Dr. Jeannine Jordan, Concert Organist

Archive for September, 2018

History of the Kotzschmar Organ

Jeannine: Let’s go back to the Kotzschmar organ and your position as the Municipal Organist. What is the history of this unique organ and position?

Mr. Cornils: The position began in 1912 when Cyrus H. K. Curtis gave to the City of Portland a magnificent Austin Organ (opus 323) in memory of Hermann Kotzschmar. Mr. Kotzschmar was the pre-eminent musician in Portland for over 60 years. He died in 1908, the same year that City Hall burned to the ground. When the city council decided to rebuild City Hall with its auditorium, Mr. Curtis (a Portland native who was the publisher of the Saturday Evening Post and The Ladies’ Home Journal) gave this instrument as a testament to the power of the arts and music in the general health of a city. On August 22, 1912, Mr. Curtis gave this speech at the dedication ceremonies of the organ:

     “Mr. Mayor, I present to the City of Portland, through you,

        this memorial to Hermann Kotzschmar, who for more

    than fifty years was pre-eminent in this city as an organist, composer and teacher, a man who was loved by all classes

for his kindly spirit, his high ideals, and his devotion to

music. He cared little or nothing for material things or

for fame – he never sought them. But here is his monument –

a monument to one who did something to make us

better men and women and to appreciate that indefinable something that is an expression of the soul.”

Will C. Macfarlane came from his position at St. Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, in NYC to become the first Municipal Organist. Over the years, now 11 fine musicians, including the legendary Edwin H. Lemare, have served the people of Portland as Municipal Organist.

In the early 20th century many cities throughout the country had city organs and city organists. The “King of Instruments” was able to bring a wide variety of music, from organ literature and orchestral transcriptions to sing-alongs and silent movie accompaniments to the general public. In addition, the organ can be a member of symphony orchestras to join in the substantial literature that employs the organ in either an ensemble or solo role.

Over the centuries, a number of cities were no longer able to maintain their civic organ, and with the advent of other forms of musical opportunities and entertainment, many cities abandoned their municipal organist program.

In fact, in the late 1970’s the City of Portland, in the face of dire financial straits and budget tightening, removed all support of the Municipal Organists meager salary and the curator’s repair and maintenance budget from the city finances. In the light of that, the current Municipal Organist submitted his resignation.

When a number of local organists and enthusiasts heard of this, they banded together in support of the organ. In 1980 the Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ (FOKO) was formed. They negotiated with the City to become the official caretakers of the organ on behalf of the city. The city continues to own the instrument, however, FOKO raised money to hire a Municipal Organist and began a program of regular maintenance and repair of the ailing instrument. The good news is that in the mid 1980’s the city reinstated partial funding for the care of the instrument.

Without FOKO, I am afraid that the Kotzschmar Organ would be silent now and probably would have been removed from the auditorium when the building was renovated in the 1990s.

The organ is an excellent example of early 20th century American symphonic organ building. It has a wealth of 8’ sound (there are eight 8’ principals dispersed through the organ, over 25 ranks of strings, many orchestral reeds, and a wealth of percussion). Most all of the instrument is also under expression and over half of the instrument’s 104 ranks are voiced at mp or softer (although it can also generate a very heroic sound), allowing a huge range of dynamics and timbres. It has a strong bass, making it a worthy partner in much of the orchestral literature.

The organ has had a number of additions. In 1927 Mr. Curtis payed for a substantial enlargement which included adding an entire Antiphonal Division, substantial additions to the Swell, minor additions to the Orchestral Division, and adding many more toys and percussions to the instrument. In the early 2000’s a Great Mixture was added and in 2012, a new pedal 32’Contra Bombarde, a 16/8/4 Open Diapason unit to the pedal, as well as a couple of stops to the Swell and additional cymbals and a “toy counter”. The instrument now stands at 104 ranks. 7,101 pipes distributed over 7 divisions with 5 manuals and pedal.

The only other Municipal Organist in the US now is in San Diego (the Spreckle’s organ in Balboa Park). It is also an Austin (built in 1915). The Civic Organist in San Diego is Raul Prieto Ramirez.

While there are a few other organs in the country owned by cities, San Diego and Portland are the only cities with a paid position of Municipal Organist.
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Excerpted from the September 2018 Pro-Motion Music e-newsletter.  Dr. Jeannine Jordan, organist and her husband, David Jordan, media artist are the creators and performers of From Sea to Shining Sea, Bach and Sons, and Around the World in 80 Minutes — audience-engaging organ and multimedia concert experiences.

Ray Cornils, Educator

Jeannine: With such an intense church and Kotschmar schedule, it is amazing that you had time for additional activities. However, the work you have done in education is incredibly creative and truly astounding. Would you kindly describe some of your work with young people and how each of us might take steps to provide such opportunities to further and promote the organ in our own communities?

Mr. Cornils: In the late 1990’s the FOKO board noted the aging of our audiences. After much discussion, we developed an educational outreach program targeted at working with students at various local schools. Using the AGO Pipeworks curriculum, developed by the Seattle Chapter of the AGO, we worked with local teachers and school administration to align a curriculum with the Maine State Learning Standards, using the organ and its music as the launchpad for exploration of various subjects.

David Wallace, a local organ builder and curator of the Kotzschmar, designed and built a small, 5-rank pipe organ that can be moved into the classroom. It has both an electric blower and a hand pump. Using plexiglass panels, key and stop actions are easily visible. With the guidance of then FOKO Executive Director Kathleen Grammer and under the excellent leadership and highly experienced Chair of the Education Committee, Dr. Elsa Geskus, FOKO offers education curricula based on how a pipe organ works, the music, life and times of J. S. Bach; the music, life and times of Olivier Messiaen; and a wave-form energy unit for science classes. We called this program Kotzschmar 4 Kids.

In addition to in-classroom experiences, we would take classes of students to a local church organ for a concert, which was designed to illustrate and reinforce the learning concepts presented in the classroom. At the end of the school year, the classes would then come to Merrill Auditorium to hear and explore the Kotzschmar Organ in a program called Meet the King of Instruments.

We also developed a one-day festival of integrative arts and scienceKotzsch-O-Rama, an all-day immersion in the music of Bach or Messiaen through various stations of activities in art, creative writing, movement, science, and creations in various media to the music of one of these composers.

Our goal is to give every child an understanding of and appreciation for the pipe organ, especially the Kotzschmar Organ, through an integrated educational exploration in the areas of math, science, music, social studies and history, as well as to experience a live performance specifically geared to their age level at Merrill Auditorium.

In addition to my educational pursuits with FOKO for about 10 years, I taught as part of the faculty of the Young Organist’s Collaborative (YOC), based in Portsmouth, NH. This organization has given scholarships to about 1-=16 high school organists per year for study with a YOC faculty member. They also participate in a group masterclass each year and perform in a year end recital. There is a wealth of wonderfully talented young musicians who are now playing the organ because of this program. Many have gone on to major in organ in college and are in successful careers as organists.
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Excerpted from the September 2018 Pro-Motion Music e-newsletter.  Dr. Jeannine Jordan, organist and her husband, David Jordan, media artist are the creators and performers of From Sea to Shining Sea, Bach and Sons, and Around the World in 80 Minutes — audience-engaging organ and multimedia concert experiences.

Ray Cornils, Municipal Organist

Continuing our interview with Ray Cornils:

Jeannine: What did your work as the Municipal Organist for the City of Portland, Maine involve?

Mr. Cornils: My duties included playing a number of concerts on the Kotzschmar Organ throughout the year, sponsoring a concert series with guest artists from around the world, collaborating with other arts organizations in the southern Maine area in concerts, developing a multi-faceted educational outreach program for all ages and working with the Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ(FOKO) board and curator for the health and maintenance of the organ. Additionally, the organ appears several times each year with the Portland Symphony Orchestra and plays for numerous high school graduations which take place at City Hall. The organ appears in about 20-25 concerts every year, with over 30,000 people hearing the organ over the course of the year.

Because the organ is in a secular setting, it allows a wide variety of programming, including working with other resident organizations of Merrill Auditorium (the Portland Symphony Orchestra and Portland Ovations).

The typical year of concerts included:

  • Weekly Summer Organ Concert Series (4-12 weeks, one of which was played by me, the others by national and international guests). The content would include classics and pops series.
  • Halloween Silent Film Night
  • Bach Birthday Bash
  • Kids, Kartoons and Kotzschmar (a family-friendly concert)
  • Kotzschmar Christmas Concert (Christmas with Cornils)
  • Music from the World’s Great Cathedrals
  • Meet the King of Instruments (a daytime program for school classes)
  • 6-7 High School graduations
  • 2 Open Console Days
  • 4-5 Informal Demonstration Concerts and Tours of the Windchest
  • Tours of the organ for local and visiting groups by appointment
  • Organ as requested with the Portland Symphony Orchestra, including 12-14 Magic of Christmas Concerts (Portland Symphony Orchestra concerts that included a 45-minute organ prelude concert and featured the organ during parts of the symphony concert)
  • Hymn Festivals and sing-alongs
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Excerpted from the September 2018 Pro-Motion Music e-newsletter.  Dr. Jeannine Jordan, organist and her husband, David Jordan, media artist are the creators and performers of From Sea to Shining Sea, Bach and Sons, and Around the World in 80 Minutes — audience-engaging organ and multimedia concert experiences.

Meet Ray Cornils, Municipal Organist and Educator

Several years ago following a concert performance in Providence, Rhode Island, David and I decided to take a short vacation to travel up the North Atlantic coast. We wanted to see just how different the Atlantic coast was from our beloved Pacific coast. What we found was stunning beauty (as in Oregon), quaint colonial villages (not found in Oregon), and the lovely city of Portland, Maine (after which our own Portland, Oregon is named).

We also had the opportunity to spend a few hours with a wonderfully creative and tremendously busy organist, Ray Cornils. Ray shared with us many facets of his busy career as Portland’s Municipal Organist, church musician, and as an educator. What captured our attention, though, was his passion for building new audiences for the organ.  Noting the aging of organ concert audiences, his goal (with the FOKO board) was to give every child in the Portland, Maine area an understanding of and appreciation for the pipe organ thus building that much needed new base for organ audiences. You’ll want to read about Ray’s creative and fascinating programs in our Guest Artist Interview.

Guest Artist Interview with Ray Cornils,

Municipal Organist and Educator

Jeannine: I would like to focus on two aspects of your amazing multi-faceted music career; your work as Portland, Maine’s Municipal Organist playing the historic Kotzschmar Organ, as well as your work as an educator. Before we get started with more detailed questions, would you please introduce yourself to our readers.

Mr. Cornils: I grew up in a small town in Illinois where the organist at the church my family attended was a graduate of University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He was a fine musician, so I grew up hearing fine organ playing. I started piano lessons at age 7 and then at age 13 began my organ studies. I majored in Organ Performance at Oberlin Conservatory (B Mus) and New England Conservatory (M Mus). After living in Boston for 10 years, my husband and I decided that we wanted to move to Maine. That was made possible when in 1987 I was hired as Minister of Music at a major UCC church (First Parish Church, UCC, Brunswick Maine). I was able to build a strong music ministry with a fully graded choral program (with choirs for ages 4 through adult) and a handbell program. The church has an 1883 Hutchings/Plaisted tracker organ and was where Harriet Beecher Stowe worshiped during the time she wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I held this position for 30 years, through the church’s 300th anniversary celebration in 2017.

In 1990 I was named the 10th Municipal Organist for the City of Portland Maine where I remained for over 27 years. Additionally I was an adjunct music faculty member at Bowdoin College in Brunswick Maine, where I taught organ, and the University of Southern Maine, in Gorham Maine, where I taught organ, harpsichord and advanced keyboard skills.

I have also been very active in the American Guild of Organists, serving in many leadership positions including being Convention Coordinator of the 2014 National AGO Convention in Boston, MA.
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Excerpted from the September 2018 Pro-Motion Music e-newsletter.  Dr. Jeannine Jordan, organist and her husband, David Jordan, media artist are the creators and performers of From Sea to Shining Sea, Bach and Sons, and Around the World in 80 Minutes — audience-engaging organ and multimedia concert experiences.

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