When I was 7 years old, my father took me to a Kotzschmar Organ concert at Portland City Hall for the first time. The organist was Portland’s Alistair “Sandy” Grant. I was mesmerized by the whole event.
I lived away from Maine for a number of years and returned in 1981, just in time to read that the Portland City Council had decided to “pull the plug” on the Kotzschmar Organ.
Having attended many concerts over the years, I didn’t find it terribly difficult to notice the decline in the organ’s condition. Keeping it going and making the necessary repairs were expenses that could not be justified by the city’s finance officers at that time of austere public budgets.
The organ was only about 20 percent playable when Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ was formed in 1981 by Russell Burleigh and Peter Plumb. With a great deal of very hard work by FOKO and the many “friends” of the organ, repairs were made, exciting organists came to play and, most importantly, supportive, enthusiastic audiences continued to grow.
It took just over 30 years, but in time for the centennial of the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ in 2012, the ultimate detailed renovation of the organ could finally be realized. Portland’s musical crown jewel is again in the condition it was when it first left the Austin Organs Inc. factory 102 years ago.
I am excited to see Portland’s musical treasure completely renewed in my lifetime. I am looking forward to the opening concert of the second century of the Kotzschmar Organ on Sept. 27 this year with as much anticipation as I had for my first concert 57 years ago.
– David E. Wallace
Featured in the Portland Press Herald, July 2014