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Celebrating the pipe organ, the King of Instruments

Mailbag: “Skinner Alterations”

August 29, 2010

Dear Michael,

Why does the Skinner organs being altered to make it sound Baroque-like? I don’t like when Skinner changes or other organ change it to Baroque-like instruments. has the Perkins Skinner organ been altered? I hope not




I cannot tell you about the condition of the Perkins Skinner organ.
However, when a church or school owns a very expensive and complicated instrument, if they are not rolling in money they are more likely to try to change that instrument to meet the ‘tastes of the time’ (as opposed to throwing it out and getting something different)…and thus Skinner organs were ‘brightened’ to meet the imagined requirements of the Baroque repertoire which came into fashion in the 1950s and following…this enthusiasm in no small part generated by the sounds that E. Power Biggs was sharing through his European recordings (and through broadcasts on his ‘Baroque’ Aeolian-Skinner organ, and then recordings on the neo-Baroque Flentrop tracker organ, both at the Busch-Reisinger Museum in Cambridge, MA).
Many American organists began to demand instruments that sounded like European antiques…this is still a fashion, by the way. Fortunately, we have more recently realized that Skinner organs, in their original manner, are excellent musical devices in their own way, so (as with European antiques in the last several decades) nowadays Skinner organs are being ‘re-restored’ back into their former/original tonal characters.

Money and ‘trends’ have been the organ’s worst enemy since the beginnings of organ history. People are never satisfied.




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