Friday, June 8, 2018

BIG ORGAN


Upon getting back from vacation, I was immediately out the door the next day to meet the Capital Street Duo for the Wanamaker Organ Concert with Peter Richard Conte and others musicians. If you have never been to Philadelphia, the organ is now being stewarded by Macy's, thankfully, and the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ, and is housed in the once amazing and opulent John Wanamaker Building, which was once the place to shop in it's 12 floors of luxury and quality goods in this high end department store. The store was massive and a architectural marvel in it's own right. It was a sad day indeed when it finally shuttered and Hecht's took over... and now Macy's. But the organ is quite something to see and hear. Before the concert, we arrived early to get a behind the scenes tour behind the organ which was very cool to see.

Designed by renowned organ architect, George Ashdown Audsley, and built by the Los Angeles Art Organ Company for the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, the Wanamaker Organ originally incorporated more than 10,000 pipes. The huge cost of construction was $105,000...and  actually bankrupted the builder.





Fortunately, the Organ found a new home with John Wanamaker, the Philadelphia merchant who founded the groundbreaking Wanamaker’s department store.


A firm believer in music’s capacity to benefit civic life, he purchased the organ in 1909 and had it installed over a two-year period in the palatial seven-story atrium of his Philadelphia emporium. Seeking an even bigger sound to suit its palatial proportions, Wanamaker created an on-site factory to expand the Organ and hired 40 full-time employees to add 8,000 more pipes between 1911 and 1917, and another 10,000 pipes between 1924 and 1930. With its stunning pipework, the Wanamaker Organ is capable of playing all the great organ masterworks as well as a full range of orchestral compositions—it powerfully emulates the sounds of three symphony orchestras.
Some of the larger pipes can fit a horse in them, and soar many floors high.
The Organ was first heard in the downtown Philadelphia Wanamaker’s store on June 22, 1911, just as England’s King George V was being crowned. Over the years that John Wanamaker and his son Rodman presided over their retail business, they invited some of the world’s most renowned musicians as well as the Philadelphia Orchestra to perform concerts on the Wanamaker Organ and these drew thousands of listeners to the Grand Court. Since that time, many virtuosos have made special pilgrimages here to perform on the instrument.
Only four musicians have been designated Grand Court Organists since the organ was first played in 1911. The fourth and present one, Peter Richard Conte, is presently celebrating his 25th anniversary in the role. When he’s not touring, he performs free 45-minute recitals on the Wanamaker Grand Organ, twice a day, six days a week. Other top organists take his place when he is on the road. Every year during the holidays, the Grand Court lights up with the beautiful Light Show that ends with a Christmas concert grand finale almost every day.
Today, the Organ weighs in at 287 tons, incorporates an astounding 28,500 pipes, six ivory keyboards, 729 color-coded stop tablets, 168 piston buttons (under the keyboards) and 42 foot controls. The largest pipe, made of three-inch-thick Oregon sugar pine, is more than 32 feet long and the smallest is a quarter-inch long. And while you there be sure to see the Eagle!!!
 
 As with the Organ, the Eagle was also displayed in St. Louis in 1904. Created by the German sculptor August Gaul for the German Pavilion at the St. Louis Exhibition, the bronze Eagle stands 10 feet tall, weights over 2,500lbs, and has 5,000 customized feathers – all of which were cast individually and assembled in St. Louis.
 
As one hears in Philadelphia...Meet me at the Eagle!

39 comments:

  1. Wow!! That is amazing! Thanks for another great history lesson and tour. :-) xoxoxoxo

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  2. and rub the eagle's talons for luck; that's why the feet look gold in color.

    we have so much history under our feet; I was lucky to be born & bred here! wanamakers was the nordstroms of its day.

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    1. I still miss that grand days of that store. I can still remember taking the train with my mother and grandmother into Philly, arrived, had lunch in the Crystal Tea Room, then shopped till we dropped. My grandmother got all, if not most of her millinery from Wanamaker's and Bonwit Tellers....another gem.

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    2. me too, maddie, me too. ah, nostalgia...

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  3. We haven't made it the last couple year, but thank goodness heard it on WRTI. We missed it this year. It truly is a marvel...the building and the organ. To hear it in person is unforgettable....especially when it gets thunderous.

    That was the store all right. It was very much like Harrods in it's offerings and layouts. I still miss that store too.

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  4. Wanamaker's was long gone when I lived there, but did The Wanamaker organ at Wanama'sker is extraordinary. With a 100 foot ceiling, the organ is equal to the task of filling this huge space with magnificent sound. Anyone who enjoys organ music will be thrilled to hear the Wanamaker Organ.

    This post brought back good Philly memories.

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  5. Talk about world class. I have never seen anything like it. The video gave me chills alone. I can only imagine the sound and feeling in person?!? So glad your back Mistress.

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  6. Those are some great pictures you got. But we're not shocked you love a big organ. I do too.

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  7. I don't think I have ever seen any behind the scene of the organ before....how cool. When you think about how big this is and elaborate....it's quite mind blowing. The building is amazing looking. Couldn't imagine shopping in that store.

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  8. Thanks for the awesome fotos of the magnificent building and spectacular organ. What grand and resplendent architecture! And what an exquisite musical instrument that's also functional, beautiful, melodious art. What a marvel! And it still plays fantastic music!

    That eagle looks fierce! And huge! What a commanding presence. Thank goodness it's not alive. I'd hate to park under the tree it would sit on...

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    1. I can only surmise, I wouldn't want to be under him if he did drop a doodle.

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  9. I need to see this when I come to visit. his is very fascinating.

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    1. You got it! I accept tips and gin and tonics.

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  10. A world class organ for sure. I would like to know more of the store too. I couldn't imagine even shopping in that museum like store. The Wanamaker organ at is extraordinary, a city gem for sure. Thanks for the video too.

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  11. When I have time I often go there at lunch and hear the music while shopping for shoes. The best of both worlds. Nice they still do this and keep the tradition alive.

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  12. oh, we're talking about another big organ for a change.

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    1. I KNOW, RIGHT? for a change he climbed outta da gutter!

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  13. Wait. This post isn't about the newest house boy? I really enjoyed the pictures, though. I hope one of these years I can see Philly.

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  14. Wow! And yet all that's playing in my head is "At Wannamaker and Saks and Kleins a lesson I've been taught, you can't make alterations on a dress you haven't bought..."

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  15. You never tire of big organs, do you . . . . And that's a helluva eagle!

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  16. When I was in Philly years ago, I wish I would have spent more time in Philly. I miss it and it's one of the best cities to walk and see things.What a store! And the Organ music is the icing on the cake. What great pictures Mistress.

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  17. The only downfall to us touring this year was being gone and missing Wanamaker Organ Day. The Wanamaker Organ has such sublime and intricate tonal complexities that result from the careful blending so many ranks, wonderfully shown in this excellent performance. I've heard the Wanamaker Organ in person to many times now on Wanamaker Organ Days and lunch time concerts, and recommend that every devotee should hear it live at least once - you will listen transfixed, and not want to leave even when the store is closing! Peter is amazing. Met him several times , he is quite the guy. Thanks for your great text message while gone. No words can describe the feeling and performances in these cities. The venues were quite amazing, and a honor to play in them.

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    1. I caught the vienna and both israeli concerts on WRTI, josh; you guys were GREAT!

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    2. Bravo to you all!!!!

      I did catch two of the concerts live. The Hamburg concert of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 really got me. the orchestra played it better than I have ever heard. I had tears.

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  18. Magnificent! Thank God for every one of these instruments around, and someone who knows how to make them sing.Thank you for sharing this post. It truly is amazing and the place it's in.

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  19. What a fantastic musical instrument. The time and resources it must have taken to create it must have been phenomenal! This building is phenomenal. So is that city.

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  20. Wow - I admittedly have organ envy, and the acoustics in that building are incredible! What a feast for the ears! Thanks for a fascinating post.

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    1. I can only imagine you would love this in person Jon. The music, the history and the story behind the building. It was quite the place.

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  21. "It was a sad day indeed when it finally shuttered and Hecht's took over"

    Oh, did the co-writer of The Front Page move to Philadelphia?

    All kidding aside, that organ is one impressive musical instrument! The mention of the St Louis World's Fair made me think of the movie Meet Me in St. Louis which made me think of Judy Garland. I don't know that it would be the right type of instrument, but can you imagine Judy singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" with that organ as accompaniment?

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    1. Funny you should mention Judy Garland. Peter did do a rendition of Over the Rainbow once. It was pretty darn good. Not many song Peter had done of the organ he's not good with.

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  22. It's apparently the biggest organ in the world [bad luck, these two!] or, more accurately "the largest operational musical instrument in the world". Impressive. It leaves the UK's biggest - in Liverpool Cathedral - to shame.

    I love discussing huge organs.

    Jx

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    1. Have a seat dear...I'll grab some gin and tonics, then we can get started. I just bet you have some great huge organs stories.

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  23. Jees, you go on vacation and all you can talk about when you get back is organs... big organs... with pipes. You did see the pipes, didn't you? They're very big.

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  24. I have been to many cities.....and between the downtown area and the various interesting towns that surround it....Im hard pressed to find a city and area that offers so much. This is truly amazing. The scale alone.

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  25. I am late to the party, and all of the huge organ jokes have been laughed at. Welcome home,

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  26. When I'm in Philly on business, I always make my appointment for my account at lunch so I can always hear the organ concert. Never tire of hearing it. The building is amazing.

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  27. Wow. I did not know about this fabulous Wanamaker Organ. I love some good organ music. Not a big fan of the city of Philadelphia, but perhaps I should visit the Wanamaker Building next time I'm in the neighborhood.

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  28. Isn't that fantastic? I love mid-century and modern architecture, but nothing compares to buildings like that. It's as if we lack imagination, or something.

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Go ahead darling, tell me something fabulous!

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