Magazine article The American Organist

Restored Aeolian-Skinner Opus 1257

Magazine article The American Organist

Restored Aeolian-Skinner Opus 1257

Article excerpt

BEFORE THE 2009 RESTORATION of the D.B. Johnson Memorial Organ at Winthrop University, Rock Hill, South Carolina, the instrument was showing its age. Its console had fallen into disrepair. The combination action had grown sluggish. Electrical issues meant there was slow response time between the organist and how the pipes were responding. To save a crown jewel, Winthrop alumni, along with David Lowry (professor emeritus of music) and the university, banded together to raise hands for a complete uplift of Aeolian-Skinner Opus 1257. Winthrop alumna Shirley Fishburne played a series of recitals around South Carolina to raise awareness and support. Then, the entire organ was removed and sent for two years to Orgues Letourneau, Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, where the console was updated with a solid-state system, and pipework was cleaned and repaired.

Once the organ returned to Winthrops Byrnes Auditorium, the university community worked to rebuild its reputation. The instrument took center stage at the 2015 Southeastern Regional AGO Convention sponsored by the Charlotte chapter last summer. Olivier Latry, organist at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, presented a recital hosted by Michael Barone of American Public Media's Pipedreams, which live-streamed and rebroadcast it.

In 2015, Hazel Somerville, a Winthrop alumna, and Murray Somerville stepped forward to establish two funds to support the organ. The Hazel and Murray Somerville Organ Performance Endowment and the Friends of D. …

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