Magazine article The American Organist

Not Just an Office Building

Magazine article The American Organist

Not Just an Office Building

Article excerpt

IN NEW YORK CITY, 475 Riverside Drive is known to many of you as the address of AGO Headquarters. 475 is actually a 19-story office building (The Interchurch Center) that covers an entire city block. It was dedicated in 1960 to house the national offices of many Protestant and Orthodox communions in America. The first floor contains various exhibit and meeting rooms as well as public areas that include a beautiful 400-seat chapel. An organ was in the plans from the beginning, and, in 1960, a three-manual Moller was installed in a specially built balcony over the west entrance. I had the privilege of serving for several years as the first director of music and organist-commuting daily through an underground tunnel that connected the center and the Riverside Church, a much appreciated benefit during winter weather on Morningside Heights! Music was, from the beginning, a strong unifying force among the building's occupants. As the choir quickly grew to 100 members (who sang not only services but presented concerts and even oratorios "serial fashion" during lunch hours), it became necessary for them to leave the organ gallery and sing from the large chancel area. To lend support in that end of the chapel, Möller installed a two-manual accompanying organ, and eventually an Austin console was installed to enable both organs to be played from the chancel. That is all history now.

A new chapter began last month when the center celebrated the installation of a new three-manual mechanical-action organ built by Johannes Klais Orgelbau of Bonn, Germany. It is in the chancel where the smaller Moller was housed (see page 93 of the September TAO). The chancel organ was removed several years ago and the gallery organ has now been sold to a New York City congregation. I thought you would be interested to know this history of organs in the building where our offices have been located for nearly 20 years. …

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