Magazine article The Tracker

Organs of Oberlin: The College Conservatory of Music and Its Pipe Organs

Magazine article The Tracker

Organs of Oberlin: The College Conservatory of Music and Its Pipe Organs

Article excerpt

BOOK Stephen J. Schnurr Jr., Organs of Oberlin: The College Conservatory of Music and its Pipe Organs. Oak Park, 111.: Chauncey Park Press. 160 pp., hardcover. ISBN 9780966780840. Oberlin, Ohio, is a small rural town of 8,300 inhabitants located 35 miles southwest of Cleveland. Founded in 1833 as a community of faith by two Presbyterian clergymen, it was named after Jean-Frédéric Oberlin (1740-1826), an Alsatian minister known for his work in educating the poor in remote areas. That same year, in December 1833, the Oberlin Collegiate Institute was founded in a log house and welcomed 29 men and 15 women into its first class. Today, the town of Oberlin is host to a renowned liberal arts institution and conservatory and home to an exceptional collection of 35 pipe organs. At first glance, Stephen J. Schnurr Jr.'s latest book, Organs of Oberlin, might be considered a gazetteer of notable pipe organs in the Oberlin Conservatory and in neighboring churches and residences in the Ohio town. On closer look, however, it reveals itself as an engaging history of the development of an extraordinary organ program at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and its considerable influence on the community's churches. From the town's first instrument of 1877 by Johnson & Son to the conservatory's latest, the large Fisk concert organ in Finney Chapel, Oberlin's remarkable organ history is impressively documented through numerous historical and handsome contemporary color photographs, descriptive text, often with complete specifications and dedicatory recital programs, and footnotes conveniently located at the bottom of pages. Organs of Oberlin chronicles instruments both past and present from a dizzying array of builders: AeolianSkinner, Andrews, Thomas Appleton, Austin, Barckhoff, Blanchard, Bozeman, Brombaugh, Byrd, Ernest M. Skinner, Estey, Fisk, Flentrop, FrittsRichards, Guibault-Thérien, Gober, Holtkamp, E.& G.G. Hook & Hastings, Johnson & Son, Laukhuff, Lewis, Lyon & Healy, Möller, Noack, Schull, Joel Speerstra (pedal clavichord), and Roosevelt. The existing instruments represent a variety of international and historical styles, including modern evocations of an early 17th-century North German quarter-comma meantone organ, a large concert organ in the 17th-century Dutch style, a copy of an existing organ built by Gottfried Silbermann, a large concert organ based on the style of Cavaillé-Coll, an 1840 American organ by Thomas Appleton, and a variety of other cabinet, positive, practice and studio organs, church instruments, and residence organs. …

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