Blackstone Pipe Organ: Design and Specifications

 

John Hendriksen: the instrument's architect, voicer, and finisher

 

In January of 1957, John Hendriksen left his native Holland for the United States to begin a new chapter in his life as a voicer for the prestigious Aeolian-Skinner Organ Co. of Boston. It was a career move that was to last well beyond the life span of the venerable organ building company.

 

For 6 of the 15 years he was with Aeolian-Skinner, John served as head voicer, voicing pipes for many of this country's most notable organs in cathedrals, churches, universities, and concert halls.

 

While at Aeolian-Skinner, John met Isabelle, a “Skinnerette,” as he would call her, who did engraving and

leather work for the company. They were married six months later. It was a marriage that was to last for 55 years. Isabelle died in 2013, between the voicing of the South and North Organs at the Blackstones. The Hendriksens have five children and 11 grandchildren.

 

Though Aeolian-Skinner closed its doors in 1972, John’s career continued, voicing new pipes and revoicing old ones for clients. Among his clientele was the National Cathedral, Washington, D.C., for the massive rebuild of the cathedral organ in the mid-1970s. But John also has voiced pipes for hundreds of other organs in smaller venues throughout the continental United States, Hawaii and Mexico.

 

The beautiful-sounding Blackstone pipe organ is a true treasure to the ear, and there is no denying its Aeolian-Skinner lineage, which distinctly can be heard. Pipe organs in homes require different scaling and voicing treatments than those typically found in churches and concerts halls, and the Blackstone masterpiece is no different. Its cohesiveness, clarity and beauty of sound certainly are due in part to the artistic genius of John Hendriksen. John employed to full advantage the wisdom of his 60-plus years of experience to insure the success of the Blackstone opus.

 

And with this instrument the book will close on the final chapter of the historic Aeolian-Skinner Organ Co. John, who turns 83 in 2015, intends to retire, making this his last large organ of an illustrious career.

 

The Rev’d Mark McGuire, rector

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

Lee’s Summit, Missouri

December 13, 2014

 

NOTE: Rev. Mark McGuire, who worked with John Hendriksen on previous organs, assisted him in tonal finishing.

Tom Anderson, organ pipe maker

 

In May 1957 Tom Anderson left Ireland to begin a new chapter of his life as a professional organ pipe maker to the illustrious Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company of Boston. It was a career move that lasted until today. Eventually he became the head of the pipe making department after six years.     

 

In September of the same year he returned to Ireland to marry his longtime sweetheart Susan or "Sue."  She became employed at the Aeolian Skinner Company together with many other woman making various small organ parts.. After 39 years of marriage Sue passed away after a long and painful illness. They have four children and six grandchildren.

 

After the company closed its doors, Tom continued making pipes for different companies and private clients. On any given Sunday his pipes can be heard and sometimes seen in many churches throughout the Continental United Sates and as far away as Mexico and Hawaii. Pipe organs sound only as good as the way the pipes are made to produce their particular sound . Tom excelled in that department, and after the company went out of business he continued to made these pipes according to the Aeolian-Skinner doctrine.

 

The sound you will hear in the Blackstone Pipe Organ is from pipes made by Tom first for the Birmingham instrument and now, with many new additions , for Cleveland.

 

And with this instrument the book will close on the final chapter of the Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company. Tom has decided to finally retire after many years of fateful making beautiful organ pipes. 

 

John Hendriksen

December 3, 2014

Summary

 

Pipe ranks        137

Pipes               7406

Carillon voices   10

Bells                   468

Click on subtabs under this tab to see specifications for each pipe division.

 

 

It is very difficult to describe "sound."  Each person hears it differently, and what might sound "good" to one could be "just awful" to another.

 

Aeolian-Skinner sounds are unique. It is a combination of scaling—the diameters of pipes—mouth widths, lip formation, and voicing. Buildings, location, wind pressures available, finances and, yes, even religion play a role in deciding what an instrument should sound like in a particular building. Some companies rely on strict designs—no matter what—resulting in instruments that sound either overbearing, strident and harsh or thin, squeaky and unmusical. These organ builders claim to have figured the "Eureka" in sound, but it is not always the case.

 

Aeolian-Skinner instruments were designed to play any and all repertoires of music, be it romantic, baroque or modern masters and, yes, one could even play "The Sound of Music" on it and it still would sound beautiful. But most of all, the instrument was designed to play Sunday services, choral accompaniments, Even Songs, funerals and weddings. That was the first and foremost requirement.

 

Aeolian-Skinner was not all that much concerned with "the letter of the law," rather more about the spirit of what the instrument would sound like—not just  to a few "experts," but to all people. I like to compare it to a choir. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has many, many members, but not all voices are the same. Each individual has a different timbre—louder, softer thinner or darker—but together they make beautiful music. And that is what counts. Aeolian-Skinner tried to make all pipes as perfect as they could, but it is done by human hands and differences occur there. But it does not matter.   The final result of an Aeolian-Skinner instrument was—in most cases— stunning.

 

At the Blackstone's you will hear the sound of a true Aeolian-Skinner. It is melodious, genteel, suave, brazen, yet it can be called a "gentle giant."

John H. Hendriksen