Symphony in C and Music Director Rossen Milanov are pleased to announce the Symphony in C will join organist Peter Richard Conte for a special centennial performance of the iconic Wanamaker organ. The concert will celebrate the centennial of the Wanamaker organ as well as the historic building at 1300 Market Street, Philadelphia Pennsylvania.
The concert will place at Macy’s Center City, home of the Wanamaker Organ on Saturday, October 1, 2011 at 7:30 p.m. The program features masterful works for organ and orchestra, including Alexandre Guilmant’s Symphony No. 2 for organ and orchestra, Joseph Jongen’s Hyme op. 78 for organ and orchestra and Charles-Marie Widor’s Symphony in G for organ and orchestra.
Thank you to Pamela Brant, our Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations, for the information she found on the Wanamaker Organ and Peter Richard Conte!
About the Wanamaker Organ
Source: Friends of the Wanamaker Organ
at Macy’s Philadelphia
Built by the Los Angeles Art Organ Company for the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, the Wanamaker Organ was designed by renowned organ architect George Ashdown Audsley, author of The Art of Organ-Building. This heroic instrument had more than 10,000 pipes, and its construction was on such a lavish scale that costs soared to $105,000, bankrupting the builder.
In 1909, Philadelphia merchant-prince John Wanamaker bought the instrument for his new Philadelphia emporium. Thirteen freight cars were required to ship the entire organ from St. Louis, and installation took two years. The Grand Organ was first heard in the Store’s seven-story atrium on June 22, 1911, at the exact moment when England’s King George V was crowned at Westminster Abbey. Later that year, it was prominently featured when President William Howard Taft dedicated the Store.
Despite its immense size, the tone was judged inadequate to fill the huge court. Wanamaker’s opened a private pipe-organ factory in the Store attic, employing up to 40 full-time employees to enlarge the instrument. William Boone Fleming, the original factory supervisor, was hired to direct the work. Lavish construction and elegant workmanship made the Wanamaker Organ both a tonal wonder and a monument to superb craftsmanship. The largest pipe is made of flawless Oregon sugar-pine three inches thick and more than 32 feet long—so large that a Shetland Pony was once posed inside for publicity photos.
The smallest pipe is a quarter-inch in length. More than 8,000 pipes were added to the Organ between 1911 and 1917, and from 1924 to 1930 an additional 10,000 pipes were installed, bringing the total number of pipes today to 28,500.
Commanding these huge resources is a massive console with six ivory keyboards and 729 color-coded stop tablets. There are 168 piston buttons under the keyboards and 42 foot controls. The console weighs 2.5 tons; the entire instrument weighs 287 tons.
During the lifetimes of John Wanamaker and his son Rodman, the world’s finest musicians were brought to the Store for brilliant after-business-hours concerts, among them France’s Marcel Dupre, Louis Vierne and Nadia Boulanger, Italy’s Fernando Germani and Marco Enrico Bossi, and England’s Alfred Hollins.
At a 1919 Musicians’ Assembly, virtuoso Charles M. Courboin, in association with Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra, performed before a standing-room-only crowd of 15,000. Since then, great organists have continued to perform at the Store, many making special pilgrimages.
In 1986, the evening-concert tradition was continued as the Grand Organ marked its 75th anniversary with a Keith Chapman recital that attracted a huge audience. More recently, elaborate music events have regularly been sponsored by the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ, attracting visitors to Macy’s with representatives from all parts of the U.S. In 2008 Macy’s celebrated its 150th anniversary with a Philadelphia Orchestra concert under Maestro Rossen Milanov. At the Wanamaker Organ, Peter Richard Conte performed Joseph Jongen’s Symphonie Concertante (1925) for the first time with the organ and orchestra for which it had been written.
Now a National Historic Landmark and valued in excess of $57 million, the Wanamaker Organ is of the American Symphonic design, which can play the great organ masterworks as well as the entire range of orchestral literature. The pipework encompasses the resources of three symphony orchestras; its String Organ alone has 7,000 pipes.
Peter Richard Conte is Grand Court Organist of the Wanamaker Organ at the Macy’s Philadelphia department store. Mr. Conte was appointed Grand Court Organist in 1989, and is only the fourth person to hold that title since the organ was first played in 1911.
Mr. Conte is highly regarded as a skillful performer and arranger of organ transcriptions. He has been featured several times on National Public Radio and on ABC television’s Good Morning America and World News Tonight. His monthly radio show, The Wanamaker Organ Hour, airs on the first Sunday of each month at 5 pm (Eastern), and can be heard worldwide via the Internet at WRTI.org. In September 2008 he performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra in a Wanamaker Organ concert marking Macy’s 150th anniversary that won international acclaim. It featured the premiere of the Jongen Symphonie Concertante with the organ and orchestra for which it had been written in 1925.
He concertizes extensively throughout the United States and Canada under the management of Phillip Truckenbrod Concert Artists, and was a featured artist at the American Guild of Organists’ National Convention in 2002, and at the International Organ Festival in Aosta, Italy, in September 2004. He has performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Peter Nero and the Philly Pops, and with the Delaware and Allentown Symphonies. When not touring, he performs on the six-manual, 28,482-pipe Wanamaker instrument twice daily, six days each week.
In addition to his concert career, Mr. Conte serves as Choirmaster and Organist of St. Clement’s Church, Philadelphia, where he directs an eighteen-voice professional choir in music of the Anglo-Catholic tradition. That choir has recorded several internationally-acclaimed compact discs on the Dorian label.
Peter Richard Conte is an Associate of the American Guild of Organists, and has served on the executive board of its Philadelphia Chapter. Mr. Conte studied with Larry Smith and Robert Rayfield at Indiana University, Bloomington, where he was awarded the prestigious Performers’ Certificate in Organ. He returned to Indiana University in 2008 to accept the School of Music’s Distinguished Alumni Award. During high school, he studied with Robert Kennedy, while serving as Associate Organist at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City, New York.
Mr. Conte appears on the Gothic, Dorian, JAV and DTR recording labels. His first Yuletide compact disc, Christmas in the Grand Tradition, features the Philadelphia Brass and the Wanamaker Organ.