One of the fun parts of my job is discovering what I have come to think of as “Kotzschmar Connections”: the stories of how the Kotzschmar Organ has touched the lives of the people of Portland, and beyond, in sometimes unexpected ways.
A few weeks ago, I received a phone call from a lady at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium in Melrose, Massachusetts. She was looking to chat a bit about pipe organs, specifically Austin pipe organs, as there is an Austin installed in the auditorium there in Melrose. At first, I was a bit puzzled as to why she called us at FOKO, but as she told the story behind their instrument, my curiosity, and my imagination, were piqued.
The Melrose organ was installed in the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium in 1919, and is Austin Opus 851. The organ was a gift from, and consequently named after, a Mr. John Slayton, who gave the funds for the instrument in honor of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country during the First World War. There were, however, some specific instructions that went along with his generous gift: the organ had to be built by Austin, and it had to be in a similar style to the Kotzschmar. Apparently, Mr. Slayton was an organ enthusiast who made several trips to Portland to hear our organ, and he liked it so much that he wanted the people of his community to have a similar experience. To further strengthen the “Kotzschmar Connection”, the Melrose organ was dedicated in 1919 by Will MacFarlane (Portland’s Municipal Organist from 1912-1918 and again from 1932-1934).
This brought to mind an early conversation that I had with our current Municipal Organist, James Kennerley. Even while growing up in England, he had heard of the Kotzschmar and knew that it was an instrument of note. This knowledge about the organ was one of the things that prompted him to apply for the position of Municipal Organist. Once again, I found myself marveling at the power of the Kotzschmar – not at the thrilling music that it produces this time, but at the impact that it has had on people.
I have to wonder who else has been inspired by the Kotzschmar over the years, and where that inspiration has led. And, more importantly, as we plan our upcoming concerts, tours, and events, who will the Kotzschmar Organ inspire next?
With warm wishes,