Photo of Joe Vitacco at the Console of the 1933 Kilgen
at Our Lady of Refuge Church in Brooklyn, NY
FINAL FROM VIERNE 1st Symphony
This was recorded at the only organ recital I ever played
Recorded April 9, 1989 at Sacred Heart Church on the Notre Dame Campus
My earliest memory of the pipe organ was of the organ at my local parish church. I likely first heard the instrument when I was 3 or 4 years old. I was thrilled by the sound it produced from the softest pianissimo to the most thunderous fortissimo. With the curiosity of a child I had to learn everything about this instrument.
Years later I started taking piano lessons from the local piano teacher. Then in high school I took organ lessons. In college I studied the organ with Craig Cramer at the University of Notre Dame, took many music history and theory classes, but graduated with a degree in business.
Around this time the CD made its first appearance. There was much I liked about the new media and thought I could make a better more exciting product. This had to wait until 1995 when I came up with the idea of the perfect CD targeted at the 1996 AGO Convention in NYC, a multi-CD set featuring substantial documentation of 23 of New York City's most famous organs with 27 of the city's foremost artists playing them. The end result GOONY (Great Organs of New York) which was highly successful.
In 1997 I started a new company, JAV Recordings, to document some of the best electropneumatic pipe organs built during the 20th century - those made by the Skinner and Aeolian-Skinner Companies. I set out to record top organists playing these magnificent pipe organs that were located all around the United States.
In 2001 I teamed up with a European recording engineer who shared my vision of making top quality organ recordings. Working in conjunction with him I was able to record some of the most important pipe organs in Europe. We made many recordings in Paris, at Saint-Sulpice and Notre-Dame Cathedral, that were very successful, and also in Rouen and Strasbourg.
Technology has rapidly changed since 1995, making things possible that one couldn’t have dreamed of a few years before. Blogs and social media have allowed me to engage with my customers and share photos, audio clips and videos with them. But the Internet has also caused changes in how people access music. The LP gave way to the CD and then audio downloading and now streaming. To keep pace with the changing technology I signed a contract with a leading digital aggregator to digitally distribute the entire JAV catalog as everything points to the eventual disappearance of the CD. But this change from physical product to streaming has lead to changes in how people value music since it can be obtained instantaneously and for little or no cost, though the costs and time to produce a first-class recording have not changed. This will make the future more challenging for the specialized music labels as payment for streams are fractions of a penny and their target market is small.
It is interesting when I reflect that changes in technology have allowed JAV Recordings to be successful. But to be successful in the future will require innovation and change. I hope JAV Recordings will play an integral part in promoting the pipe organ in the future. But the business model by which the music is recorded and promoted will be different than it is or was. A wise man once said that “he who lives must be prepared for change”.