Midnight Interview with Peter Conte at the Wanamaker Organ

The General Public being thrilled by Peter Conte playing the Wanamaker Organ

November 25, 2011

Over Thanksgiving I was back in Philadelphia and it was great to see old friends again. After visiting with Curt Mangel at his favorite watering hole we both walked over for the midnight opening of the store. I planned to meet up with Peter Conte to visit him and this resulted in an impromptu demonstration of some of the stops on the Wanamaker Organ. I was happy to finally do this. Please keep in mind I recorded this with a hand held digital recorder. The sound is very clear but the mics were not “placed” in the room – nor is it the kind of equipment I use to make my CDs. I think you will greatly enjoy the results.

Peter starts by talking about the Orchestral Division of the organ which he tells me consists of 38 ranks of Kimball pipe work. The division had not worked for years and was not repaired since the division was buried and didn’t get out. But Macy’s gave the Friends new space and it was relocated into chambers with excellent egress into the Grand Court.

Peter Demonstrated in order: Orchestral Division: 3 French Horns (capped, open, half capped), Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Bassett Horn, two English Horns, Doppel Flute and String Flute.

Stentor Division: Centenntial Tuba that was just added to the organ. This stop used to be one of the 2 Tubas in the removed Skinner Organ that was in Grace Church Broadway in New York City.

Swell Division: The High Pressure Reed Chorus. The resonators to these ranks had to be recreated as they were melted down when these ranks were removed from the organ. (I don’t understand what they were thinking – it was the organ reform movement, so I guess it made sense to them) These huge resonators were recast by A. R. Schopp’s Sons of Alliance, Ohio (The largest manufacturer of organ pipes in the United States).

Special thanks to the executives at Macy’s for their support of the Wanamaker Organ. Know that when ever I have to buy something I look to Macy’s first because of their support of this organ. Also people like Curt Mangel, Peter Conte and Ray Biswanger and their many friends that have accomplish a Miracle on Market Street. This organ was just about dead in 1998 and it is really one of the finest organs in the world today. THANK YOU MACY’S!

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Click below to listen. Turn up your speakers and enjoy. Tell your friends.


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3 Responses to Midnight Interview with Peter Conte at the Wanamaker Organ

  1. Jon Busch says:

    Hi Joe -
    Loved your interview with Peter and his demonstrations. Of course I have your Thomas Murray demo CD set at from Yale which I love reviewing from time to time. Have you thought of trying to do the same thing for the Wanamaker organ? I’d be first in line to buy a copy.

    • Michael Laird says:

      I agree! I’d be second in line :-) . Of course, to show off every rank in the organ, you’d have to make a multi-CD set!

  2. Joe,

    Such a thrill to hear of the work being done on the Wanamaker Organ…I have the old recordings of Virgil Fox playing it… and it is nice to know I may actually hear it in all it’s glory in person sometime in the future.. Thanks so much for sharing..


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