A SHORT HISTORY OF THE ORGAN REVIVAL
LAWRENCE I. PHELPS
A REPRINT FROM CHURCH MUSIC 67 . 1
CHURCH MUSIC is pleased to publish what it considers the most significant and complete English article on the history of the organ revival in Europe and America. Its timely significance should recommend it to all concerned with music in the church.
A SHORT HISTORY OF THE ORGAN REVIVAL
LAWRENCE I. PHELPS
I. THE ORGAN REVIVAL IN GERMANY
IN HIS AUTOBIOGRAPHY, Out of My Life and Thought, Albert Schweitzer tells us that in the autumn of 1896 he visited the Liederhalle in Stuttgart to examine the new organ that had been given enthusiastic reports in the newspapers. The organist of the Stiftskirche, one Herr Lange, for whose musicianship Schweitzer apparently had much respect, played the new instrument for him, and of this event he writes: "When I heard the harsh tone of the much belauded instrument and in a Bach fugue which Lange played to me perceived a chaos of sounds in which I could not distinguish the separate voices, my foreboding that the modern organ meant in that respect a step not forward but backward suddenly became a certainty." Thus the seed was planted in the fertile mind of one of the organ's greatest enthusiasts and champions that would eventually bear fruit in a universal movement for organ reform felt in every country where the organ plays an important part in the religious life of the people.
Schweitzer's 1906 Pamphlet
In the years that followed, Schweitzer spent most of his free time becoming acquainted with as many organs as possible, both old and new, and he discussed the matter with every organist and organ builder with whom he came in contact. He writes that his opinion that the old organs sounded better than the new ones usually met only with laughter and jeers. In 1906, after 10 years of study, he "undertook to preach the gospel of the ideal organ" in a pamphlet entitled The Art of Organ Building and Organ Playing in Germany and France. He says that this pamphlet was at first understood by only a few. A considerable number of its 51 pages are devoted to the condemnation of the builders of that time for their crass commercialism and complete indifference to the traditions of the art in respect to both craftsmanship and tonality. Although the pamphlet displays a rather superficial understanding of the real musical values involved in producing a truly functional tonal design, it shows an astonishing grasp of some of the essential points of the mechanical design, construction, and placement of the organ. Because this pamphlet was the first clear statement of some of these very penetrating and important observations, it became the first and basic document of the German organ reform movement. Much of what it says in a very simple straightforward manner is still not generally understood in North America.
Schweitzer pleaded for a return to scaling practices based on "the collective experience of generations" rather than on "theories drawn from physics, often sacrificing thereby the achievements of earlier master builders." In this stand he condemned the "scientific" methods of Schulze and Topfer that rose to widespread influence during the height of the Romantic effort in Germany and eventually invaded England and North America. George Ashdown Audsley, whose work and writings were much respected in the United States at the turn of the century, was an advocate of this scientific approach. Schweitzer was uncompromising in his stand for the return to the slider chest because he was convinced that really musical voicing and a well-integrated ensemble can only be produced on the slider chest. About key action he said: "The best method of connecting the keys with the pipes is a purely mechanical one. On an organ with such a mechanism, phrasing is easiest." He advocated the return to the lower wind pressures of the old masters as producing more musical results. He decried the then prevalent use of numerous stops attempting to "imitate in a kind of forced way the sound of stringed instruments" as being contrary to the nature of the organ and as wasteful of space and funds that could be better used for essentials. He insisted that the organ should "stand high and free" in the church so that "the sound can travel in every direction, unhindered."
As if writing only yesterday, he said in 1906, "What a number of organs . . . especially in England, are unable to produce their full effect because of their position in the chancel! With modern architects it has already become a matter of course that any corner will do for the organ . . . architects and organ builders have begun to take advantage of . . . electric connection between the keys and pipes, to split up an organ into parts which are fixed in separated places.... Effects made possible by this arrangement may impress the crowd, but the work of an organ can be truly artistic and dignified only if the instrument is a single sound personality . . ." Still, he was much disturbed by the placing of the Positive division inside the main case, a practice dating from the beginning of Romanticism and quite common in the work of Gottfried Silbermann. In this position, the Positive "has no tonal individuality of its own" but placed "in a case of its own in front of the organ, it is both in position and sound distinct from the two other organs housed in the main case." From this it is also clear that he saw no reason for more than three manual divisions. Furthermore, he was very definite in his judgment that expression shutters ''hinder the spread of sound. "
Gradually, Schweitzer's ideas for reform attracted attention. At the Congress of the International Musical Society held in Vienna in 1909, provision was made, for the first time, for a section on organ building. Schweitzer was an active participant in these sessions, and the information received as a result of a questionnaire he had prepared and sent to many prominent organists and builders was much discussed. This resulted in a set of "International Regulations for Organ Building," but these had to do more with technical than musical matters and seem to have had little immediate effect. Still, his cry for reform continued to gain momentum, and there can be little doubt that Albert Schweitzer, inspired and motivated by his great love for the music of J. S. Bach, became the father of a revival of interest not only in the music of Bach but in church music generally and in the organ as a church instrument.
However, Schweitzer was not an antiquarian, and he was interested in the instruments of Bach's time only as a point of departure. He considered the great organ of Cavaillé-Coll as "the ideal so far as tone is concerned." Thus he had no real appreciation or understanding of the organ as a polyphonic instrument, nor did he perceive that his criticism of the post-Romantic orchestral influences that had robbed the organ of its former glory and integrity and made the new instruments of his time ineffective as a medium for the proper presentation of the work of Bach was equally applicable to even the best of the Romantic instruments as well. Furthermore, his obvious preference for the work of Cavaillé-Coll and certain contemporary Alsatian builders was always resented in Germany. So, after World War I, when the organ reform movement finally got under way in Germany, although he was the acknowledged instigator of the reform, he was already relegated to the role of the "grand old man." Although his 1906 pamphlet was reprinted in 1927 as a basic document of the movement and much of what he proposed was included in the program of reform, the actual platform for the movement in Germany became much more penetrating in its approach than Schweitzer ever imagined.
The 1926 Freiburg Conference
The mainstream of the organ reform movement really got under way about 1926 and took a much more revolutionary direction than Schweitzer had outlined. In that year an instrument with a disposition conceived by Praetorius in 1618 and built by Walcker of Ludwigsburg in 1921 became the center of interest of the now famous Freiburg Organ Conference. The keynote for the conference was set by Christhard Mahrenholz, one of Germany's outstanding liturgical experts and reformers, and his presence and leadership established from the beginning a close connection between organ reform and a general reform and revival of interest in the liturgy and the music of the church. The Freiburg conference gave the decisive impetus to the organ reform movement in Germany, which eventually led to a general surge of interest in reform throughout most of Europe and North America. As a result of much investigation and discussion, Arp Schnitger emerged as the historical idol of the movement, and his works and the North German and Dutch school of organ building established by Schnitger and his pupils became the general model for the reform which followed.
Almost from the beginning the movement was divided into two more or less distinct groups. One group strongly advocated a strict Baroque revival; these avowed antiquarians were interested primarily in restoring and reproducing the work of the great Baroque masters. The other group took a more rational point of view, which accepted the work of Schnitger as a general guide to the principles of the art in matters of tonal design, scaling, and voicing techniques but realistically faced that what was needed was an instrument to meet satisfactorily "the task it has to accomplish above all else in the religious life of the people of the present day" (Mahrenholz). This latter group advocated a careful study and appraisal of every feature and detail that was to be accepted into the modern organ, so that those ideas which were only of antiquarian interest would not be imposed on modern thought and practice.
The Orgelbewegung Platform
The main points which have evolved as the platform of the "Deutsche Orgelbewegung" are:The organ is primarily a polyphonic instrument; therefore all aspects of its design and construction must be worked out toward the goal of producing the transparent tonal textures indispensable for the ideal presentation of the polyphonic literature. Therefore the scaling of the pipework is to derive empirically from the requirements of each situation according to time-honored principles of variable scalings to be observed in the work of the old masters. The voicing of each pipe is to be such as to develop a musically transparent and functional tone, which inevitably means working entirely on keychambered or slider chests, using pipes with open toes and minimum wind pressure (usually well below 75 millimeters, or 3 inches) and avoiding the use of nicks, and at all times using these and other appropriate techniques in a manner consistent with the requirements of each situation. The materials for the construction of pipes should always be the finest possible for the tone and function.
The organ is ideally a sensitive and responsive keyboard instrument, and the performer must be placed close to his instrument and have direct control of the key mechanism. Therefore only direct mechanical key action is suitable and musically acceptable.
The organ should speak freely toward the main listening area and therefore must be placed in a freestanding and somewhat elevated position within the room it is to serve, and it should preferably be located on the central and longest axis of the listening area. In order to accomplish the most efficient projection of the sound of the instrument throughout the room, in order to provide maximum contrast between the sound of each division, and in order to provide maximum resonance, blend, balance, and warmth of tone, the pipework of each division should be encased in a suitable shallow enclosure, open only on the side toward the listening area, with the Principal rank of the division standing "en facade" in the open side.
The tonal design of the instrument should be developed according to the requirements of the literature to be played, with the polyphonic literature given first consideration but with suitable additions to broaden the scope as funds and space permit. Attempting to achieve too broad a scope with too limited resources should be avoided, as this results in an instrument not really suitable for any literature and thus unworthy of the church.
The names chosen for the stops should be a simple indication of the function, tone, or type of pipe construction, according to well established traditions. Meaningless copying from older stop lists should be avoided.
As a basic method for building a tonal design appropriate to the requirements of the traditional polyphonic literature, the "Werk principle" concept as developed in the North German or Schnitger school is to be used as a guide. This provides for the development of the integrity of the individual division by assuring its completeness at whatever size may be required while at the same time providing a well-defined contrast between each division in respect to both basic pitch and quality of tone. The Principal of each division will thus be at a different octave pitch and the other stops chosen accordingly.
The physical arrangement of the organ and its architectural appearance should also be worked out according to the principles of the functional "Werk" concept of the Schnitger and similar schools. Thus the displayed facade of the organ offers a functional presentation of the tonal design of the instrument and the pitch relationship of the component divisions. The organs should normally have a shallow vertical structure with the manual divisions placed generally one above another with the pedal at the sides, but above all the treatment should be suitable to the individual situation.
Suitable acoustics for an organ require that the major surfaces of the room remain natural and "untreated." Equalization of the difference of the reverberation periods between the empty and full room is desirable, so absorptive treatment of the seating surfaces is usually permissible. In general, acoustical control in new buildings should be achieved through the careful design of the shape of the building and other surfaces, and not through the use of absorptive devices.
Although most of the important points to be observed from the practices of the old masters were noted and discussed from the very beginning of the reform movement and much was learned from the experience of restoring numerous famous old organs, it has taken much trial and error and many years of experience to establish some of the more subtle but very important ideas. The revival of the organ case, discussed by Texas architect Joseph E. Blanton in his books The Organ in Church Design and The Revival of the Organ Case [See CHURCH MUSIC in Review] was one of the most significant of these. Some of the first instruments of the German reform were built without cases, with all pipes exposed, and with the smaller pipes at the front, much in the manner now prevalent in the United States. However, this method soon gave way to a modified system with the larger pipes in front. Gradually the importance of the case in producing the superior musical effect in old instruments became apparent and, as economics permitted, complete casework was more generally used on new instruments, but this became common practice only after World War II.
Such matters as mechanical key action and the slider chest, heralded by Schweitzer as being all-important as early as 1906, did not actually reach universal acceptance until after World War II. Although nickless voicing has been practiced by reformed builders almost from the beginning of the movement, it did not become general until after World War II.
Organ Building: Denmark and Holland
With the evolution of the ideals of the German organ movement retarded by World War II, the progress of organ building in Denmark is particularly interesting. In this little country, an independent reform movement, instigated and executed by one young man, Sybrand Zachariassen, produced astonishingly fine results, even before World War II, and had the happy advantage of being hardly disturbed at all by the war. In 1920, at the age of 20, Zachariassen became the head of Marcussen & Son in Aabenraa, Denmark. Through the critical observation of the results of the tonal work done by his firm in the restoration of old mechanical-action instruments with slider chests, Zachariassen became convinced of the musical superiority of this mode of construction. In the mid 1920s he began to produce new mechanical-action instruments, and by the end of the 1930s he produced practically nothing but this type of instrument. Shortly after assuming leadership of the firm, Zachariassen was joined by Poul-Gerhard Andersen. Andersen has always had a keen interest in the architectural design of the organ, and he probably is responsible for the fact that very few new Marcussen instruments were built without fine cases. By the beginning of the war, this firm no doubt led the world in the excellence of its case design as well as in nearly every other aspect of organ building. An excellent example of this firm's prewar work is the choir organ in Grundtvigskirken in Copenhagen.
The gallery organ in Jaegersborg Kirke in Copenhagen, built in 1944 under the German occupation, is also an outstanding example and is the first contemporary instrument to display a horizontal trumpet in Spanish style on the case. This firm has built so many outstanding instruments since the war as to make listing them here impractical. Their leadership in the field of case design is indicated by the predominance of their work illustrated in the two Blanton books mentioned earlier.
After the war, the organ reform in Holland made rapid progress. D. A. Flentrop began producing mechanical-action instruments in well-designed cases, and his leadership in the field has yet to be challenged by any other Dutch builder.
From Mahrenholz's small pamphlet Fünfzehn Jahre Orgelbewegung, written in 1938 to commemorate the first German Organ Conference in 1923, it is clear that the period saw much divergence of practice, that many mistakes were made, and that generally convictions were deepening in favor of more purity in practice. Mahrenholz stresses the failure of countless attempts to build an "eclectic" instrument - on which one can play "everything" - and points out that such instruments are seldom really good for any literature and at best more suitable for Romantic music than for Bach. Generally the pamphlet reaffirms the platform outlined above and calls for closer cooperation and more unity of effort in achieving the high ideals toward which the movement was established.
In sounding the keynote for the future, Mahrenholz, in the conclusion of his pamphlet, ties subsequent development of the organ to the growth of church music and the progress of the organ reform movement to the movement for liturgical and theological reform. Yet at the same time he suggests that there should be a conscious effort to divest the organ of the stiffness and pompous dignity ascribed to it through the ages and to make it a functional, accessible, meaningful element in the religious life of the community.
Written as it was just before the war interrupted the normal flow of the reform in Germany, Mahrenholz's pamphlet is not only indicative of the state of things at that time, but it served as the point of departure for German organ builders when hostilities ceased and they again picked up their tools. It became almost immediately evident that a great deal of good thinking had been done during the dormant years, for even as early as 1950 some very distinguished instruments began to appear.
One of the most interesting and significant postwar developments was the rapid rise to positions of prominence of a number of newly organized small organ building firms while the old, well-established, large builders became relatively less important. The smaller builders were certainly much more progressive in their approach to every aspect of the art; the older large firms remained true to the commercialism that had brought them success in less discerning times. The appointment of organ experts for each district of Germany also contributed to the proliferation of smaller builders.
Since about 1950 unencased organs have become virtually extinct in Germany, and no builder with any pretense to artistic worthiness has produced an instrument with electric key action.
Well in the lead among contemporary German builders are Rudolf von Beckerath of Hamburg and Karl Schuke of Berlin. Beginning work about 1950,. Von Beckerath by 1953 had produced a magnificent large instrument in the Johanniskirche in Dusseldorf, and this was followed in the mid-1950s by an equally splendid and mechanically more advanced instrument in the Petrikirche in Hamburg. Since that time this worthy builder has produced several masterpieces, some of which are in North America, which offer a formidable challenge to the longstanding claims to musical superiority of some of their widely heralded ancient counterparts. Schuke's firm has had a development somewhat parallel to that of Von Beckerath's and has produced a number of outstanding instruments. Both of these men have completely assimilated the traditions of the old masters and have combined them with modern techniques to produce instruments truly of our time utilizing slider chests, mechanical key action, and well-designed cases, which are essentially free from the technical problems long associated with this type of instrument.
One of Germany's most interesting builders is Paul Ott in Gottingen. He set up shop in the early 1930s and distinguished himself first as a builder of Positives and other types of small organs of high quality and as a restorer of considerable competence, but he gradually expanded to produce instruments of considerable size. As an antiquarian, Ott has few peers in Germany.
However, most outstanding among the antiquarians is the work of Ahrend and Brunzema of Loga bei Leer. These gentlemen have studied not only the tonal results of the old masters but also their working methods, which they now meticulously duplicate. One of their more interesting and significant contributions to modern organ building is the reestablishment of the practice of hammering the metal to be used in pipes.
Among the several smaller builders who have been in business for a number of years and have produced interesting and distinguished instruments are Alfred Fuhrer of Wilhelmshaven, Hammer in Hanover, and Förster & Nicolaus in Lich.
Hammering pipe metal has now been adopted by several other European builders, chief among whom is the firm of Metzler & Söhne in Dietikon, Switzerland, who have recently used the technique with outstanding results in their new instrument for the Cathedral of St. Peter in Geneva. This magnificent instrument, perhaps the most versatile recent instrument in Europe, is the crowning achievement of a conscientious effort on the part of Oskar and Hansuli Metzler, whose father still heads the firm, to bring the organ reform movement to Switzerland.
Their most notable work has been accomplished with the collaboration of Poul-Gerhard Andersen of Copenhagen, formerly with Marcussen but now heading his own small firm. The excellence of Andersen's work as a case designer and his ability to inspire a fine tonal technician to ever-rising heights is proven nowhere so well as in the work produced by the Metzler firm with his help, although his work for Marcussen remains without equal anywhere. The Metzler-Andersen alliance has produced in Switzerland at least three of Europe's finest instruments. The first is in the church at Schaffhausen, the second, in the Grossmunster in Zurich, and the third is the very recent one mentioned above, in Geneva.
In Scandinavia, postwar developments have been led until recently by the Marcussen craftsmen in Aabenraa, Denmark. The pressure of the excellence of their work has forced improvement elsewhere. The tonal work of Frobenius in Lyngby has greatly improved although the firm remains very conservative in mechanical matters. The open-toe voicing technique adopted exclusively by Marcussen in the mid-1950s has now become virtually standard throughout Scandinavia, and no builder of note has produced anything other than encased instruments with mechanical key action for nearly 20 years. The firm of Hammerberg in Sweden is now producing interesting work, and Andersen's new little company in Copenhagen will undoubtedly produce fine work, a considerable amount of which will go to Sweden, where Andersen is much respected. The firm of Rieger in Schwarzach, Austria, under the direction of Josef von Glatter-Gotz, deserves special mention for unique and artistic achievement. Glatter-Gotz is a designer and engineer of rare talent, and his work is perhaps the most venturesome in Europe.
The reform movement in France is not without some significance, although its influence outside of France has been slight. Before World War II, the very capable organ builder Fernand Gonzalez had become well known for his restorations of some of France's old organs that had been much rebuilt and romanticized by Cavaillé-Coll and his followers. Gonzalez apparently built only a few completely new instruments, and most of these were small. While he had a strong appreciation of the chief features of the French classical organ, he tended to Germanize the organ in France in an attempt to make it more adequate to presenting the polyphonic textures of Bach.
Only recently has the revival of interest in the unique glories of the French classical instrument and its magnificent literature really begun to produce important results. The fine instrument of 1709 by Andreas Silbermann at Marmoutier was sympathetically restored in 1955 by Ernest Muhleisen of Strasbourg, and the excellent recording of de Grigny's "Le Livre d'Orgue," played authentically and with characteristic vitality by the American, the late Melville Smith, has done much to generate genuine interest. An effective restoration of the Silbermann organ at Ebersmunster was also accomplished in the mid-1950s.
Recently an instrument designed by Michel Chapuis in rather strict classical French style has been built in St.-Severin in Paris by Alfred Kern of Strasbourg, but although this has attracted much attention, its musical significance has yet to be developed. The new Metzler in Geneva makes a special effort toward the French classical literature and is very likely more successful in this direction than any other recent instrument in Europe.
In England organ reform has been so slow in developing as to hardly be worth mentioning. Even today there is little evidence of a real movement toward general improvement. Although Ralph Downes, the organist of the Brompton Oratory, has fought a valiant battle for organ reform, his efforts have actually produced very little, the work at the Brompton Oratory and Royal Festival Hall being the most significant. Downes is a reformer without clear convictions, thus his work lacks direction and serves more to confuse his countrymen than to lead them. Only very recently has anything like really fundamentally reformed sound been heard in Britain, and this is due to the importation of a Frobenius organ at Oxford University, the work of the small firm of Grant, Degens and Rippin, and the work of Noel Mander, who is known in England especially for his work in restoring small old tracker instruments. There is a growing interest in reform, however, and it is hoped that the next decade will see much more rapid development than has been evident in the past several decades. A much-debated little instrument by Flentrop is soon to appear in a new auditorium at the Royal Festival Hall.
II. THE ORGAN REVIVAL IN AMERICA
In the United States the organ reform movement got under way in the early 1930s and developed and progressed more or less independently of the movement in Europe. The influence of Schweitzer in the American reform has been much stronger than many have ever suspected.
For many years, and especially during the early days of our reform, the Widor-Schweitzer edition of the works of Bach was taken as definitive in the United States, and Schweitzer was generally taken as the final word on all matters pertaining to Bach, and therefore as an authority on the organ also. Unfortunately the more important of his observations on the organ were not available in English, and the English preface of the Widor-Schweitzer edition became the best-known of Schweitzer's remarks on the organ. However, what is said there about mechanical action and ideal phrasing was easily passed over as too idealistic and out of touch with reality, for everyone knew that electricity was here to stay. But what he had to say about tone was taken more seriously, for after all he had heard and played the old instruments. It was not therefore easy for our early reformers to know that Schweitzer's quest for the historical Bach did not reach much beyond considerations of tone color: ". . . We have lost the old tone of the organ that Bach wrote for; and since the tone is the chief thing, it must be said that the modern organ (1900) is not so suitable for Bach as is generally supposed . . . As regards the choice of tone colors, it need only be said that these are sufficiently Bachian when they suit the character of the work."
This strong consciousness of sound and color pervaded the movement in America and delayed the full understanding and appreciation of the essentials of the art of building and playing the organ. Until very recently the general concept of the organ in America seldom got beyond that of a clumsy machine for making music-like sounds. If more of us had had earlier knowledge of the work of the old master builders, we might not have been so easily deluded into thinking that tonal reforms consisting mainly of Baroque-style stoplists and brightertoned pipes would provide the panacea and lead us immediately to an ideal instrument. Only in the past decade or so has the experience and knowledge gained by travel in Europe and firsthand acquaintance with fine European organs brought to a substantial number of Americans a real awareness of the essentially polyphonic nature of the organ and of its true value as a functional and sensitive instrument.
Reform in the 30s and Early 40s
The main work of the organ reform movement was carried out through the 1930s and early 1940s by Walter Holtkamp of Cleveland and by G. Donald Harrison, who arrived from England to join the Skinner Organ Company in Boston in the late 1920s. These two men worked quite independently of each other and, indeed, their approach to organ building took quite different directions.
Holtkamp was the first in America to take steps in the right direction, but not without great pressure to do so by his close circle of friends, chief among whom was Melville Smith, a very knowledgeable organist who held several prominent positions in Cleveland before being director of the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Mass. Also, Holtkamp had a working knowledge of German and was an enthusiastic reader of the various journals that chronicled the progress of the German organ reform movement. He was quick to adopt into his own work certain architectural and dispositional idiosyncrasies from the early phases of the German movement, and these, especially the preference for completely exposed pipework, became distinguishing characteristics of all of his work. His firm, now under direction of his son, still continues to work in the same somewhat dated tradition.
In July of 1933, Holtkamp contracted to build a freestanding Rückpositiv with exposed pipework to be added to the large Skinner in the Cleveland Museum of Art. This was the first division of this type to appear in North America. The pipework stood on a slider chest. The 4' Prestant was of copper, probably the first in America, and was initially voiced without nicks. However, local taste did not accept the sound of the nickless Prestant, and eventually it was nicked.
In these early days Holtkamp built several copper stops and made frequent attempts to interest various prospective purchasers in nickless voicing, but without success. Since purchasers were not easily found in the depressed economy of the early 1930s, Holtkamp soon abandoned all interest in introducing the traditional voicing techniques of the old masters. He settled on a voicing style similar to that used by the better 19th-century American builders. Only rarely did he use wind pressures below three inches.
Holtkamp developed early a type of slider chest, which he used almost exclusively before World War II but more rarely after the war. Because of its multiple-valve system and other irregularities, it did not produce the characteristic effects in the sound of the pipework normally associated with a slider chest, although it did impart a precision not possible on individual-valve chests.
Holtkamp became the widely acknowledged master of the art of the visual design of instruments with exposed pipework, and in this field his work is without equal. The voicing of his instruments had a certain freshness, some would say roughness, and his action, a characteristic responsiveness that eventually won a special place in the affections of students and teachers, and much of his finest work stands in the recital halls and chapels of numerous colleges and universities.
G. Donald Harrison arrived in America with a solid knowledge of English organ building and a fine appreciation of the work of Cavaillé-Coll. To this he soon added a rather detailed knowledge of Gottfried Silbermann's work, and with these tools he set about to realize in practice the ideal organ his artistic consciousness had long contemplated.
In spite of the economic depression of the period, the Skinner Company fortunately acquired several large and important contracts in the early 1930s that afforded excellent opportunities for Harrison to develop his ideas without restrictions. This he quickly proceeded to do with the blessing of the ownership of the company, much to the chagrin of Ernest M. Skinner who had built the formidable reputation then enjoyed by the firm. Skinner's wounded ego separated him from the company in the mid-1930s, and his voluntary departure was his most important contribution to the American reform movement. With the aid and encouragement of Senator Emerson Richards of Atlantic City and William Harrison Barnes, two of the best informed American organologists of the time, and with the support of other good friends and knowledgeable organists such as Edward B. Gammons and Ernest White, Harrison made rapid strides through a series of outstanding instruments, each showing amazing progress over its predecessor. Thus he soon acquired the position of leadership that remained with him through his career.
The first of the series was for Trinity College in Hartford in 1931. The physical evidence of reform in this instrument was slight and consisted of such things as careful control of pipe metal thicknesses, well related scaling for the pipework, and larger openings for the reed shallots. In most other respects the instrument seems quite ordinary for the period, including an "augmented" pedal of 13 stops with only three ranks of its own. The voicing of the instrument was quite different, however, and already displayed the quality for which Harrison was soon to become well known.
With the new instrument for Harvard University ordered in 1932, Harrison began to use spotted metal instead of so-called common metal for the pipework, and the pedal, as planned, was very well developed. The instrument for Grace Cathedral in San Francisco was another landmark and the pedal there was quite independent with only moderate borrowing. The organ for Groton School, ordered in 1935, established a new trend in Harrison's work, for this was the first of his "low pressure" instruments and his first instrument with a Positive division. Although the Great was reedless, it was otherwise very well developed. The Swell had a full complement of four reeds, including a second 8' Trompette, all with French shallots. The organ was the first for many years in the United States in which all of the major Pedal stops were completely independent.
"American Classic" - Mainstream Reform
The Groton organ was the first of a long series in which it was planned that the substantial flue chorus of the Great required the coupling of the reeds from the Swell to complete its ensemble. This type of instrument soon acquired the name "American Classic" and became the standard for the mainstream of the reform. Even now it has a considerable influence in certain segments of organ thinking, although the term "American Classic" did not survive the war.
This way of building the tonal structure for the organ evolved very rapidly, probably as a result of a quick European tour by Harrison and Senator Richards. They and other Americans of the period rejected the North German tonal concepts and the work of the Deutsche Orgelbewegung as being crude and unmusical. The silvery flue choruses of Gottfried Silbermann's instruments were much admired, as were the fiery energetic reeds of CavailléColl's instruments in France, and the ideal instrument for America was frequently described in the journals of the period as an instrument that combined the effect of the Silbermann flue work in the Great with the effect of Cavaillé-Coll's reeds in the Swell. To this was added a Positive that was a kind of hybrid compromise derived from a combining of French and German classical concepts. To Harrison himself the Choir division had little importance and seldom had a clear-cut design.
Harrison continued to develop the pattern set at Groton and to establish new scaling for the Positive mutations in his outstanding instruments for the Church of the Advent in Boston and for St. Mark's in Philadelphia, and, while he produced many other magnificent instruments, these two organs really marked the end of his own progress as a reformer. Most of his successful work from that time on consisted largely of repeating the tonal pattern and scaling methods developed for the Boston instrument, and the occasional innovations that followed proved to be digressive perversions rather than progressive contributions to a continuing pattern of reform.
One of the results of the reedless Great of the "American Classic" was the development of powerful quinty mixtures with a hard, reedy sound that made reeds almost unnecessary and that worked in a quite opposite direction from the goal of the "clarified ensemble," which at the beginning of the reform was considered so important for the proper presentation of the works of Bach. This type of mixture obscured the inner voices of a fugue almost completely, a fact that has gone unnoticed in some circles even today. But by far the worst effect of reedy-sounding mixtures is the challenge they present to produce reeds brilliant enough and loud enough to be heard above the mixture. Thus was begun a soaring spiraling thirst for ever more sound and ever more brilliance which has delayed the progress of a serious, meaningful united reform movement in America.
In the instruments for Boston and Philadelphia, and also for the small experimental organ he built for the Germanic Museum at Harvard University, Harrison used metal of high tin content and quite low wind pressures with low mouths and fairly light nicking, and his voicing in these instruments was therefore comparatively light and bright and not without a considerable measure of transparency. He also began to develop a system of relating the scaling of the pipework of the Principal chorus with the size of the room and the wind pressure in such a way as to keep the toes of the pipes rather well open. He was thus on the verge of entering a true reform.
However, having consciously turned away from the direction taken by the European reform as unsuitable for America, he never changed his point of view. Motivated by strong artistic convictions, he chose to limit his basic tonal concepts to ideals he felt were best set forth in the work of Gottfried Silbermann, who was really the first of the great Romantic builders, and in the work of Cavaillé-Coll, the last and greatest Romantic builder. His goal was to produce an instrument on which all of the organ's literature could be interestingly - and thus for him satisfactorily - performed regardless of the tonal, environment of the school that produced it. From his own point of view and in the judgment of his many admirers, Harrison achieved this goal in the few short years between 1932 and 1940. What few people seemed to be aware of at that time was that, his concepts being restricted as they were to tonal techniques and ideals that were essentially Romantic, his instruments were really only fine Romantic instruments even though the stop lists often indicated more classical aspirations.
The still prevalent idea that stylistic performance can be accomplished by collecting samplings from the tonal concepts of various master builders and periods betrays a naivete which ignores completely the basic differences between different periods and schools.
Harrison and Holtkamp
If reduced to words, the goal that motivated Holtkamp was quite like that of Harrison - to produce a kind of all-purpose instrument - but Holtkamp was willing to work in a much smaller frame; he was much more selective in what he felt was worthy literature and made no pretense whatever that his instruments were suitable for the larger Romantic works. Thus Holtkamp's instruments rarely had an enclosed Positive or Choir, and rarer still are his instruments with more than three manual divisions. The rather large differences apparent in the sound of their work is due mostly to Harrison's natural English love for breadth of tone and a smooth tonal finish, in contrast with Holtkamp's determination to let his well-designed pipes speak for themselves without any attempt to make them conform to a predetermined norm. In this respect, at least, Holtkamp's philosophy was closer to that of good classical practice, even if his fundamental voicing technique was not substantially different from that used by Harrison. So far as voicing of the individual pipe was concerned, the difference was one of degree rather than method. Also, Holtkamp's success in obtaining very open positions for most of his organs gave them a presence and spontaneity that won him many friends.
The term Baroque was applied to the work of both men, often in derision, and Holtkamp's work was generally thought to be more Baroque than Harrison's. This was probably because the term was generally thought to be synonymous with exposed pipework, classical-looking stoplists, and voicing a little more lively than the then accepted norm, all points in which Holtkamp was thought to be more severe than Harrison. Actually the term was certainly a misnomer in both cases, for neither used classical voicing techniques, nor did their tonal designs include some of the essentials necessary to meaningful performances of the classical literature. However, this fact went largely undiscovered until after World War II, and since both men enjoyed playing the role of reformer, neither did much to disclaim credit as the Baroque pioneer in America.
Prior to the war, the work of Harrison and Holtkamp stood alone in the forefront of the American reform, and some other firms actually capitalized on the natural reactionary opinions that developed. Still, there were other men attempting to bring about improvement, and among these the names of James Jamison for his work with the Austin Company and Richard Whitelegg of the Moller Company should not be overlooked. Whitelegg was a voicer of rare talent with tastes paralleling those of Harrison, but he unfortunately did not have Harrison's broad knowledge of technical and historical matters and was content to remain very English.
The Postwar Years
During the war, organ building ceased in the United States, and so did the progress of the reform. However, the "Baroque Organ-Experimental," as it is listed in the company's records, that Harrison built for his own study and pleasure and placed so fortunately in Harvard's Germanic Museum, became the star of a CBS network series of recitals played by E. Power Biggs and occasional guests. This series of broadcasts lasted through the 1940s. The organ had only 23 independent stops, and all pipework was completely in the open without an "expressive" enclosure. Although the pipework was rather heavily nicked, by today's standards the tone was clear and sufficiently transparent for representative performances of the classical and contemporary literature Biggs played in great abundance. This did much to foster an interest in the organ and its repertoire and to bring the sound of an instrument of good quality to thousands of students and other listeners who might not otherwise have heard this type of sound for another generation.
Just how important this was in hastening the demand for better instruments is, of course, impossible to determine. But when the war was over and organ building resumed, the number of contracts that came to Harrison soon gave him a comfortable four-year backlog. Holtkamp also acquired a sizable backlog. While at first some reactionary contracts went to other builders, giving them also a burst of prosperity, these were soon exhausted, and it became clear that a general effort toward reform was essential to survival. Two large and previously active firms, Kilgen and Estey, although fairly busy for a few years following the war, were unable to make the requisite adjustments and were forced to close. Under the pressure of the demands of organists and church groups, all of the surviving companies gradually improved their stoplists and modified their scaling and voicing practices, as well as the manner of placing their instruments, toward what was thought generally to be a more classical practice. Actually, since Holtkamp and Harrison remained the undisputed leaders in the field and since they changed little from their prewar practices, it was really not necessary for the rest to do much more than catch up while the leaders obligingly stood still for them to do this.
If it had not been for the universal law that assures the ever continuing progress of progress, the past two decades would have seen our reform settle down gradually into a prosaic rut. Indeed, that is just about what happened to the mainstream of the movement, for most of the instruments built even today bear a strong family resemblance to either the "American Classic" format originated by G. Donald Harrison or the even more stereotyped and restricted style of Walter Holtkamp.
The Developing Reform
However, even before the major builders could catch up with the events of the American reform and settle down into the complacency that marked their work even to the present time in some cases, there was breeding in the thought of several serious young enthusiasts an increasing awareness that a deeper revolution in the methods of the art was necessary if organ building and organ playing in America were ever to be realized in their full potential.
The writer, for example, as early as 1947, while still employed as a voicer and tonal finisher with Aeolian-Skinner in Boston, had become quite disenchanted with the rich powerful brilliance to be heard in many of the newer organs which, though it created a sound of great blaze and glory, did little to bring to light the polyphonic literature in anything like the clear transparent manner so earnestly claimed for it by its defenders. He had already begun to experiment with producing clearer treble sound using smaller nickless windways and more open toes, and through his work in revoicing much of the original pipework of the old Boston Music Hall organ during the postwar rebuild of the instrument in Methuen, he had become quite aware of the tonal advantages of the slider chest. By 1949, then in the employ of Walter Holtkamp in Cleveland, he had become firmly convinced of the musical incongruity of completely exposed pipework for most situations. At about the same time, Robert Noehren, through first-hand acquaintance with the North German and Dutch instruments, became aware of the vast difference between the functional sound of the old European instruments and the heavy-handed synthetic effects of the American reformers. In subsequent trips to Europe, he became acquainted with some of the notable builders and experts of the organ reform movement and eventually realized that they were capable of producing work quite comparable in musical effect with that of the old masters. Noehren by 1950 was convinced of the musical superiority of mechanical key action over all other mechanisms and was one of the first of the younger American organists to be so convinced. In the years just following the war, Walter Holtkamp was very much interested in building mechanical action instruments, and it was in fact for this purpose that the writer joined him in Cleveland at the end of 1948. Throughout the following year there was much discussion and much planning, but there being very little interest in mechanical-action instruments among those for whom contracts were in hand or pending, none of these plans actually materialized. Until Noehren's conversion, Melville Smith, mentioned earlier, remained virtually alone among American organists and teachers in his outspoken advocacy of mechanical action. After the writer left Cleveland to serve as consultant for a large project in Boston, Holtkamp's interest in mechanical action disappeared.
Meanwhile, Noehren's enthusiasm for mechanical action continued to grow, and there being no person in North America capable of or interested in producing new instruments of this sort, he turned his attention to renovating old actions using new and revoiced pipework. In this and other tonal adventures, Noehren found a willing partner in Hermann Schlicker of Buffalo, New York, and this collaboration was the beginning of Schlicker's rise to a position of prominence in American organ building. The rejuvenation of an old organ in Grace Episcopal Church in Sandusky, Ohio, served as a pilot project and at the time attracted much attention.
Schlicker's subsequent collaboration with other consultants has resulted in many interesting instruments, and particularly noteworthy are the instruments he has produced under the direction of Paul Bunjes for various churches and schools associated with The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod.
Bunjes is one of the most knowledgeable of our organologists, and his grasp of the traditional basis for the theory and practice of pipe scaling and tonal design is second to none. His treatise, The Praetorius Organ (unpublished dissertation, Eastman School of Music, 1966) is perhaps the most significant contribution to the literature on the organ yet to appear in the English language. In this exhaustive work Bunjes establishes Praetorius as the virtual father of the modern organ through a careful analysis and comparison of Praetorius' De Organographia of 1619 and subsequent theoretical works. Bunjes is no antiquarian and his main interest in probing the past is to establish a firmer background for more effective instruments for today.
Mechanical Action Revived
In the early 1950s there was a tremendous wave of construction of mammoth instruments, especially in New York City, and it is interesting that in the midst of this the first modern mechanical-action instruments made their appearance in America.
Josef von Glatter-Gotz and the Rieger firm, which he was at that time attempting to rejuvenate, had produced some ingeniously designed small selfcontained organs, and a number of these were brought to the United States over a period of two or three years. Unfortunately even the much improved models that arrived by 1953 were not equal to the drastic climatic conditions they encountered in America and most of them soon fell into disrepair. Still, the freshness of their low-pressure classical voicing and the sensitivity and responsiveness of their key action won many friends for the principles they represented, if not for the instruments themselves.
Gradually more and more interest developed in the ideals of the European organ movement, and European travel and study by hundreds of American students, chiefly under the auspices of the "Fulbright" grants sponsored by the United States government, did much to provide the enlightenment needed to impel the American reform movement to new heights. The Organ Institute, which convened at Andover and Methuen in Massachusetts for several weeks each summer in the early 1950s, also did much to acquaint professional organists and students with the virtues of mechanical action and encasement through the importation from Europe of several small mechanical-action instruments.
Other small, encased mechanical-action instruments by foreign builders were imported from time to time. One of the first of these was a four-stop Positive by Flentrop, placed in the University Presbyterian Church in San Antonio, Texas, in 1954. Interest in encased instruments developed in Texas under the leadership of Joseph E. Blanton, and one of the first American-made instruments with an attempt at a modern case was that by Otto Hofmann for the Matthews Memorial Presbyterian Church in Albany, Texas, in 1955. This case was designed by Blanton after the contemporary Dutch manner. However, the pipes for the instrument were made by Flentrop, and this unfortunately indicated the trend for the next several years, for although a taste was developing for open-toe, nickless, low-pressure voicing, no American pipe maker or voicer was courageous enough through the mid-1950s to attempt to produce pipework of this type on his own. Thus those who wanted a clearer, transparent instrument had no choice but to import their pipes from Europe.
The Turning Point in American Reform
In 1957 the new wave of reform in America was given a great impetus by the installation of a 44-stop, four-manual instrument by Rudolf von Beckerath, with complete encasement and mechanical key and stop action, in Trinity Lutheran Church, Cleveland, Ohio. This instrument really marked the turning point in the American reform. Not only did it bring to America for the first time a modern, encased mechanical-action instrument with traditional classical voicing reminiscent of the finest instruments of Arp Schnitger, but it also marked the very first time that sounds of this stature had ever been heard in North America. Even the best of our old instruments, even the imported ones, even those built in America by imported talent, fell far short of the musical excellence of this organ. If there had been just one old instrument of this type somewhere in America and if it had survived until the beginning of the reform movement so that more musicians could have known it, the trend of the reform might have taken quite a different pattern right from the beginning. As it was, the selection as to what was right for America was made in the early stages of our reform by a very small group of experts who arbitrarily rejected the concept so well - but so belatedly - represented by the Von Beckerath instrument. Without older instruments to serve as a guide, there was little else to do but go along with the experts, at least for a while.
The Cleveland von Beckerath had very far-reaching results, a few of which are well worth noting. First of all, a group of young organists in Montreal, headed by Kenneth Gilbert, organist of Queen Mary Road United Church, had, through their reading and study, become completely convinced that it was necessary for them to have instruments quite different from those available locally. A visit to the Cleveland instrument resulted in a two-manual von Beckerath of 26 stops for Mr. Gilbert's church in 1959. Subsequently, a five-manual instrument of 78 stops was ordered for St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal, where Raymond Daveluy is the organist, and this was installed by von Beckerath in 1960. In 1961, a three-manual von Beckerath organ of 38 stops was installed in eglise de l'lmmaculee-Conception, where Gaston Arel is the organist, and another von Beckerath was ordered some time later for the First Presbyterian Church in Winnipeg. Thus four von Beckerath instruments have appeared in Canada directly as a result of the 1957 installation in Cleveland. Several other von Beckerath instruments have also been installed in the United States primarily as a result of the success of the Canadian instruments, the most notable among these being the magnificent four-manual 67-stop instrument installed in 1962 in St. Paul's R. C. Cathedral in Pittsburgh, where Paul Koch is the organist.
The Cleveland instrument also served as an inspiration to Charles Fisk, who at the time was proprietor of the Andover Organ Company in Andover, Mass. Although Fisk had been interested in mechanical-action instruments for some time, the splendid example of the von Beckeraths undoubtedly was among the influences that moved him to the decision to build nothing but mechanical-action instruments, and he subsequently formed a new company in Gloucester, Mass., which bears his name and is completely devoted to the production of high quality mechanical-action instruments with suitable encasement.
The most interesting and effective instrument produced by the Andover firm is the 36-stop, twomanual organ for Mount Calvary Church in Baltimore, built in 1961. This work was the result of a Fisk-Flentrop collaboration under the watchful eye of the organist Arthur Howes, who was the founder of the Organ Institute in Andover and an ardent crusader for better instruments and better playing in America. The new Fisk firm has produced fine three-manual instruments in King's Chapel, Boston, and in Christ Church, Westerly, R. I., but by far the most ambitious mechanical-action project to be undertaken by an American builder is the new fourmanual, 47-stop instrument now being constructed by Fisk for his alma mater, Harvard University, in Memorial Church. This is perhaps the most interesting organ project underway in America today, and Fisk's well-demonstrated competence promises an outstanding success.
A few years ago another new company was formed in Massachusetts exclusively for producing mechanical-action instruments. This group of young workers is headed by Fritz Noack, who was apprenticed in the von Beckerath shop in Hamburg and worked with Charles Fisk for some time before setting up his own shop in Lawrence. Noack is a capable and inventive craftsman, and his work makes a worthy contribution to the new wave of reform in America. If interest in encased mechanical-action instruments seems to be centered in the northeastern United States, and especially around Boston, this is in no small measure due to the ceaseless efforts of Donald Willing, head of the organ department of the New England Conservatory of Music. He has perhaps done more than any other teacher in the United States to instill in his pupils a profound appreciation of the values involved. In this respect, Fenner Douglas of Oberlin Conservatory and Gerhard Krapf of the State University of Iowa in Iowa City should not be overlooked. But the most ardent and tireless champion of the cause of mechanical action in America is E. Power Biggs, who, though he makes his home in Cambridge, Mass., has traveled far and wide, playing, lecturing, advising, recording, and spreading his enthusiasm everywhere. He became disillusioned with the lack of progress in the American reform in the mid-1950s, and his concern impelled him to produce a series of recordings of European instruments that are still an invaluable study source. His close friendship with D. A. Flentrop resulted in a three-manual, 27-stop instrument by this builder replacing, in 1958, the Harrison instrument, mentioned earlier, in Harvard University's Germanic Museum, now called the Busch Reisinger Museum.
Without doubt the most sensitive performers on mechanical-action instruments, those who are most capable of exploiting the particular features of these instruments to the fullest, are the group of teachers and performing artists known as the Ars Organi, three of whom were mentioned earlier in connection with various installations in the City of Montreal. These organists and their pupils are without equal in this respect in North America. The founding members of the Ars Organi are Mireille and Bernard Lagacé, Kenneth Gilbert, Raymond Daveluy, and Lucienne and Gaston Arel.
The mechanical success of the von Beckerath instruments in the difficult American climate has encouraged the importation of work by other European builders. The large number of fine instruments that have come to North America from the Flentrop plant in Holland is the direct result of von Beckerath's courageous trail-blazing. Flentrop's ventures in exporting to North America have been crowned with success in the remarkable fourmanual, 55-stop instrument installed in 1965 in St. Mark's Cathedral in Seattle, Wash.
Recent importations of production-type, assembled instruments and instruments by some of the less known and less expensive builders have not been particularly rewarding. Fine instruments that include the necessary features to assure long life and reliability through seasonal changes and hard use are expensive and cannot be otherwise.
However, the writer is particularly grateful for the pioneering efforts of von Beckerath and Flentrop in North America, for in the face of a growing demand the commercial pressures created by the presence and availability of their quality instruments has made it possible for him to accomplish the complete change in the policy and practice of one of North America's largest and oldest organ building establishments in a short period of time, which under different circumstances would not have been possible. The writer became responsible for the artistic direction of the firm of Casavant Freres Limitee in St. Hyacinthe, Quebec, in September of 1958. In the following year the firm produced two of the first large encased modern instruments by a North American builder. These were the fourmanual instrument of 68 stops for eglise des SaintsMartyrs Canadiens in Quebec City and the threemanual organ of 51 stops for the First Church of Christ, Scientist in Denver, Colorado.
In 1960 Casavant organized a new department to build modern mechanical-action instruments, and the first was built and installed in 1961. The firm has now built 21 mechanical-action instruments, more than any other North American builder, and the wide variety of tonal design reflected in these instruments is perhaps unique in the world, ranging as it does from instruments such as that in St. Pascal, Quebec, a three-manual organ of 28 stops in strict classical French style - the first in North America - to the three-manual, 34-stop instrument in the United Lutheran Church, Grand Forks, North Dakota, which is strictly North German in concept. In between these two extremes is the 28-stop, twomanual instrument installed in the fall of 1965 in the sanctuaire de Marie-Reine-des-Coeurs in Montreal, where Bernard Lagace is the titular organist.
Hermann Schlicker, who has long pioneered for better tonal practices in America, has also made some new mechanical-action instruments in the past few years and is now constructing electrically operated slider chests as a regular part of his production. Thus Schlicker continues to maintain a position of leadership which he deservedly acquired in the first few years after the war.
Since the arrival of the von Beckerath instrument in Cleveland 10 years ago, the voicing practices of many American builders have undergone a slow change in an attempt to produce a more transparent, functional sound. In general the practice of heavy nicking, quite common until the mid1950s, has all but disappeared, and now the more conscientious voicers use only a few, quite small nicks.
The Wicks Organ Company in Highland, III., actually produces a fair percentage of its total output of pipes without nicks and with open toes. Most types of electro-pneumatic wind-chests are not reliable on wind pressures below 3 inches, and the independence of the performance of the Wicks direct-electric chest action from the wind pressure has undoubtedly been a factor in encouraging the firm to attempt this more straightforward approach to classical voicing techniques.
For special installations, some firms have adapted an expansion-chamber arrangement for their pitman chests, but this practice is very infrequent, and no builder uses substantial expansion chambers in this type of chest as a regular practice.
Although most American builders are at least paying some respect to the traditional voicing practices that have been a part of the European organ reform for a very long time, few of them have any appreciation of the sophistication of the technique, both in scaling and in voicing, required to produce a thoroughly musical, thoroughly integrated instrument in the manner of the best European builders of both the past and the present. With time, it is hoped that a knowledge and understanding, and - perhaps even more important - a deep appreciation of the essentially musical nature of the art, will permeate American organ building. It is doubtful whether this will take place until more builders make their own pipes and thus become more dependent on their own resources than is now the case. As in Europe, so in America, the number of small builders has continued to increase in recent years, and some of these produce quite interesting and effective instruments, but as in the case of some of the larger builders, their work would be more meaningful if the pipework and the other essential parts they use were of their own manufacture instead of imported from various European sources.
Undoubtedly the trend so clearly established in the past 10 years toward a complete acceptance of the principles and ideals that have impelled the organ movement in Europe will continue in America. This will mean the already growing demand for mechanical-action, encased instruments will continue to increase.
It will thus be necessary for American organ builders to develop skilled designers and technicians the like of which is very rare in the industry today. There is no alternative to this, or else we in North America shall be ever dependent on the European sources for our instruments, and our instruments, our tastes, our ideals, indeed our culture, will never be truly our own. It was impossible for us to develop a meaningful artistic direction in our work until we learned the lessons that Europe and the past had to teach us. Now that a few have found the way, they must be free to develop and express their creativity. This will take courage, for the ties must be loosened which bind us to the past and to the ready-made culture our overseas friends are ever willing to supply. In their place, artistic and tech nical initiative must be developed.
Among the lessons to be learned from the past is one that holds the key to the future, one that could make the difference between the organ's passing the test of relevancy so freely applied to everything today and surviving another century or so, or failing the test and becoming obsolete perhaps within our time. All of the truly worthy instruments of the past had one thing in common regardless of their period or location - in addition to meeting the musical needs of their time, they presented a substantial challenge to their time, a challenge that was sometimes never adequately met, sometimes met after only a decade or two, as in the case of the large instruments of Cavaillé-Coll.
In retrospect, it is clear that the instruments of the first two decades of our reform were conceived by conservatives for conservatives. They challenged only the ears, never the mind, never the fancy of either the listener or the performer. The ears soon adjusted. The instruments were obsolete almost from their inception.
If the organ is to survive as a musical medium, at least some of the instruments being built today must not only be adequate to tasks outlined by an existing literature - a prerequisite of any instrument - they must also look to the future. They must present a challenge, they must inspire, they must hold the promise of things as yet untried, of things yet to be imagined. The organ now needs new literature to survive. With the challenge ever present, ever beckoning, we can hope that the call will be answered, perhaps many times. Without the challenge, there will be no answer, no new literature, and one day, perhaps, no organs.