Wanamaker Organ

The Wanamaker Grand Court Organ, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is the largest operational [The Boardwalk Hall Auditorium Organ, at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, has over 32,000 pipes, and four entries in the Guinness Book of World Records, but it is not functional. . The Wanamaker Organ, however has approximately 92% of its pipes in working order, and work is progressing on the remaining 8%. The Wanamaker Organ also has more ranks and reputedly weighs nearly twice as much as the Boardwalk Hall Organ (287 tons).] pipe organ in the world, located within a spacious 7-story court at Macys Center City (formerly Wanamaker's department store). The largest organ is the Boardwalk Hall Auditorium Organ (which is barely functional). The Wanamaker organ is played twice a day, Monday through Saturday, and more frequently during the Christmas season. The organ is also featured at several special concerts held throughout the year, including events featuring the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ festival chorus and brass ensembles.

Notable characteristics

In its present configuration, the Wanamaker Organ has 28,482 pipes in 461 ranksFact|date=August 2008. The organ console is composed of six manuals with an array of stops and controls that command the organ. The organ's String Division forms the largest single organ chamber in the world. The instrument boasts eighty-eight ranks of string pipes built by the W.W. Kimball Company of Chicago.cite book | author = Biswanger, Ray| year = 1999 | title = Music in the Marketplace: The Story of Philadelphia's Historic Wanamaker Organ | publisher = The Friends of the Wanamaker Organ Press| id=ISBN 0-9665552-0-1] The organ is famed for its orchestra-like sound, coming from pipes that are voiced softer than usual, allowing an unusually rich build-up because of the massing of pipe-tone families. The artistic obligation entailed by the creation of this instrument has always been honored, with two curators employed in its constant and scrupulous care. The organ, with its regular program of concerts and recitals, was maintained by Wanamaker's throughout the chain's history, even as the company's financial fortunes waxed and waned. This level of dedication was maintained when corporate parentage shifted from the Wanamaker family to Carter-Hawley-Hale Stores to Woodward & Lothrop to Lord & Taylor to Macy's.


The Wanamaker Organ was originally built by the Los Angeles Art Organ Company, successors to the Murray M. Harris Organ Co., for the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. It was designed to be the largest organ in the world, an imitation of a full size orchestra with particularly complete resources of full organ tone including mixtures. In addition to its console, the organ was originally equipped with an automatic player that used punched rolls of paper, according to the Los Angeles Times of 1904. [ [http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/thedailymirror/2007/06/detour_to_1904.html Los Angeles Times blog entry on construction of the organ in 1904] ] It was designed, at Murray Harris' request, by renowned organ theorist and architect George Ashdown Audsley. Wild cost overruns plagued the project, with the result that Harris was ousted from his own company. It was reorganized into the Los Angeles Art Organ Company, and finished at a cost of $105,000, $40,000 over budget. The Fair began (in late April, 1904) before the organ was fully installed in its temporary home, Festival Hall. It still was not entirely finished in September of that year, when Alexandre Guilmant, one of the most famous organists of the day, gave 40 very well-attended recitals on the organ.

Following the Fair, the organ was to have been purchased by the Kansas City Convention Hall. Indeed, the original console had a prominent "K C" on its music rack. This venture failed causing the L. A. Art Organ company to go bankrupt after the Fair closed. There was a plan to exhibit the organ at Coney Island in New York City, but nothing came of this. The organ languished in storage at the Handlan warehouse in St. Louis until 1909, when it was bought by John Wanamaker for his new department store at 13th and Market Streets in Center City, Philadelphia. It took thirteen freight cars to move it to its new home, and two years for installation. It was first played on June 6, 1911, at the exact moment when British King George V was crowned. It was also featured later that year when U.S. President William Howard Taft dedicated the store.

Despite its then-unprecedented size (more than 10,000 pipes), it was judged inadequate to fill the seven-story Grand Court in which it was located, so Wanamaker's opened a private organ factory in the store attic, which was charged with enlarging the organ. The first project to enlarge the organ resulted in 8,000 pipes being added between 1911 and 1917.

Wanamaker's sponsored many historic after-business-hours concerts on the Wanamaker Organ. The first, in 1919, featured Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra with organist Charles M. Courboin. Every sales counter and fixture was removed for the free after-hours event, which attracted an audience of 15,000 from across the United States. Subsequently more of these "Musicians' Assemblies" were held, as were private recitals. For these events Wanamaker's opened a Concert Bureau and brought to America master organists Marcel Dupré and Louis Vierne, Nadia Boulanger, Marco Enrico Bossi, Alfred Hollins, and several others. During his first recital on the organ, Dupré was so impressed with the instrument that he was inspired to improvise a musical depiction of the life of Jesus Christ. This was later published as his "Symphonie-Passion".

In 1924, a new project to enlarge the organ began. Marcel Dupré and Charles Courboin were asked by Rodman Wanamaker, John Wanamaker's son, to "Work together to draw up a plan for the instrument. Use everything you have ever dreamed about." They were told there was no limit to the budget. This project resulted in, among other things, the celebrated String Division, which occupies the largest organ chamber ever constructed, 67 feet long, 26 feet deep, and 16 feet high. During this project, the organ's current console was constructed in Wanamaker's private in-house pipe-organ factory, with six manuals and several hundred controls. By 1930, when work on expanding the organ finally stopped, the organ had 28,482 pipes, and, if Rodman Wanamaker had not died in 1928, the organ would probably be even bigger.cite book | author = Whitney, Craig R.| year = 2003 | title = All the Stops: The Glorious Pipe Organ and Its American Masters | publisher = PublicAffairs New York | id=ISBN 1-58648-173-8 ]

Plans were made for, among others, a Stentor division, a section of high-pressure diapasons and reeds. It was to be installed on the fifth floor, above the String Division, and would be playable from the sixth manual. However, it was never funded, and the sixth manual is now used to couple other divisions or play various solo voices from other divisions that are duplexed to this keyboard. [The [http://www.agophila.org/pages/instruments/wanamaker.html Philadelphia Chapter of the American Guild of Organists] lists all the stops on the organ, and mentions the unrealized Stentor division.]

Following the sale to May in 1995, the Wanamaker's name was removed from the store (first as Wanamaker-Hecht's) in favor of Hecht's, but the organ and its concerts were retained. During the transition of the Hecht's stores to Strawbridge's stores, the historic Wanamaker Store briefly took the name of its longtime rival Strawbridge's. The May Company began a complete restoration of the organ in 1997, as part of the store's final May Co. conversion into a Lord & Taylor

The Philadelphia Orchestra returned to the Grand Court on September 27, 2008 for the premiere performance of Joseph Jongen's "Symphonie Concertante" (1926) on the organ for which it was written. The ticketed event, featuring soloist Peter Richard Conte, also includes the Bach/Stokowski arrangement of the "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor," Marcel Dupré's "Cortege and Litany" for Organ and Orchestra, and the world premiere of a "Fanfare" by Howard Shore, composer for the Lord of the Rings films. Shore visited the store in May 2008 to meet with Peter Richard Conte and hear the Wanamaker Organ. The event was co-sponsored by the [http://www.wanamakerorgan.com/ Friends of the Wanamaker Organ] and was a benefit for that organization.


Although numerous famous organists have played special concerts on the organ, it has had only four chief organists in its history:

* Dr. Irvin J. Morgan (1911 - 1917)
* Mary E. Vogt (1917 - 1966)
* Dr. Keith R. Chapman (1966 - 1989) Dr. Richard L. Elliott "Assistant Organist"
* Peter Richard Conte (1989 - present)

Present curators

* Curt Mangel
* Sam Whitcraft

Architectural layout

The pipes are laid out across five floors, with the sections situated as follows:

*2nd floor south - Main Pedal 32′, Lower Swell, Great, Percussions
*3rd floor south - Main Pedal, Chorus, Upper Swell, Choir/Enclosed Great, Solo, Vox Humana Chorus
*4th floor south - String
*4th floor west - Orchestral (adjacent to String)
*7th floor south - Major Chimes, Ethereal
*7th floor north - Echo

The 32′ Wood Open, 32′ Diaphone, and 32′ Metal Diapason pipes run the length of a little more than 2 stories, beginning on the second floor.

The Friends of the Wanamaker Organ

[http://www.wanamakerorgan.com "The Friends of the Wanamaker Organ"] is a non-profit organization involved in the preservation and promotion of the Wanamaker Organ. The Friends are supported by funds from individual contributors (Friends) and private foundations. The organization also organizes special concerts and, along with Macy's, produces a monthly radio show of Wanamaker Organ recordings, on the Philadelphia-based classical/jazz station, WRTI-FM. The show is on the first Sunday of every month at 5:00 p.m., hosted by organist Peter Richard Conte and WRTI host Jill Pasternak. It is available via Internet streamcast at [http://www.wrti.org"www.wrti.org."]

The official publication of the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ is "The Stentor", a quarterly 16-page newsletter with articles, photos, details on the restoration and historical materials issued four times per year. Typical features in the "Stentor" generally include news about ongoing restoration projects, recent visits by noteworthy organists, reprints of historical source materials and photos and upcoming concerts, events, etc. More information on the Friends and the Wanamaker Organ may be found at [http://www.wanamakerorgan.com"www.wanamakerorgan.com"] .

See also

*John Wanamaker
*Wanamaker's Department Store

Notes and references

*cite book | author = Biswanger, Ray| year = 1999 | title = Music in the Marketplace: The Story of Philadelphia's Historic Wanamaker Organ | publisher = The Friends of the Wanamaker Organ Press| id=ISBN 0-9665552-0-1 External links

* [http://www.wanamakerorgan.com/ Friends of the Wanamaker Organ]
* [http://www.wanamakerorgan.com/stoplist.html Stoplist – by "Friends of the Wanamaker Organ"] "(note: as of March, 2007, a survey of all ranks and pipes is underway to update)"
* [http://pipedreams.publicradio.org/listings/0344 Pipe Dreams radio program, "Peter Conte and the Wanamaker Grand Court Organ"]
* [http://organland.free.fr/wanamaker.html About the Wanamaker Organ, for the first time in French]
* [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2WJC2N3Fxo Video of the Wanamaker Organ being played by Virgil Fox]

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