Organ, Sacred Music, and Historical Keyboards
George Eastman House
George Eastman’s Aeolian pipe organ Opus 1416 completed in 1917 had 132 ranks of pipes, 49 of which were in the string family. The console has four keyboards, pedalboard, four volume control pedals and a crescendo pedal, percussion section, and a Duo-art paper roll player mechanism to control it all. The pipes of the organ are installed in 9 separate divisions surrounding the two story high marble conservatory in which Mr. Eastman ate breakfast while his organist played and Mr. Eastman read newspapers or conversed with business associates. Mr. Eastman’s love of music was focused on opera and orchestral music so the organ’s tonal resources are those of a modern orchestra rather than traditional organ voices.
Because his home is a museum the organ’s mechanics have been retained in their original electro-pneumatic form with no modern digital memory settings but rather, original multiple mechanical ways for the organist to manage rapid and complex sound changes in an authentic 1917 manner. An added bonus to the organ’s restoration was the addition of a second console which is nearly identical to Mr. Eastman’s 1905 original console, making organ duets a reality. The opus 1345 console also includes an original built in player mechanism that still works beautifully.
The organ is being constantly maintained and restored by a group of museum volunteers with the guidance of the Parsons Pipe Organ Builders. We encourage organists to become involved in the restoration work because this helps everyone to understand the evolution of today’s modern instruments. – Joe Blackburn