Every once in a lifetime events happen and you just have to tell people.
Being in some phase of the music business all my life, musical events attract
my highest attention. A little over a month ago my wife and I were invited
to hear the Wanamaker organ. The Wanamaker is hailed as the world’s largest
organ. We drove to Philadelphia, parked and stood in line for the Wanamaker
Department Store (Now Macy’s of Philadelphia) doors to open. As we entered
and proceeded to the middle of the store…Grand Court, we unexpectedly saw
an orchestra tuning up. We quickly learned it was the Philadelphia Philharmonic
Orchestra. I counted over 110 musicians and over 70 in the string section alone.
We sat in center court next to the jewelry counter and if you looked up and to the
left…a full view of the magnificent organ…look up straight you see 5-6 floors
of exposed pipes and shutters. The whole idea was the Philadelphia orchestra in
concert with the Wanamaker organ and not a dueling match with orchestra.
The Wanamaker organ with 6 keyboards, over 700 stop tablets and 28,468
speaking pipes could have dwarfed the orchestra at any given time. You could
not describe with words the awesome sounds we heard for the next one and half
hours. Peter Richard Conte, (not related) resident organist since 1989, performed
exquisitely, blending beautifully, the sounds of the organ with the orchestra.
The concert started with the infamous Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by
Bach. We heard arrangements and pieces by Stokowski, Marcel Dupre, Howard
Shore and Joseph Jongen with a final medley including a fantastic rendition of
Pomp and Circumstance. One never had to guess when the organ was playing…at
times the pedal sound alone seemed to move the whole department store.
…Hats off to Macy’s of Philadelphia for continuing to house and support what
is now a National Historic Landmark valued at tens of millions of dollars. Many
thanks to a worldwide group of sponsors and supporters and the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ who continually maintain the organ and keep it in top playing condition. The organ is played twice daily and a “must hear” for those organ
buffs who want to make a trip to downtown Philadelphia
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