A Hope-Jones Residence Organ

By Stover, Harold | The Tracker, Spring 2004 | Go to article overview

A Hope-Jones Residence Organ


Stover, Harold, The Tracker


On February 26, 2004, OHS Vice-President Scot Huntington officiated at a ceremony conferring the Historic Organ Citation on a residence organ by Robert Hope-Jones in Portland, Maine. The three-manual instrument is in its original location and, although not completely unaltered, is in essentially original condition. As one of the very few extant Hope-Jones organs, it offers a rare glimpse into the world of this legendary figure.

Robert Hope-Jones' diaphones, tibias, and exremes of scaling were radical exaggerations of contemporary trends in organ building. For much of the 20th Century, he was regarded only as a corrupting influence on tonal design, when he was remembered at all. The crazy-uncle-in-the-attic image of him found a typical expression in Cecil Clutton and Austin Niland's The British Organ:

Finally, as a sort of fin-de-siècle éminence grise, came Robert Hope-Jones; an electrical engineer by trade who unfortunately strayed into organ building, to which he first applied an electric action of more ingenuity and reliability and then a tonal system of tasteless vulgarity.1

His reputation was primarily affected by these extreme tonal ideas, but it was also tarnished by a financial ineptitude that prevented him from ever controlling his professional destiny for very long, a personal history shadowed by scandalous rumors, and a personality-erratic at best, unstable at worst-that made enemies of such powerful and influential employers as Ernest Skinner and the Wurlitzer family. Still, despite the eccentricity of his diaphonie basses and "stair-rod" strings, he was a prolific inventor in the dawning of the era of electricity in organ building, and his electro-mechanical innovations were widely influential in the industry. David S. Fox's 1992 biography was a balanced and long-overdue evaluation of Hope-Jones historical position.2

The Portland Hope-Jones organ was commissioned by Alfred Brinkler (1880-1972). Brinkler was organist of St. Lukes Cathedral (Episcopal) in Portland and later, as Portland Municipal Organist, presided at the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ in the auditorium of Portland City Hall. His desire for a house organ was prompted by the inconvenience of practicing and teaching in the unheated cathedral through the harsh Maine winters, and his choice of Hope-Jones as builder appears to have been determined by his wish to engage a fellow Englishman for the task. It is not known if the Austin brothers or other English builders active in America at the time were considered. The organ was built at the Hope-Jones factory in Elmira, New York, in 1909, during a time of relative autonomy for the builder. Hope-Jones was still in charge of his own plant, but he had already entered into one of his periodic financial crises, and it would be only a year before he had lost this independence and was working for the Wurlitzers.

The organ speaks into a large room occupying the entire second floor of a 19th-century Portland row house. Its high degree of unification is representative of Hope-Jones' "unit orchestra" ideal. The stoplist is:

GREAT

Open Diapason 8'

Chimney Flute 8'

Gamba 8'

Dulciana 8'

Flute 4'

Swell to Great 8'

Swell to Great 4'

SWELL

Bourdon 16'

Chimney Flute 8'

Gamba 8'

Voix Celeste TC 8'

Dulciana 8'

Flute 4'

Dulciana 4'

Piccolo 2'

Vox Humana 8'

Swell to Swell 16'

Swell to Swell 4'

CHOIR

Chimney Flute 8'

Voix Celeste TC 8'

Dulciana 8'

Flute 4'

Dulciana 4'

PEDAL

Bourdon 16'

Flute 8'

Great to Pedal 8'

Swell to Pedal 8'

Swell to Pedal 4'

Tremulant and Unison Off to the whole organ.

These stops are derived from the following resources:

Open Diapason 8' (wood to FF#)

Bourdon 16', 8', 4', 2', stopped wood to CC, chimney flute to c"; open metal to c""

Gamba 8' (73 pipes)

Voix Celeste TC (61 pipes)

Dulciana 8', 4' (85 pipes)

Vox Humana 8'

All pipework sits on a single chest with a simple electro-pneumatic action consisting of pouches mounted on the side walls of the chest dividers.

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