New York City , New York
Huntington Hartford Gallery of Modern Art
Builder: Aeolian-Skinner Organ Co., Inc. Year: 1959 Opus: 1400 No. manuals: 3 No. stops: 38 No. ranks: 37 No. pipes: 2,125 GREAT ORGAN SWELL ORGAN 16' Flauto Dolce CH/PD 16' Rohrgedeckt 68 8' Spitzprinzipal 61 8' Viola Pomposa 68 8' Bourdon 61 8' Viola Celeste 68 4' Octave 61 8' Rohrgedeckt 12 4' Rohrflöte 61 4' Spitzflöte 68 2' Super Octave pf 2' Lieblichprinzipal pf IV-VI Fourniture 294 1 1/3' Larigot pf Cymbelstern IV Plein jeu 183 III Cymbale 183 CHOIR-POSITIV ORGAN 16' Bombarde 12 8' Gemshorn 61 8' Trompette 68 8' Cor de Nuite 61 4' Clairon 68 8' Flauto Dolce 61 Tremulant 8' Flute Celeste (TC) 49 4' Prestant pf PEDAL ORGAN 4' Koppelflöte 61 16' Subbass 32 2 2/3' Rohrnasat 61 16' Rohrgedeckt SW 2' Lieblichprinzipal pf 16' Flauto Dolce 12* CH 2' Zauberflöte 61 8' Octave 32 1 3/5' Tierce 61 8' Bourdon 12 1 1/3' Larigot pf 8' Flauto Dolce CH III Zimbel pf 4' Choralbass 12 8' Cromorne 61 4' Rohrflöte GT Tremulant 2' Lieblichprinzipal PO pf III Mixture 96 16' Bombarde SW 16' Buccine 32 8' Buccine 12 4' Buccine 12 4' Cromorne CH * unenclosed
Source: The Diapason (July 1964), with clarification by Allen Kinzey
The Choir-Positiv could be considered two divisions in one. The Choir is the enclosed portion. The Positiv is the prepared-for unenclosed portion and was to have 56 notes.
The organ, with William Self as consultant, was installed in a chamber just off a landing on a stairway which connects all floors. It was moved around 1980 to a Methodist church in New Canaan by Gordon Auchincloss.
The following, included here with the kind permission of Bon Smith, was posted on PIPORG-L on November 1, 2004.
This organ, AEolian-Skinner's Opus No. 1400, was in the private Gallery of Modern Art built by the A&P heir Huntington Hartford. I did most of the onsite installation and all the tonal finishing. My friend Bill Baker's note about my being in the chamber emulating a Zimbelstern for Virgil Fox was fun, but I still have a head full of stories about this unusual installation!
Some people credit Virgil Fox with being the consultant, but he wasn't involved with the organ until after it was completed. Bill Self was the real consultant and played the first public performance, which was during a benefit party hosted by Mrs. Gimbel (of dept. store fame). However, Virgil did a lot to promote the use of the organ, which would have otherwise been terribly neglected.
The gallery had paintings by the famed modernist, Dali, including his "Last Supper." Dali visited the Gallery while we were working on the organ. His tour took him through the organ studio. I was playing "Hello, Dolly" quietly as he passed through but he did not seem to notice. However, several in his entourage were openly laughing!
We had an interesting technical problem. On his first visit, Virgil Fox was playing while I stood nearby. "It feels slow," he said. I replied, "How can you say that, Virgil? The console is right next to the organ." "All I can tell you is that the action feels slow. If you want a fast action, go listen to the Great at Riverside Church. It's really fast!"
So the next day, I phoned my friend Tony Bufano who was curator of the Riverside organs. Tony had been head of the electrical department at Aeolian-Skinner and was an expert with relay adjustments. "Oh, I think I know what is happening. Come up here and I'll show you. You won't believe it!," said Tony. When I arrived, he opened up the Aeolian-Skinner relay in the Great chamber. He said, "Look at the distance between the contactor and the contacts." I was very familiar with A-S relay adjustments and was shocked at the very considerable opening between contactor and contacts.
"But...um...wouldn't the time it takes for the contactor to work make the action seem slower to respond to the keystroke?" "Not at all." replied Tony. "Organists don't mind a slow attack. They hardly notice it because they are used to the time it takes for the organ sound to reach them, especially in a large instrument like this. But they DO definitely mind a slow release, and that's the secret! I moved the contactors away to the point that they are just barely touching the contacts, just enough wiping to keep them clean. So when Virgil releases a key, the contactor lifts immediately and the actions seems fast to him!"
I returned to the Gallery and immediately reset all the key contacts, which on this job were underkey contacts, to Tony's specs. When Virgil returned, I asked him to check the action speed. When he did, and exclaimed that it was much faster, he asked me what I did. I couldn't resist replying, "In all truth, Virgil, I sped it up by slowing it down!" I walked away at that point, with Virgil exclaiming, "What does THAT mean?" "Try it again!" I yelled over my shoulder. I never heard another complaint!
The Pedal 16-8-4 Buccine was a half-length Fagot. We found the speech very slow. I discovered it was because the factory had made the pipe-holes in the chest too small. I had to drill out the holes by hand and send the pouch-rail back to Boston for new pouches/valves.
While working on this organ, as well as other Aeolian-Skinners at Riverside Church, Philharmonic Hall and Columbia University, I spent most nights rebuilding the 4/19 Style 260 special WurliTzer at the Beacon Theatre, NYC. It was fun then, but I would have trouble burning the candle at both ends today, nearly forty years later.
Indeed, the organ was moved to the United Methodist Church in New Canaan, CT, by Gordon Auchincloss. Although my crew and I maintain organs in New Canaan and vicinity, I have not had time to revisit this organ, but look forward to doing so.
All best to the list,
Organ Historical Society Database: https://pipeorgandatabase.org/OrganDetails.php?OrganID=35697