Pittsburgh is the City of Organ Recitals

One hundred years ago in November 1909, the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland presented its 1000th free organ recital.  Yes, that’s the correct number of zeroes.  Starting in 1895, when the library and the music hall were built, a series of organ recitals was begun.  By 1909, they had reached one thousand.

From November 6, 1895 to June 30, 1901, Frederic Archer (1838-1901) gave a whopping 451 organ recitals or lectures.  His successor Edwin Lemare gave 170, from March 1, 1902 to January 24, 1905.  Then, starting on October 5, 1907, Charles Heinroth gave 164, including the 1000th on November 13, 1909.  The rest of the thousand were presented by guest organists.

It sounds like some sort of stunt for the record books, but really it was and still is just part of Pittsburgh’s musical life.

For instance, on February 11, 1890, a series of organ recitals was begun in the city of Allegheny (now Pittsburgh’s North Side) at their Carnegie Music Hall.  They reached their 1000th recital on February 8, 1914, their 2000th on January 1st, 1939, and their 3000th on May 14, 1967.

Andrew Carnegie built libraries with music halls.  Then he gave them organs.  According to a May 1967 article in American Organist, the organ in the North Side Carnegie Music Hall was one of  “more than 7,000 organs given by Andrew Carnegie (in whole or in part) to a variety of religious, educational and civic institutions all over the world.”

Frederic Archer posing sometime between 1895 and 1901 with the Carnegie Music Hall (Oakland) organ built to his specifications.

Today, even though there are no longer functioning organs in the Oakland or North Side Carnegie music halls, Pittsburgh has plenty of renowned church organs being played by top-notch organists.  You can find them through the Pittsburgh Chapter of the American Guild of Organists and their Organ Artists Series.

Next year, the eyes of the organ world will be on Pittsburgh as the Organ Historical Society National Convention will be here from June 21-26, 2010.

And, always, the library has lots of organ resources, both historical and current, for your research, exploration or performances.

— Tim

2 Comments

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2 responses to “Pittsburgh is the City of Organ Recitals

  1. avid

    Fascinating, Tim. Pipe organs may not be as widely used as they were in the late 19th century (in HOMES, even), but this mechanical behemoth still rattles windows and whispers at us with greater potential fury and faint exhalation than a hundred massed orchestral players. It’s fun to know of A. Carnegie’s philanthropic stop-pulling on behalf of the beast, and of Pittsburgh’s love of pipe organ recitals.

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