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From the Director of Music

    12.01.21 | Music | by Matthew Swingle

    Hello Faith Family,

    Psalm 150: 3-4 “Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!

    One of the most famous and most influential organ firms in America was the Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company. When one hears, or tries to recall, a particular American organ sound, most of the time it will surely be an Aeolian-Skinner organ. 

    The “Skinner” Organ Company initially started out as The Skinner & Cole Company in 1902.  Through a new partnership in 1904, Skinner & Cole evolved into the Ernest M. Skinner & Company in the form of a contract with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity in New York City. Some years later, The E.M. Skinner Organ Company and the Aeolian pipe division merged in 1932 to form The Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company of Boston, Massachusetts. This newly formed company celebrated many years of highly successful organ building and many standardizations of organ building mechanics, which are still used to this day, until their closure in 1972.

    Our organ at FLC is unique because of this specific Aeolian-Skinner digital sound library. This sound library was personally compiled and designed by the Vice President of the Allen Organ Company. For several months the Vice President and the Allen Organ Company traveled to record several organs in Philadelphia to create this new digital library suite for their newest organs. These organs were designed by one of Aeolian-Skinner’s most influential tonal directors from 1933-1956, G. Donald Harrison. Aeolian-Skinner organs are famous for their delicate and even voicing, decisive speech, and superior blending of choruses, allowing clarity in polyphonic textures as well as graceful solo melodic lines. I personally like to claim that Aeolian-Skinner organs are like a “big, warm hug” that wraps you up in subliminal textural sound. 

    As we discussed in a previous Voice article, American organ builders started a reform movement to move away from the orchestral-like organs and sought to return to the Baroque- and Classical-style instruments. Mr. Harrison of the Aeolian-Skinner Company expertly combined the two tonal philosophies of large, orchestral-like organs with the eclectic classical-style without compromise to the depth and color of the tonal productions. These instruments were masterfully designed and became known as the “American Classic” style that could support the thick, and sonorous orchestral music of Wagner, Elgar, and other Romantic composers while having the clarity and brilliance of tone to play the music of Bach and other Baroque and Classical composers. 

    I commonly use the Aeolian-Skinner digital library to play the Offertory Meditations during our Divine Services to continue the traditions of the “American Classic” organ. After the holidays, I plan to record a special video to demonstrate the sounds of each of the digital libraries, so that you get a true sense of what “each organ” sounds like.

    I hope you are excited for the first annual “Faithfully Christmas” Brass and Organ Concert. This will be a great event to brighten our hearts and spirits for the Christmas Season through music!



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