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CD - 'The Rebirth of Aeolian Pipe Organ Opus 1458'

Front and Back CD Booklet Covers

Images Courtesy of Poppy Records

Critics' Reviews:

Bob Taylor writes:

"Perhaps the greatest joy that comes to the collector of mechanical music is the moment when he or she is able to share the performance of a freshly restored instrument with others. For Paul Morris, that moment is now manifest in a recently released CD that contains 22 tracks of his Aeolian Pipe Organ. Previously, Paul’s CD’s were recordings of a smaller instrument. Now, seven years of detailed work show off his recently completed Opus 1458, a 3 manual instrument sporting over 2,000 pipes!

What is significant about Paul’s installation is that he has stuffed a fairly large instrument into a very tight space. The reason I say it is significant, is that for the most part, it is reflective of Aeolian’s attitude when they sold these instruments. Yes, we are aware of the grandiose mansions that housed the giant organs, but the majority of the instruments were installed in very limited quarters. Thus Aeolian showed great skill in making the instruments quite compact. Tuning Paul’s organ requires dexterity combined with alternately crawling and climbing. The liner notes tell Paul’s story, so I’ll talk about the CD.

The selections are mostly light, colorful music and the variety is very easy to listen to. While the compositions are not heavy classical, they still are expert renditions of beautiful music. Artists such as Clarence Eddy, Uda Waldrop, Pietro Yon, and Edwin Lemare are a few of the performers from a list of highly acclaimed organists that are heard.

One selection, “The Song Of the Basket Weaver”, performed by the composer, Alexander Russell, takes the listener on a journey through many pipe voices. Melodies on the famous Aeolian free reed clarinet modulate and mix with flutes and suddenly give way to a full organ, and just as suddenly, the Vox Humana quietly repeats the haunting melody. When I first heard this piece, I imagined a trip to an Egyptian market, but after a bit of research, I found I was thousands of miles off course! It seems that Russell did write about his travels, but the fun is in the discovery of his destination, which I’ll let the reader research.

Opus 1458 employs a different mix of voices than many organ of equal size. The initial owner perhaps had a hand in the specification. The normal redundancy of string voices is replaced by several celeste ranks. The solo division is unique in that it has a second clarinet rank. The strength of the pedal division is obvious in the recording, and the cramped quarters have no bearing on its performance.

The rendition of Drdia’s “Souvenir” performed by Emil Velasco hints at early Theatre Organ technique. This composition is in most piano roll libraries, but Opus 1458 gives the selection new life as Velasco uses the oboe to introduce the melody and much softer voices in an echo-like response that repeats each phrase. The Aeolian harp is featured in each response and in the accompaniment. Later, the clarinets join the accompaniment as a gentle crescendo gives way to the melody’s return in the much softer Vox Humna with the responses being offered by soft flutes. Many new voices join in as Velasco concludes the relaxing and light “Souvenir”.

What the listener will hear, is the total lack of room reverberation, which is typical of home installations. The expression rendered by the fast acting swell shutters, brings forth meaningful contrasts that add to the music. The orchestral qualities of the organ mimic many instruments.

This CD is recommended for all who enjoy organ music, and particularly those who want to hear how a residence organ of the early 20th century performed. One track is Paul playing “Love Nest”, to prove that the organ is more than just a roll player. Paul’s web site will soon list this CD."


Kevin McElhone writes:

"The eagerly awaited first recording is now available of Paul Morris 'new' three manual Aeolian Pipe Organ, called 'The Re-birth of Aeolian Pipe Organ Opus.1458 Paul had had a two manual Aeolian which I helped him to sell a few years ago, in order that he could replace it with this instrument which took seven years from purchase to fully restore and install in his home in Exeter, Devon, England.

The instrument is installed in a main chamber 20ft by 9ft 6 inches, with a pedal loft 20ft high. There are currently 9 ranks of pipes on chest No.1, 10 on rank No.2, 5 in the floating Solo division, a wonderful four ranks in the pedal division and three in the Echo. There are also, in addition, a harp and some chime, giving plenty of scope for full orchestral renditions of a wide range of music. Full details of the opening concert were given in a recent Player Piano Group magazine article.

 There is an 8-page book included which gives the full specification and history of the instrument, along with a centre-spread of illustrations of nine of the Organists from the period who recorded Duo-Art rolls featured on this CD. For those that do not remember, the system automatically plays the notes required but in addition controls the stops used and the swell shutters to give a fully reproduced performance of the recording made by the organist.

This recording starts with one of my favourite First World War marches 'Over There', by George M.Cohan, a rousing start to any programme sure to get the foot tapping. However, much of the recording is given over to more subtle pieces which better show off the nuances and colour combinations of this fine instrument. Many of these tunes were only sold on the 176 note Duo-Art format and were not available on the earlier 116 note and 58 note rolls.

I was not familiar with many of the titles which meant that I was listening more to the instrument rather than just to the tunes. Paul Morris has hand-played one track, 'The Love Nest' and the rest are played by organists which include Archer Gibson, Uda Waldrpp, Clarence Eddy, Edwin Lemare, Peietro Yon, Firmin Swinnen and Charles Heinroth.

There are 22 tracks in all and I encourage all readers to buy a copy, either for themselves or to give as a Christmas Present for family members, to introduce them to this fascinating musical world." 


Nelson Barden writes:

"The restoration of an Aeolian Residence Organ is an event worthy of celebration. Paul Morris in Exeter, England has completely restored Aeolian Opus 1458, and a CD of the finished instrument is available. This is the second restored Aeolian in the Morris home, the first being Opus 1431, a somewhat smaller organ.

Opus 1458 was built in 1920 for the mansion of Walter Langshaw, a wealthy manufacturer in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The original cost was $27,900, a considerable sum in those days. In 1966 it was removed to a local church, and then to storage in a New Hampshire barn for fourteen years. In 2001 Paul Morris acquired the organ, carefully packed it into a container and shipped it to England. After seven years of restoration work, the instrument was inaugurated in February 2008.

The most common size of Aeolian residence organ was two keyboards controlling five to seven hundred pipes. Opus 1458 is considerably larger, with three keyboards and nearly 1,900 pipes. Today a church organ of this size and quality would cost about $675,000 not including the roll player mechanism.

The CD of the Morris organ has 22 tracks demonstrating the scope and caliber of the Aeolian Roll Library. Artists include fourteen noted organists of the 1920s, as well as selections arranged by the Aeolian Organ Guild. The tracks include characteristic pieces, symphonic sketches, numerous songs and dance music, all of them excellent examples of the salon music of the era."


Rollin Smith writes:

"After seven years of restoration [this] 88-year-old organ is heard again in Morris's music room. Fortunately, the organ is equipped with a Duo-Art player, so rolls actually recorded by live organists can be reproduced. Twenty-two selections are to be heard on the CD, only four of which are not played by an artist (that is they were perforated directly from the score by draftsmen) and one, Hirch's Love Nest, is played by Paul Morris himself - a piece that begins with the notes of the musical scale: 1, 4, 5, and 8.

The list of organists whets the musical apetite of anyone interested in late 19th and early 20th-century organ performance practice; the names that once appeared in 'teens' and '20s' issues of The Diapason and The American Organist are seen beside each selection.

Clarence Eddy plays the Dawes Melody (an original work by a Brigadeer General who later became vice-president that was later made into the popular song, 'It's All in the Game'); Alexander McCurdy plays a Schumann Sketch; Pietro Yon plays Boex's 'Marche Champètre'; Chandler Goldthwaite, who had been the youngest municipal organist in the country when he was appointed to the St. Paul Auditorium, plays 'Saki' from Stoughton's 'Persian Suite' and 'Love Song' from Nevin's 'A Day in Venice'; Alexander Russell, musical director of Wanamaker's two stores, plays his own 'Song of the Basket Weaver'. Andrew Carnegie's organist, Walter Gale, plays Gordon Balch Nevin's 'Will o' the Wisp'; P.S. Du Pont's private organist, Firmin Swinnen plays his most famous piece 'Chinoiserie'; and 'The Millionaire's Maestro', Archer Gibson, plays Faurè's famous song, 'Après un Rêve', and 'Le Tango du Rêve' by Malderen.

Other organists heard are Uda Waldrop, Kirk Ridge, Emil Valesco, and Charles Heinroth. While not Bach or Franck, the music represents, for the most part, original organ music that was standard repertoire in the early 1920s, and, except for Gibson and Valesco, performed by organists who never made commercial electric phonograph recordings."