In the Tracker: 50 Years Ago

Article excerpt


THE COVER ARTICLE BY F.R. WEBBER TITLED AN AUDSLEY Organ bites the Dust," described the large residence organ in the Yonkers mansion of Eugene C. Clark, vice-president of the Alexander Smith & Sons carpet works in that city. G.A. Audsley, perhaps the most famous church architect, intellectual essayist, and chronicler of all things related to the American organ at the turn of the century, best known for his seminal book The Art of Organ-Building (still regarded as the greatest reference book yet written on the subject), lived in Yonkers, not far from the mansion that was to contain an organ of his design. Clark moved from one mansion to an even larger dwelling in 1905, but whether the organ was built for this or the previous home was unknown to the author. When Webber went on an Audsley pilgrimage in preparation for writing the article, he found the Clark mansion was now the clubhouse for a country club, and although the facade was extant in the music room, the organ behind had been sold for scrap during a World War II metal drive. No stoplist of the organ had yet been found nor any indication as to who may have built the organ.1 The only clue to the organ's size was an old photo of the keydesk showing 22 drawstops and five couplers arranged in terraced jambs, and some indication that the resources were duplexed.

Audsley claimed this was the first organ with all divisions under separate expression; therefore, it could have predated the large organ designed by Audsley and built by the Los Angeles Art Organ Company for the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis. That instrument contained all six divisions under expression and was the organ that formed the nucleus of the Grand Court organ in Wanamaker's department store in Philadelphia. Largely an opinion piece about the influence of Audsley, Webber commented that late in life, Audsley (183 8-1925) was out of step with the unisonic instruments of the symphonic organ age, and that his championing of well-designed choruses based on the harmonic series up through mutations and mixtures only came back into fashion after his death (". . . even the Solo organ is a thing of the trolley car age").

The second installment of the Ken Simmons treatise on the history of the William Johnson organbuilding family was an informative and highly accurate assessment of the tonal design characteristics of Johnson's early work up through i860. …


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