The amazing Wanamaker organ has impacted the music world since 1911. More than a century later, it continues at Macy’s Center City in Philadelphia, being a magnificent benchmark capable of matching the sound of three symphony orchestras gathered to perform masterpieces. greatest of music.
The city of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania is regarded by Americans as a treasure trove of history and culture. Moving around it leads you to discover interesting experiences in art, gastronomy and music that can only be experienced in a place as cosmopolitan as this. However, although it has much to offer to see, do and taste, among the must-sees for any tourist is the Wanamaker building.
This is an architectural site designated as a national historical monument and which, in turn, offers its exceptional acoustics to discover the latest fashion trends present in its stores on a walk immersed in the best and most melodious sounds. The Wanamaker organ is host to hundreds of people who visit this shopping destination every day. So if you are planning to go to Philadelphia and still don’t know where to start, we tell you more about this great organ.
A unique craft
This musical instrument is as large as the number of visitors it receives every day to see and hear it up close. It is considered one of the largest organs in the world with a tube that reaches 20 meters in length and that with its magnificent craftsmanship shows modern times the dedication, quality and detail of a time in which the standards of music they made the most opulent and captivating instruments.
It is interesting to know that when it was purchased it required 13 freight cars to be taken to Philadelphia and, once on site, it took 2 years to complete its installation. So this amazing 287-ton tubular structure is not easy to move these days. Furthermore, this building has become home to a sound that could easily be mistaken for a full orchestra.
A true transformation
What was originally a 10,000 pipe organ is today one of 28,750. It was born to the Los Angeles Art Organ Company and architect George Ashdown Audsley. However, just a few years later it was bought by John Wanamaker for his commercial emporium. Believing that its power was not enough to encompass a sound that could be enjoyed in the seven floors of its building, the transformations began.
The hiring of organists and expert personnel was done full time, creating a company dedicated to the expansion of this organ that was fully achieved in 1930. First, eight thousand more pipes were added and, in a second mission, another ten thousand . The project was ambitious for even more tubes, but the death of Rodman Wanamaker, who had been on the team, thwarted the intention.
However, its mechanics and number of parts continue to make it the best organ . There are 464 rows that organize the tubes. In addition, it has 6 keyboards made of ivory, 168 piston buttons and a 32-note pedal that not only make it one of the largest, but one of the most similar to an orchestral sound. Additionally, any organist can easily read rolls of perforated paper.
There is only rest on Sundays, since from Monday to Saturday the Macy’s Great Court grounds are decked out with the musical notes emanating from this organ. This has been his home for many years and his power is displayed daily for the enjoyment of all present. There are two moments a day, each one lasting 45 minutes, in which the place reverberates with the orchestral tones produced by its complex but great system.
Great baroque compositions by Handel and Bach, just to name a few, flood the great hall with their sound. The reactions that express the pleasure for what happens are diverse. There are those who continue their shopping or walk through the area near the concert and there are those who stop ecstatic and get as close as they can to see the organ and organist in action.
Year after year, this is also part of a fantastic Christmas show where the magic of the season is combined with music to the delight of thousands of people who are attracted to this beautiful family event.
From the day it debuted in 1911 in England during the coronation of George V, greats in music have shown their talent on this organ. The Wanamakers, both father and son, were in charge of inviting the most prestigious musicians of the moment, as well as the Philadelphia orchestra itself.
However, officially, only 4 musicians have been the organists of this great instrument. Peter Richard Conte is the name of the current and who has been in charge for more than 25 years. In the event of any eventuality that arises, another talented organist supplies it and the concerts continue totally free thanks to hands that are really skilled on the great keyboards and who are capable of playing orchestral compositions considered masterpieces.
Anyone who visits Macy’s Center City knows they are entering an iconic department store that since 1858 has offered the best selection of current fashions in clothing and household items. Brands like Clinique, Levis, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren are always present. In 2006, the Wanamaker building opened its doors for her and she, in turn, reinvigorated the Wanamaker organ concerts.
In fact, this store offers organized tours of its facilities on a daily basis that include a close-up view of the impressive and surprising organ. Those interested in participating sign up for a tour that lasts about 45 minutes in which they will also hear the history of the building and its enclosures in general.