Magazine article The Tracker

From the Chair

Magazine article The Tracker

From the Chair

Article excerpt

AS YOU MIGHT IMAGINE, there aren't many 19thcentury organs in Nebraska. I've grown to love 19thcentury American organs through hearing them at OHS conventions and feel privileged to have played several of them at conventions as well. Those performances have been highlights of my musical career. Listening back to a recording of one of these recently, I realized how much I miss that experience- the sound, the touch, the beautiful cases, that peculiar old-church smell, even the diminutive dimensions of the console, which can be challenging for someone 6'2"' tall. It's an experience that to me, living in "flyover" country, is rather inaccessible except at OHS conventions.

In Lincoln, where I live, there are only a couple of 19thcentury trackers: a small two-manual Kilgen in a Christian Science church and a lovely one-manual Hook & Hastings in a practice room at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I understand that there are also plans to install a Pfeffer organ here, which will be a wonderful addition. But the fact is that, for those of us here who love that style of instrument, there's not much available.

It would be easy to assume that there just weren't many organs built in Nebraska in the 19th century. A search on our OHS Pipe Organ Database (database.organsociety.org), however, shows that in Lincoln there were at least five built by Hook & Hastings, Pilcher, and Möller. Unsurprisingly, there were quite a few more in Omaha, representing additional builders like Hutchings, Johnson, and Wirsching. Even the sparsely populated remainder of the state had a few organs built during that time. Most of these, of course, have been rebuilt, relocated, or destroyed, in favor of instruments built by the usual 20th-century suspects. It's fascinating to realize the importance of the pipe organ in the late 1800s, even in a frontier state like Nebraska, and equally fascinating to be able to track the influx of organs by later builders. The overall picture gives us a sense (to borrow and slightly misuse an oenological term) of terroir.

It is amazing to have a 21st-century tool like the OHS Pipe Organ Database to help us learn about the 19th-century history of organs in a specific location. If you haven't been to the database recently, I encourage you to visit and learn more about pipe organs in places you are interested in. It is growing rapidly, thanks to a dedicated team of volunteers led by its creator and long-time OHS member, James Heus- tis Cook, currently approaching 60,000 entries. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.