|Welcome to the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ!
Save the date for our big Fall Concert, an after-hours Fantasia for Halloween, held on Saturday October 31. Peter Richard Conte plays hair-raising pieces from the classic Disney Fantasia films, and other works, in the Grand Court at 8:30pm, and included is a Greek Hall gathering at 7pm with Rudy Lucente playing lighter Disney favorites on our Wurlitzer. Details are still coming together, and tickets are expected to go on sale shortly. Look to this page for exciting updates and further details and refinements.
Take a look at the new Friends of the Wanamaker Film intended as an orientation for Store visitors. Linked here is the second edit.
to Evan Jones of RBY Productions for his video work and Bill Bragg for
his outstanding narration. Also thanks go to Bob Krist for allowing us
to use some of his footage of the ongoing restoration. To play the
video, simply click on the illustration at right.
The evening concert on Thursday September 3 and the noon concert on Wednesday October 7 will be pre-empted because of fashion shows. Thanks to Macy's for supplying us with this valuable information.Matt Blitz is a writer for Smithsonian.com who
took a tour of the Wanamaker Organ a few weeks ago and was so impressed
that he wrote a detailed feature article on it for Smithsonian Travel.
Included is video footage of Michael Stairs playing the organ, with the
assistance of Doug Backman.
You can click HERE to read Matt's engaging new feature.
Congratulations to Matt Taft, who was named Assistant Curator of the Wanamaker Organ and works under Curator Curt Mangel. The Friends much appreciates Macy's longstanding commitment to the Wanamaker Organ.
Congratulations to all those who took part in July's Sansom Wanamaker student program. The group (Michael Bennett, Adrian Binkley, Benjamin Henderson, Martin Jones, Lorraine Mihaliak and Aaron Patterson) is shown at left with instructors Alan Morrison and Peter Richard Conte.
Not surprisingly, Macy's in the Wanamaker Building was listed prominently among 15 beautiful buildings every Philadelphian needs to see by The Voice. The full article is here!
Peter Richard Conte's new CD, My Heart at Thy Sweet Voice,
is now available! Featuring Flugelhornist Andrew Ennis, it includes
lush and lyrical works by Puccini, Verdi, Richard Strauss, Bizet,
Wagner, Percy Granger, Gounod, Saint-Saens, Durufle, Debussy and Robert
Those of you who have been clamoring for the
easy-listening side of the Wanamaker Organ, chock-full of familiar
tunes, will be more than gratified by the gorgeousness of this exciting
Please stop by our webstore or click on the icon at left for details!
We now have available for immediate shipping the Wanamaker Organ Centennial CD, DVD, and DVD combo at our webstore. Just click on the icon at left to secure your copy, or check out our full Webstore using the menu at top for a complete listing of Wanamaker Organ products!
Writes reviewer Rollin Smith of this CD: "Now you can have in your living room what Alexander Russell described when he heard the Widor Symphonie:
'A Perfect Niagara of sound.'. There is no one in the world as adept at
displaying the Wanamaker Organ as Peter Richard Conte, and it shows on
this CD. The whole is a thrilling and artisic experience. The orchestra
is top-notch, impeccable in its ensemble playing, and gorgeous in its
shading. This is one CD not to miss: the combination of organ, organist
and orchestra would be hard to beat."
Two Friends DVDs, the "Wanamaker Organ Curators Tour" and "Around the Wanamaker Organ in 80 Minutes," received glowing reviews in The American Organist Magazine. You may view the reviews HERE.The Wanamaker Founders Bell is sounding again, with shorter intervals between strokes. A new striking impulse mechanism was incorporated in the bell machinery.
MAKE A TAX DEDUCTIBLE CONTRIBUTION TO THE FRIENDS HERE! OR RENEW YOUR MEMBERSHIP AT THE TOP OF THE PAGE
Admission to our monthly last-Saturday-of-the-month Organ Tours are available by appointment. Secure your admissions clicking HERE and meet your tour guide Nik Sizgorich at
noon at the Eagle on the day of each tour. After the noon concert is
finished, Nik will then take ticketholders on the tour.
NOTE: There are no
tours in September because of the Papal visit, and none in November or December because of the Christmas Light Show. Private tours are available by appointment when guides are available, but incur an extra charge to cover the expenses of securing a guide. Also note that taking a tour makes a participant eligible to get issues of The Stentor. If you take a tour and someone else submits their name with the financial information, e-mail us with your own information as well. You can E-mail us about tours and availability at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT THE ONGOING WANAMAKER ORGAN RESTORATION
The Wanamaker Organ is a monument of craftsmanship and the ideal in luxury pipe-organ building. In
a certain sense, the Wanamaker Organ has always been under restoration.
As Store literature on the Organ puts it-"the artistic obligation
entailed by this majestic instrument has always been recognized."
the 1990s, and particularly when sections of the instrument received
water damage during Wanamaker Building reconfiguration, a program was
put in place to restore whole sections of the instrument. The console
was the first to receive a complete rebuilding, with a careful cleaning
and refurbishment of each of its 100,000 parts. The Echo and Ethereal
divisions were next to receive restoration, and have been performing
faithful service for several decades. Concurrent with these programs was the incorporation of the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ and your organization
s increasing role in safeguarding the Wanamaker Organ's future.
Under the inspired leadership of Curator Curt Mangel,
the Orchestral division,which had been silent for several decades, was
moved to a better location so it could be clearly heard, and totally
restored. At that time, the Vox Humana Chorus was separated from the
Orchestral and became its own floating division. The Friends is most
grateful to the Wyncote Foundation and particularly to Frederick R. Haas
for their vision in supporting these programs through a talented staff.
Macy's support and dedication is also considerable, and very much
At present, the Great Chorus division-perhaps the
last major addition to the Wanamaker Organ during Rodman Wanamaker's
lifetime-is being totally rebuilt. Its chests are being reconfigured so
that the higher notes in the melody range can be better heard. Because
this section was left in an unfinished state, its pipes have been
carefully regulated and cleaned, and completion is expected soon. We can
all look forward to hearing the full beauty of a special diapason organ
that was just a pipe dream so many decades ago, and somewhat musically
unreliable in intervening years.
major sections of the organ yet needing thorough overhauls include the
Solo and String divisions, and particularly the Murray Harris (L.A. Art)
organ from the St. Louis World's Fair, which forms the nucleus of the
Wanamaker Organ. Although the entire Harris organ functions, its
chambers and pipework have received more than a century of exposure to
dust, dirt and grime, and each of its divisions (Choir, Great, Swell,
Solo, Pedal) is in need of a complete rebuilding. That will restore the
chambers to the way everything looked when the organ left the factory.
these divisions means restoring the tone, through meticulous cleaning
of all the reed pipes and the removal of dust and grime from the flue
(whistle-type) pipes, followed by an even-ing of the tone through
careful speech regulation. The chambers are also meticulously cleaned
and refinished during this process, and their sonic reflectivity is
thereby greatly enhanced.
As restoration of other divisions has
shown, the result releases astonishingly beautiful new resources of sonic majesty. Not all of this dust and grime is obvious to the casual Store
visitor. As Peter Conte puts it, one of the reasons the Wanamaker Organ
sounds so good now is that he knows which stops to leave off. Of
especial need of attention are scores of low pressure reeds, which need
to be cleaned and have metal tongue wedges replace wooden ones for reliable
speech. Some of these reeds have been put in temporary service for
special concerts and produce exciting new (but unstable) ensembles.
Restoration is being done from upper levels down, as dust and dirt tend to travel down and it makes sense to not have to re-do cleaning because of new work being done above.
revolution in Wanamaker Organ playing has been accomplished through the
addition of an ever-expanding combination action, with the addition of
special playing aids, including a Sequencer, through the use of the
versatile Opus II relay system. Playing actions once thought to be slow
and antiquated have proven to be as fast as the fastest player after
sluggish mechanical relays are bypassed. Special
couplers and occasional useful features, such as a repeat strike for certain
percussions, may also be custom programmed in for certain occasions.
These features use software, not mechanical hardware, and reside on certain pistons and certain stop memory levels as directed by the organist.
Resident Organist Peter Richard Conte sometimes uses whole levels of memory for individual transcriptions. These aids allow him to play the organ like an orchestra, gradually raising and lowering the timbre of the organ through rapid but subtle changes in stop settings.
another revolution in the sound of the Wanamaker Organ has been achieved by the enclosure of the upper Grand Court in
glass, and the removal of heavy draperies, both of which have given the
room a wonderful reverberation. Also, through Curt Mangel's visionary
leadership, the Christmas Show has been redesigned so that a heavy
drapery and large lighting panels no longer block the organ's sound.
Curt also doubled up pipes in a 32' metal rank that was once a "wall of
zinc" in front of the Murray Harris organ, so that the tone could be
much more directly heard without sacrificing the tone of the Pedal stop.
membership in the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ enables us to be
eligible for the special funding that allows this restoration work to go
forward. You can help support the restoration and all our programs and
get prompt news on our events by becoming a new Friend of the Wanamaker Organ.
For just $25, new members receive our acclaimed quarterly 16-page
newsletter, which is chock full of concert and restoration news and
historical memorabilia, information that is only available in printed
You can Join the Friends by clicking here or on the membership icon at right. (Members may renew by clicking the Renewal Box at the top of this page.
Tourist information for Wanamaker Organ visitors, including hotel and restaurant ideas and money saving tips, is available by clicking the banner below. We look forward to seeing you!
Our CafePress store makes items individually as ordered and direct mails them to the purchaser. As a result, classic Wanamaker items are available on everything from posters to cufflinks. Check it out by clicking the banner above!
Some readers may remember the James Burke program Connections, which showed how a series of seemingly unrelated ideas led to a specific historical result. Charles Jenkins has achieved similar ends with three fascinating web pages on the Wanamaker Organ. His story begins, appropriately enough, with the Louisiana Purchase and can be followed HERE.
A Philadelphia Daily News video piece is available HERE.
to the many working tirelessly behind the scenes to make our June 6
Wanamaker Organ Day possible, including Grand Court Organist Peter
Richard Conte, Rudy Lucente, Fred Haas, Andrew Ennis, Peter Krasinski,
Macy's Mike Gansmoe, Amy Kule, Melissa Ludwig, Maurice O'Connell,
Martine Reardon and Barbara Beck; Curator Curt Mangel; Bill & Kim
Bragg, Diane Conte, Don and Jan Drury, Steve Emery, Tom Engstrom &
Valerie Kuehn, Charles Gagnon, Colleen Hood, the Scott Herr family, Judi
Audsley Kosco, Alex Thielens, Mary Anne Fry, Sam Hughes, Roger Lane,
Steven Moore, Maria Newman, Rick Seifert and Jesse Arce, Holly Odell,
Tour Coordinator Nik Sizgorich, Michael C. Smith, Symposium Coordinator
Jim Stemke, Volunteer Coordinator Claire Whiting; Wyncote Grant
restorers Jon Buchanan, Scott Kip, Rion Mora and Matt Taft, Friends
board members Ray Biswanger, Bill Eads, Dennis Elwell, Colvin Randall
and Michael Stairs; and all the talented organists and musicians
participating. Profound, heart-felt thanks also to Frederick R. Haas and
the Wyncote Foundation, Kristin Ross, managing director; and to Martha
Seifert and the U.S. Charitable Gift Trust.
masters thesis on the liturgical decorations Rodman Wanamaker gave to
St. Mark's Church in Philadelphia and the Royal Family parish at
Sandringham in England may be found here.
It is an enlightening dissertation that surveys many beautiful objects
without quite pinpointing why they have that certain "It" factor of
beauty. Surely that must have come from Rodman's unerring taste.
MACY's INFORMATION DESK:
Information on the Wanamaker Organ and the historic Store is available at the MACY's INFORMATION DESK on the Main Floor of the Center City Macy's Men's Department. At the present time, the desk has discontinued offering a selection of organ CDs, DVDs and Books as their sales system is being reviewed.
You will find the desk along the right side of the center aisle just as you enter the Grand Court.
The desk is generally staffed from 9am to 7pm, Monday through Friday, and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5pm. (Please remember that the Wanamaker Organ does not play on Sundays.) The staff prides itself on its knowledge of the Store and its heritage.
Folks who identify themselves as Wanamaker Organ tourists are entitled to a Macy's Savings Pass, so be sure to ask about that as well!
Incidentally, there is no sales tax on most clothing purchases in Pennsylvania! Jennie Funches (pictured), and Emily Cronrath are your hosts.
The YesterdayUSA app is
a wonderful addition to any Smartphone and provides hours of free
entertainment anywhere on many phone data plans. Bill Bragg is the host.
The service may also be accessed at YesterdayUSA.com. You may also
hear the Wanamaker Organ the first Sunday of each month at 5pm on WRTI-FM in the Philadelphia area. Hear it around the world via streamcast at wrti.org. Peter Richard Conte and our much loved co-host Jill Pasternak are featured.
Keep up with all the restoration news in the Friends' newsletter The Stentor. Four issues come with your membership, and are packed with restoration and concert news with historical insights and letters from other members.
The Friends has launched an ambitious Century II Music Endowment drive to as the Wanamaker Organ turns the corner on its first century in the Store. Among the uses of the fund is revenue to buy much needed chairs for our concerts. We are a small nonprofit with a big mission.
Please consider making a contribution here. A prospectus on the fund is available here.We are counting on this fund to create quality presentations for many years to come as we help secure the Wanamaker Organ's place in musical life in the years ahead.
The icon above takes you to a page with interactive links to media stories on the Wanamaker Organ, including a recent Pipedreams with highlights from Wanamaker Organ Day, a fascinating interview with our carpenter Scott Kip, and a superb Bob Krist National Geographic short film on "The Voice of Philadelphia."
Hearing Philadelphia's Wanamaker Organ is a life-changing experience. Our society is sponsored by people around the world who are helping protect the world's largest playing pipe organ. We invite you to join the Friends and receive four issues of our 16-page newsletter and member-access to all Friends activities.
The Wanamaker Organ is undergoing a multi-year restoration. Divisions that have been patched together are getting a thorough restoration. Members help sustain this crucial work and our music, education and hospitality programs.
Members receive all the details on the restoration and Friends concerts, as well as news of private concerts, tours, and fund-raisers, in our acclaimed quarterly newsletter, The Stentor.
Macy's and the Wanamaker Organ are located at the Wanamaker Building at 13th and Market Streets in Center City Philadelphia, PA, next to City Hall.
This website was made possible by people just like you who love the Wanamaker Organ and want to share that joy. Please look through our website menus for answers to all common questions about making your visit to our Philadelphia wonder thoroughly enjoyable.
IMPORTANT: Are you using a mobile device for turn-by-turn directions to the Store? Please enter 1300 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107 to reach Macy's and the Wanamaker Organ. Please do NOT enter the Friends' business address below.