Dr. Jeannine Jordan, Concert Organist

Posts tagged ‘organ’

The “new” Kotzschmar organ by Foley-Baker

Excerpted from the September 2018 Pro-Motion Music e-newsletter guest Artist Interview with Ray Cornils.

Jeannine: As Municipal Organist you not only played the Kotzschmar Organ, but were instrumental in fundraising and implementing the renovation by Foley-Baker of the organ. What is the organ’s history and its future?

Mr. Cornils: The very hardworking and effective FOKOboard have brought the organ back to full health after the instrument was at the brink of death in the late 1970’s. It has been a decades-long venture. When the board and I were looking at the approaching 100Th anniversary of the organ (in 2012), we held a private symposium (in 2007) which invited several highly-regarded consultants to meet with the board and members of the city to assess the condition of the organ. The auditorium had a couple of revisions and expansions over the past century. In the 1960’s the organ was moved back. During that move, the Austin universal windchest was torqued. Other events over the years made for a situation that the universal windchest was experiencing many wind leaks throughout it. The only way to remedy this situation was to provide a completely new windchest. Since removing the windchests required the removal of the entire instrument, we decided that the best way to proceed as a total renovation of the entire instrument. While this was a $2.5 million project, we believed in the long term, this was the best fiduciary use of our role of caretaker of this great instrument. Due to the strong ties of trust that FOKO and I built with the city over the years, the city council voted unanimously to fund half of the renovation costs through a bond process. I must also mention that the success of capital campaign for this project is due in great part to the extraordinary efforts of the FOKO fundraising committee chaired by Laurence Rubinstein and Peter Plumb.

When, after the wonderful renovation by Foley-Baker, everyone has been blown over by the instrument’s vibrancy and brilliance. Even the most casual listeners in our audience have been amazed at the renewed sounds.

The organ is now ready to serve the next century with renewed vigor. The future is very bright for the instrument, especially under the guidance of James Kennerley, my successor and Portland’s 11th Municipal Organist, who started his work January 1, 2018.

 Jeannine: Thank you, Ray for sharing not only your story, but the fascinating story of the Kotzschmar organ as well.


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.

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.

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.

Keeping the Story Alive

Some of us are genealogists, studying our families and the tracing of our lineages and history.  My Mom and my cousin are genealogists.  Thanks to their painstaking research, I can trace my American lineage back to the Mayflower and many generations before that in England.

Some of us are historians, researching, studying, and writing about the past.  Barbara Owen is a historian.  Thanks to her meticulous research and for publishing her findings, I credit my interest in American organists, organ music, and organs to her.

Ms. Owen began her work on American organs in the early 1960s when “American topics were not very popular as material for academic papers.”  In 1976, on the urging of E. Power Biggs, Ms. Owen published four volumes of early American organ music.

A few years later, I was searching for a dissertation topic.  I was fascinated by the early American organ music in Ms. Owen’s collections.  It had a character unlike any other organ music I had ever played.  Armed with the desire to perform this music and learn more of these composers, I proposed the topic of “Early American Organists” to my dissertation committee.  Still, as with Ms. Owen’s thesis twenty years earlier, American topics were not very popular as material for academic papers, however, with the foresight and creativity of two of my advisors, my topic was approved, and shall we say, the story goes on!

The anecdotes and music I collected and published in that dissertation so many years ago, have become From Sea to Shining Sea, the organ and multimedia concert experience my husband, David, and I created and perform.  And to keep my family’s story alive, I narrate the stories of From Sea to Shining Sea as a Mayflower descendant.

To discover more about our audience-engaging organ and multi-media concert experience, visit www.fromseatoshiningsea.net

Thank you Mom, thank you Duane, thank you Barbara for “keeping the story alive” so I can share it with the world in my unique way.

What are you doing to keep “your” story alive?

Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist and David Jordan, media artist are the creators and performers of From Sea to Shining Sea, a multi-media and organ concert experience.

A Review of the Boston AGO National Convention June 23-27, 2014

by David Rhody, JD, SPC
Director of the National Committee for Professional Development and Support of the American Guild of Organists.

The recently concluded Boston national AGO convention, unlike the forward-looking  Nashville convention  of 2012, was a wonderful celebration of the host city’s history and tradition, reveling in local organ builders Aeolian Skinner, Hook and Hastings and Charles Fisk, and such landmark venues as the Mother Church of Christian Science, Methuen Hall and Symphony Hall.  While there were of course baroque and 21st century compositions on  recital programs, by far the most heard works were from the 20th century, pieces  for which these great organs were originally designed.

James David Christie from Oberlin College opened the convention at Symphony Hall with the Boston Landmarks Orchestra, a resident group which performs summer concerts in the Hall with cabaret-style seating around small tables.  Christie and the orchestra set the theme for the convention by performing five works with a Boston connection:  Guilmant’s First Symphony, premiered in this hall as an organ solo in 1904, Boston native Daniel Pinkham’s Organ Concerto, Walter Piston’s Prelude and Allegro for Organ and Strings which was commissioned by E. Power Biggs for his Harvard recital series, Samuel Barber’s Toccata Festiva,  commissioned by Boston native Mary Curtis Bok Zimbalist for the dedication of the Aeolian Skinner organ in Philadelphia’s Academy of Music, and an unpublished Theme and Variations by Jean Langlais, whose only Boston connection—though a powerful one—was the presence in the Hall of the composer’s widow Marie-Louise, who rose in enthusiastic applause after the performance. 

Trinity Church in Boston’s Copley Place, a short walk from the Marriott Hotel headquarters, is so historic that it claims the son of a student of Pachelbel as its first choirmaster.  Dallas organist Scott Dettra, playing with his usual confidence and authority, gave a wonderful performance of Healey Willan’s Prelude and Fugue in C Minor, a Psalm Prelude by Howells, Passacaglia in E Minor by Seth Bingham who studied with one-time Trinity choirmaster  Horatio Parker, the Jongen  Priere from Four Pieces, and the Durufle Prelude and Fugue on ALAIN.  All these pieces sounded as if composed for this 1926 Aeolian Skinner organ.

Two programs in Cambridge required a ride on the T (Boston’s subway), but the convention planners had thoughtfully provided free weekly passes for all attendees.  Christian Lane, the newly installed AGO Vice President, performed on both the Skinner and Fisk organs at Harvard’s Memorial Church, with a fine program ranging from Max Reger’s Introduction and Passacaglia to new commission Solstice Sonata for organ and trumpet by Carson Cooman.  He concluded with a majestic performance of the Bach Passacaglia and Fugue, reminding the audience of the source of much of the musical inspiration heard this week.  The second Cambridge concert was a choral delight by the Handel and Haydn Society conducted by John Finney, featuring three Bach works—one in Italian by C.P.E. Bach and a motet (Komm, Jesu, Komm) and Mass (Missa Brevis) by J.S.  Although the marble interior of St. Paul’s Church was a glorious benefit to the J. S. works, the Italian paean to the city of Hamburg Spiega, Ammonia fortunata, was so intricate that the words were somewhat lost in the atmosphere.  Nevertheless it was a beautiful experience.

Young organists have become a fixture of AGO conventions since Los Angeles in 04, and Boston celebrated the future of the organ world with nine performances by regional Quimby Competition winners plus another by the winners in Organ Improvisation and Organ Performance.  These young performers continue to dazzle with their skill and maturity, and the three Rising Stars I heard, Jennifer McPherson, Ryan Kennedy and Nicholas Capozzoli, played brilliantly.

There were so many other notable performances—a top-notch choral group Blue Heron, the Boston City Singers, organists Janette Fishell, Joan Lippincott and the Boston Early Music Festival Chamber Ensemble, Chelsea Chen, Thierry Escaich, a grand concluding event at the First Church of Christ Scientist featuring Stephen Tharp, plus many fine worship services, workshops and scholarly papers, extensive exhibits where you could buy a music score or a pipe organ—it is almost too much to digest in one week.   In fact some have criticized the national conventions as too much of a good thing and lobbied for leaner schedules.  Surely we organists are capable of pacing ourselves, and what a shame it would have been to omit any of these fine programs in the interest of economy of time.  In fact Convention Coordinator Ray Cornils met with first-time attendees to advise picking and choosing among the offerings to avoid convention burnout.

In a commendable attempt to lighten the physical load of lugging around a fat program book, the Boston organizers broke the program into 5 mini-booklets, a nice idea but one that needs work; the organ specifications were all in booklet 1, for example, so at the concert venues you had to remember to bring booklet 1 in addition to the day’s program.  Surely a picky complaint, though, in view of the rich and satisfying experience which Boston provided for the international organ world.  Bravo for a fine convention, Boston!  See everyone in 2016 in Houston!

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