in Los Angeles >in October 2002   Some of us ;) are involved with the new 3M 100+ rank former Wangerin, Austin worked-over and made into a 95% Austin... pre earthquake organ, = going to be installed soon in the new Cathedral currently being built in LA   The organ mentioned in some detail, despite what it says, most of the 1929 =   Wangerin was so re-worked, modified, rescaled and replaced with Austin pipework and chests that there was little left of the original. Even the console was replaced with an Austin with lighted stop tabs/knobs and it = was subsequently sold and being replaced with a huge Dobson console with = tiered drawknobs.   All but one all of the numerous Austin offset chests have been junked and replaced with six big Dobson chests and offsets;     Cathedral Cam;   Main page;   I can honestly say the building is THE ugliest coldest looking Cathedral building I have ever seen in my life.   The organ is some 70 feet tall and will be on a ledge over the choir = staging.   To make this residence organ related, I am wiring up one of the chests in = the swell, having all of the brass and aluminum nipples for the neoprene hoses =   installed into the pouch boards and the side rails of the first chest. The =   toe boards are all fastened down to it   I decided to wire the two chests in the swell to a terminal board in the chamber and then from there to the relays in the basement. That will also allow connecting in a Reuter keyboard I have with a plug of some kind = (same arrangement in the Great) and then I can tune or whatever I need to do = right there IN the chamber by myself. That way I have a "portable" keyboard = right there in the chamber to do so which can be unplugged and taken into the Great, and stored under one of the chests. I have to modify the keyboard by adding contacts and maybe shortening the depth of the keys so the thing is smaller overall.   Randall  
(back) Subject: Re: AIO Convention 2001 From: "David Scribner" <> Date: Sun, 14 Oct 2001 15:57:56 -0500   At 1:54 PM -0400 10/14/01, Larry Chace wrote: >A few blocks away is the Church of the Covenant with its 1929 Welte, >recently restored and slightly enlarged by Austin. Mark Dwyer and the = new >tonal director of Austin (whose name I forget) presented another >demonstration that was quite interesting. We didn't hear everything, but >we heard quite a few stops and combinations. Mark did play a couple of >pieces, including a "Hanzel and Gretel" that sounded like he was using = 2nd >touch; he must have been "thumbing down", using two manuals with one = hand. >The swell shades here were lightning-fast (Wurlitzer-fast?) and he used >them to swell effect. When he finished, the audience sat, wanting more, >and so he played an encore (whose title I forgot). Very nicely done.     Larry   Thanks for your report however there is one mistake in the above paragraph. The Organist at Church of the Covenant was KEN COWAN not Mark Dwyer. Mark was supposed to be the demonstrator at Church of the Advent but since the program was printed he had left for his new job at the Cathedral in Albany, NY (I think that is the correct place).   Hopefully one of the people that attended the optional days events will give a report about those visits. i didn't go on those either but spent a good part of Thursday afternoon poking around in the James Treat organ at the First Cong church in Methuem - that was a "treat" of it's own. Treat was the original rebuilder of the Music Hall organ when it was installed in Methuem and it was very interesting to see one his instruments that hasn't been altered as much as the Music hall organ.   David