For nearly three quarters of a century, 1901-1973, instruments built by the Skinner Organ company and its successor, Aeolian-Skinner, set a standard seldom equaled in their day. Aeolian-Skinner’s two best known forces, Ernest M. Skinner and G. Donald Harrison, have achieved legendary status for their contributions to American organbuilding. I have the greatest possible admiration for the work of these two artists and a strong desire to see their work documented so future generations can know what Skinner’s and Harrison’s original and unaltered instruments sound like.
Several excellent books but few recordings preserve the work of Messrs. Skinner and Harrison and I believe it is now time to document the sound of their life’s work. Original and unaltered Skinner and Aeolian-Skinner organs should have their sounds preserved on disc. Not since Aeolian-Skinner’s own brief series of recordings in the early 1950s, “The King of Instruments,” has there been a systematic effort to document the evolution of these organs. But unlike “The King of Instruments” series, “Great Organbuilders of America” documents Ernest M. Skinner’s organs with respect for their orchestral nature.
“Great Organbuilders of America: A Retrospective”, picks up where “The King of Instruments” left off, with eight volumes in a continuing series of appropriate music, thorough notes by such authorities as Skinner experts Jonathan Ambrosino and Joseph Dzeda, musicologist John Ogasapian, and professional photography that shows the architectural environment of the organs. This series’s goal is to preserve in sight and sound the orchestral ideals of Ernest M. Skinner and his development from the teens to the 1930s, overlaid this with G. Donald Harrison and the development of his ideals from the late 1920s to the 1950s.
This series is being partially underwritten by A.R. Schopp’s Sons of Alliance, Ohio; makers of fine organ pipes for over 100 years. Without the patronage and support of the Schopp family this project would not be possible.
I believe it is crucial that the unique musical approaches of Skinner and Harrison be preserved in the sound of their most significant and unaltered instruments. More important though is the furtherance of musical appreciation for these artistic treasures.
-Joseph Vitacco President of JAV Recordings
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