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Hundreds celebrate pipe-organ rededication

Published: Mon, September 19, 2011 @ 12:09 a.m.
  Stambaugh Organ Rededication

After an extensive restoration a 1926 pipe organ was rededicated in Youngstown, Oh.

After an extensive restoration a 1926 pipe organ was rededicated in Youngstown, Oh.

By Elise Franco



David Higgs played new life into Stambaugh Auditorium’s historic pipe organ during Sunday’s rededication concert with the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra.

Higgs’ performance Sunday afternoon marked the official return of the pipe organ, which underwent a two-year,

$1.5 million restoration after it was damaged by leaky pipes in the 1940s.

Higgs, of the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., said the repaired organ with its 3,847 pipes has returned to its former greatness.

“This hall and this organ are absolutely first-class for anywhere in the world,” he said.

William A. Conti, president and trustee of the YSO, said said the concert was an all-around historical event because it also marked the 85th anniversary of the YSO and of the auditorium.

“For the first time in 40 years, the organ is available for a full concert,” he said. “I think those attending have a lot of enthusiasm and appreciation for that.”

Phil Cannatti, executive director of Stambaugh, said the hundreds of people who attended the show were excited to be a part of that moment.

“Symphonies and organ concerts only appeal to a certain number of people,” he said. “We have an enthusiastic crowd of people who showed up because they really want to be here.”

Richard Witzeman, of Poland, and his daughter Alison, 12, were among those thrilled to see and hear the YSO play the organ.

Witzeman said he’s been attending symphony concerts for years and came Sunday specifically to hear the organ.

“This is as good as it gets, right here,” he said.

Witzeman said he brought his daughter, who plans to play clarinet in her school’s marching band, because she’s interested in instruments and wanted her to experience the music at a professional level.

“She was all fired up about it,” he said.

Patricia Sekola, of Austintown, attended the concert with her daughter, and said her aunt was an organist for 52 years, so it’s something she’s grown up with.

“It’s so traditional and classic,” she said. “I expected to be uplifted and thrilled ... I’m so happy to be a part of it.”

Conti said he hopes the concert will mark the beginning of a musical renaissance in Youngstown.

“Our community has the chance to really embrace what other cities would love to have,” he said. “This organ restoration is what [philanthropist and auditorium founder] Henry Stambaugh dreamed.”


1piak(508 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

At least we can call this an event of "note".

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2Stan(9923 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

“This hall and this organ are absolutely first-class for anywhere in the world,” he said."

For 1.5 mil they should be . . ..

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3JBullfrog(21 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

It is really wonderful so see something like this happening in Youngstown. When this organ was installed in the 20s E.M. Skinner was the preeminent builder in the U.S. Today he is remembered and revered as one of the most important figures in the history of pipe organ building and represents American craftsmanship at its best. Unfortunately, many of his instruments have been lost or altered beyond recognition, and to have one in its original condition is a real treasure which could easily be considered priceless. Other important Skinner organs include one at Yale University, and, in Ohio, Severance Hall in Cleveland and the Cincinnati Union Terminal Museum Center. Thompson-Allen, who handled the restoration, was absolutely the right company for the job as they are experts in Skinner restoration and know how to do the job right. To have a comparable organ built new today could cost twice as much as this restoration did and would not include the historical importance. In addition to being used as a solo instrument, the organ will fill an important void with the Youngstown Symphony, which has not had a real pipe organ to play with as long as anyone can remember. Now they really have one of the best in the world at their disposal - they just have to trek over from Powers ;). Everyone in the area can really be proud of this, and I hope it is used often and made accessible to all who are interested. I don't live in Youngstown anymore, but hope to see and hear the organ on my next visit back. Lastly, it is always nice to read good news!

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4Owlguin(50 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

Great post Bullfrog.

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5walter_sobchak(2595 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

This is good news for Y-town, folks. I'm happy and proud that funds could be raised and used to restore such a gem. The fact that our city has places such as Stambaugh, Powers, The Butler Institute and the citizens to sustain them, makes this area a great place. What would the world be without the arts?

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6FrankMento(1 comment)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

This is an excellent article. Youngstown is fortunate to have an E.M. Skinner Organ. Louis Vierne once said, "The Cavaillé-Coll organ is a superbly harnassed carriage, but the E. M. Skinner organ is a Rolls-Royce".

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7paulydel(1569 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

I'm glad the organ is up and running. When I was in grade school we went to Kenley Hall in Warren to listen to the symphony play and becasue of what I learned from the Conductor and his explinations of the sounds I can pick out different instruments and their sounds as they come into play. I didn't know there was such a historical value on the organ but after reading this story I'd say it was money well spent. It may even bring tourists to town that like the orchestras which is good for business. There is always some no talent people with limited brain capacity making dumb comments.

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