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Hermann Kotzschmar: Portland's Musical Genius

City Hall Stage in 1912

City Hall Stage in 1912

Item 7321 info
Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ

On January 24, 1908, shortly before Kotzschmar's death, Portland's city hall burned.

Plans were immediately begun to rebuild the edifice and it was suggested that a grand organ, similar to the one in Sydney, Australia, be installed in the new city hall.

Portland native and successful Philadelphia publisher Cyrus H. K. Curtis stepped forward and offered to donate an organ to the city, with but two stipulations: the instrument was to be named for his father's lifelong friend, Hermann Kotzschmar and the organ was to be designed and built by the Austin Organ Company of Hartford, Connecticut.

The new City Hall and Kotzschmar Memorial Organ were dedicated on August 22, 1912. A gala weekend of events included concerts by world-class organists R. Huntington Woodman, Ralph Kinder and Will C. Macfarlane, who was soon appointed Portland's first municipal organist.

City fathers appointed a music commission to oversee the creation of a city music program and a series of year-round concert programs.

And so the friendship between the amateur trombonist and the young German immigrant was honored by Cyrus H. K. Curtis' gift of the magnificent Austin organ in 1912, as a tribute to the man for whom he was named.

Sources: Thornton-Edwards, George. Music and Musicians of Maine. Portland Maine: Southworth Press, 1928.

Parkinson-Tucker, Janice. Hermann Kotzschmar: An Appreciation. South Portland, Maine: Casco House Publishing, 2006.

Parkinson-Tucker, Janice. Behind the Pipes: the Story of the Kotzschmar Organ. South Portland, Maine: Casco House Publishing, 2005.