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The Kotzschmar Memorial Organ

This slideshow contains 23 items
City Hall Stage in 1912

City Hall Stage in 1912

Item 7321 info
Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ

The Kotzschmar Memorial Organ has been a centerpiece of the auditorium at Portland City Hall since 1912, through renovations and changes to the facility and to the organ itself.

1899 Concert Program, Portland

1899 Concert Program, Portland

Item 6817 info
Portland Public Library

Johann Carl Hermann Kotzschmar, the man for whom the organ was named was born on July 4, 1829, in Finsterwalde, Germany, to a family with a long musical tradition.

As the eldest and obviously talented son, Hermann was expected to follow his father as stadtmusicker (city musician) in Finsterwalde, but instead he left home at 14 to go to Dresden and study music in depth.

Five years later, he joined a group of friends to make a band, and they went to seek their fortunes in America. After a short time the band separated, and Kotzschmar went to Boston, where he played piano in taverns to earn a meager living.

Cyrus Libby Curtis, 1859

Cyrus Libby Curtis, 1859

Item 7135 info
Maine Historical Society

Cyrus Libby Curtis, a Portland businessman and enthusiastic amateur musician, was in Boston on business and happened to hear the young German playing the piano.

Curtis was impressed, so chatted with Kotzschmar, and ended up inviting him to move to Portland where Curtis assured him there would be work.

Cyrus H.K. Curtis birthplace, Portland, 1923

Cyrus H.K. Curtis birthplace, Portland, 1923

Item 67539 info
Maine Historical Society/MaineToday Media

Kotzschmar stayed with the Curtis family until the birth of their first child, a son, whom the proud parents named Cyrus Hermann Kotzschmar Curtis, in honor of their deepening friendship with the German musician.

Kotzschmar became the organist at First Parish Church on Congress Street, where the Curtis family attended services, so the boy heard his father's friend play the organ every week.

Young Cyrus never had any formal music lessons, but was naturally talented enough to go home and pick out the tunes that he had heard in church on the melodeon in the Curtis living room.

Cyrus H. K. Curtis left Portland when he was 16 and went on to build an impressive empire, The Curtis Publishing Company, which made him a very rich man. But he never forgot his roots and kept in touch with old friends in Portland.

Hermann Kotzschmar, Portland, ca. 1900

Hermann Kotzschmar, Portland, ca. 1900

Item 20714 info
Maine Historical Society

Over the years, Hermann Kotzschmar became the premier musician in Maine.

He was the organist and choir director at First Parish Church in Portland for 47 years, he taught piano and organ privately to hundreds of students, he conducted the Haydn Association, a large choral group, for almost 30 years; and he composed, accompanied and concertized regularly.

For at least 50 years Kotzschmar was involved in every worthy musical endeavor in Portland.

In his later years many tributes were accorded, among them a club of Portland musicians that took his name and that still existed in 2012.

In 1891 an intimate concert hall was built on upper Congress Street, and it was named Kotzschmar Hall. The building was razed in 2002.

Fire, Middle Street, Portland, ca. 1909

Fire, Middle Street, Portland, ca. 1909

Item 20787 info
Maine Historical Society

Early on the morning of January 24, 1908, a fire destroyed Portland's city hall.

That same year, after a brief illness, Hermann Kotzschmar passed away on April 15. His ashes are interred in a columbarium carved on the rear wall of First Parish Church.

Building City Hall, April 29, 1910

Building City Hall, April 29, 1910

Item 7136 info
Maine Historical Society

Plans were immediately begun to reconstruct City Hall, which was to include an auditorium.

A visiting pianist from Australia, Robert Harkness, suggested that a grand organ be included in the new auditorium, similar to the one in the Town Hall in Sydney.

The idea was favorably received, and a donor was sought.

Cyrus H. K. Curtis, photo with signature

Cyrus H. K. Curtis, photo with signature

Item 10711 info
Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ

On January 10, 1911, it was announced that Cyrus H. K. Curtis offered to be that donor.

Curtis stipulated that the gift be considered a memorial to the man whose name he carried — Hermann Kotzschmar.

He also stipulated that the instrument be built by the Austin Organ Company of Hartford, Connecticut, and that the builders be unhampered by any organist or music committee.

The cost was not to exceed $30,000.

City Hall dedication, Portland, 1912

City Hall dedication, Portland, 1912

Item 6167 info
Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ

The cornerstone of the new city hall was laid in October, 1909, and the public dedication was held on Thursday, August 22, 1912, at 2 p.m.

At that ceremony Cyrus H. K. Curtis presented the organ to the city and Mary Ann Torrey Kotzschmar unveiled the bust of her husband that is still mounted on the façade of the organ.

During the ceremony, Will C. Macfarlane played the new organ.

The Austin Organ Company's Opus 323 was received in the crowded auditorium with great enthusiasm. Nothing of this sort had ever before been heard in Portland.

A three day festival of organ recitals followed. Overflow crowds attended these programs, paying 25 cents per ticket.

Will C. Macfarlane, Portland, ca. 1912

Will C. Macfarlane, Portland, ca. 1912

Item 6975 info
Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ

In July 1912 the city council created a three-person Municipal Music Commission to oversee the organ and musical activities.

The commission was charged with selecting a municipal organist who was to care for the instrument and provide music programs.

In October, Will C. Macfarlane was appointed Portland's first municipal organist, and he worked tirelessly with the Music Commission to establish an impressive music program.

Portland City Hall, ca. 1915

Portland City Hall, ca. 1915

Item 7209 info
Maine Historical Society

At the suggestion of Curtis, Macfarlane instituted a series of free Sunday afternoon services, consisting of a 10-minute non-denominational talk, followed by congregational singing and a 30-minute organ recital. The hall was full every Sunday.

Macfarlane also created a series of 20 winter evening concerts with a subscription price of $5.

Performers were brought from Boston and New York, and the municipal organist often performed and accompanied in these programs.

Mcfarlane also presented major oratorios at Christmas and Easter, training the choirs and accompanying them. He played for numerous conventions and special services and gave demonstrations for school children.

In 1918 Bates College awarded Will C. Macfarlane an honorary doctorate in music. Also, in 1918 a new Austin console, with advanced features, was installed in Portland.

Shortly afterward, McFarlane announced that he was resigning to take a post in Melrose, Massachusetts, where a new organ, Austin Opus 851, had recently been installed.

Dr. Irvin John Morgan

Dr. Irvin John Morgan

Item 10733 info
Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ

Dr. Irvin John Morgan, formerly the organist at the Wanamaker Store in Philadelphia, was selected from 18 applicants as Portland's second municipal organist.

Morgan advertised himself as a concert virtuoso and organ virtuoso.

Morgan had a memorized repertoire of over 300 pieces, including many transcriptions form the orchestral scores of grand operas, patriotic music, organ compositions, and at least a dozen pieces that he himself wrote.

Although he had signed a two-year contract, Morgan suddenly resigned his position early, in 1921, and left for Philadelphia with Anna M. Tetel, the wife of a local engineer. Threats of lawsuits ensued, and the newspapers were full of the scandal.

Morgan died in 1947. He never married.

Edwin H. Lemare, Third Municipal Organist

Edwin H. Lemare, Third Municipal Organist

Item 7266 info
Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ

Portland's third municipal organist, Englishman Edwin H. Lemare, was already famous when he came to Maine.

After a busy career in his own country, Lemare came to America where he held positions as city organist in Pittsburgh, and later municipal organist of San Francisco.

Although his contract here stipulated that he was to have four months for vacation during the warm season, Lemare continued to play during the summer of 1922, and local newspapers reported that many of the country's greatest organists came to Portland and remained here for several weeks for the sole purpose of attending afternoon recitals by one of the world's leading organists.

Lemare had been here little more than two years when he resigned in 1923, following a public dispute over his contract.

In 1924 he left Portland to become the municipal organist in Chattanooga.

Charles Raymond Cronham

Charles Raymond Cronham

Item 6182 info
Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ

Charles Raymond Cronham came to Portland from Lake Placid, New York, in 1924.

With the support of the Music Commission, he organized the 65-member Portland Symphony Orchestra. It was the first formal organization of instrumentalists under a leader sponsored by the Music Commission.

Cronham also oversaw the enlargement of the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ in 1927, again through the generosity of Cyrus H. K. Curtis, who paid more than $22,000 for the work that increased the size and tonal capacity of the instrument.

Cronham resigned in 1932 after a long and complicated period of upset involving the Music Commission, which fired him without the contractually agreed upon notice, and rehired Will C. Macfarlane.

The city council was involved, as were various musical groups in the city. The circumstances of the incident were sensational and not at all clear — for a short period of time there were even two municipal organists.

Cronham went to New York, where he became organist at the Marble Collegiate Church, working with the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale.

He had a remarkable record there as he never missed a Sunday in 26 years except for his annual vacations.

On June 7, 1933 Cyrus H.K. Curtis died. He left no public gifts, so, for the first time, there were no funds to use for the upkeep and improvement of the Kotzschmar Organ.

The city council abolished the Music Commission in September of 1933 and Will C. Mcfarlane left Portland sometime in early 1934.

Dr. Alfred Brinkler, FAGO, fifth municipal organist

Dr. Alfred Brinkler, FAGO, fifth municipal organist

Item 6186 info
Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ

After this difficult period, regular concerts resumed in 1935 under the auspices of the Maine Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, of which Alfred Brinkler, organist and director of the choristers at St. Luke's Cathedral on State Street, was dean.

Brinkler expanded the variety of presentations, including guest soloists on orchestral instruments.

Born in England in 1880, he came to the United States at the turn of the 20th century to take a cathedral position in Dallas.

In 1905 he came to St. Luke's Cathedral in Portland and bought a town house on Park Street where he installed a Hope-Jones organ that he used for lessons, student practice and recitals.

During his 66 years in Portland, Dr. Brinkler made many contributions to music. He organized a 24-voice Polyphonic Society and conducted the Men's Singing Club for 15 years.

He taught at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, which awarded him an honorary degree of doctor of music in 1952, the year he retired.

John E. Fay,  sixth municipal organist, Portland

John E. Fay, sixth municipal organist, Portland

Item 6185 info
Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ

John E. Fay, organist at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church on Stevens Avenue, became Portland's sixth municipal organist in 1952.

At the time of his appointment, Fay had already played more than one hundred concerts, both piano and organ, at Portland City Hall.

Born in Lynn, Massachusetts, in 1903, Fay studied piano with Isidor Philipp and organ with Joseph Bonnet in France.

Fay and a colleague, Arlyn Barnard, gave delightful children's concerts each summer and so built an audience for the organ.

Fay and John Weaver produced what is thought to be the first long-play vinyl recording of the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ in the summer of 1959.

In 1968 work was undertaken at city hall to enlarge the stage, and the organ was moved back 15 feet.

At the same time, due to budget tightening, the allocation for the municipal organ department was barely more than the modest salaries for John Fay and curator Burt Witham.

The municipal organist, responsible for arranging concerts, engaging visiting organists, newspaper publicity and posters, plus radio and television stations of all musical activities, also was forced to add fundraising to his other responsibilities.

Due to ill health, John Fay resigned early in 1976.

Listen to John Fay in a recording made in the summer of 1959 perform "Trumpet Voluntary" by Henry Purcell, later attributed to Jeremiah Clarke, on the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ:

Douglas Rafter, Portland's seventh municipal organist

Douglas Rafter, Portland's seventh municipal organist

Item 7206 info
Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ

Douglas Rafter, the seventh municipal organist, had been coming to Portland and playing the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ every summer since 1936. He had a repertoire of more than 250 organ compositions memorized and was a popular recitalist.

He also held church positions, taught privately, and taught in academic institutions such as St. Paul's School in Concord, N.H., and Gordon College in Beverly, Massachusetts.

Rafter has a unique claim to fame. When he played his first recital on the Kotzschmar Organ on August 13, 1936, Mrs. Hermann Kotzschmar was in the hall. She came on stage afterward and took his hands in her hands, looked him straight in the eye, and complimented both his style of playing and his fine technique.

Budget problems continued to plague the city. It became apparent that the city council was going to dispense with the organ department and abolish the position of municipal organist.

Instead of waiting to be fired, Rafter resigned in the fall of 1980, and finished his tenure in the spring of 1981.

At the age of 96, he still lived in Portland in 2012.

Listen to Douglas Rafter in a recording made June 30, 1998, play his original arrangement of the national anthem, the "Star Spangled Banner," on the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ:

Organist Malcolm Cass, Portland, 1987

Organist Malcolm Cass, Portland, 1987

Item 7285 info
Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ

Pamela Plumb became mayor of Portland on June 1, 1981. As the wife of organist and attorney Peter Plumb, she took immediate steps to salvage the municipal music program and the organ.

She asked prominent local organist Malcolm Cass to organize a summer series of organ concerts. Plumb did not want to see the city's musical events fade away because there was no officially appointed municipal organist to plan the music program.

There were no funds for either concerts or repairs to the organ; the organists donated their services so the music would continue.

Thanks to Mayor Plumb's foresight, the program was saved and the many hours of volunteer work by Malcolm Cass, Jerry Newbury and Elizabeth Sollenburger were not in vain.

Listen to Malcolm Cass in a recording made August 21, 1982 play the final section of Harry Rowe Shelley's "Fanfare d'Orgue" on the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ:

Plumb and Burleigh, founders of FOKO

Plumb and Burleigh, founders of FOKO

Item 10734 info
Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ

The Kotzschmar Memorial Organ was badly in need of repairs, and the music program was just limping along, due to limited financial support from the city.

In 1981 two local music lovers, attorney Peter Plumb and Russ Burleigh, then manager of the Portland Symphony Orchestra, organized a support group for the organ and the music program, the Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ (FOKO).

Municipal organist Gerald McGee, Portland, ca. 1986

Municipal organist Gerald McGee, Portland, ca. 1986

Item 6184 info
Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ

Gerald McGee was appointed Portland's eighth municipal organist on May 2, 1983, out of a pool of two dozen applicants. He had earned a Master of Sacred Music Degree from Union Theological Seminary's School of Sacred Music in New York City.

While in Portland, McGee was an active recitalist and teacher, serving on the faculties of both Bowdoin College and the University of Southern Maine.

In addition to bringing new and outstanding talent to perform during the summer organ series, McGee also sought to involve as much local talent as possible, including instrumentalists from the Portland Symphony Orchestra.

He also opened a new genre of entertainment in Portland when he brought Dennis James, a noted theater organist, to Portland to accompany silent films.

Because of expanding responsibilities in other areas of his professional life, McGee resigned his position in March 1988.

Listen to Gerald McGee in a recording made July 6, 1984 play the finale of "Carillon de Westminster" by Louis Vierne on the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ:

Organist Earl Miller, Portland, ca. 1988

Organist Earl Miller, Portland, ca. 1988

Item 7263 info
Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ

Earl Miller was named Portland's ninth municipal organist in the autumn of 1988. Director of music at Christ Church, Andover, Massachusetts, he traveled to Portland one or two days a week to carry out his duties as municipal organist.

Miller quickly organized a "New Series of Winter and Spring Kotzschmar Organ Events" at City Hall, presenting a program each month from January through May. He also prepared a summer series for 1989. A talented young musician with a rare sense of excitement, enthusiasm as well as organizational skills, Miller's untimely death in June 1989 left a large void.

Listen to Earl Miller in a recording made in the summer of 1988 play the traditional spiritual "Deep River" on the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ:

Municipal organist Ray Cornils, Portland, 1999

Municipal organist Ray Cornils, Portland, 1999

Item 7265 info
Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ

Ray Cornils assumed the post of Portland's Municipal Organist in 1990, and continued to hold the position in 2012. His term could be called the "golden age" of the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ.

FOKO and Cornils expanded the city's musical offerings to include a yearly youth concert entitled "Kids, Kartoons and Kotzschmar" each February, a "Bach Birthday Bash," organ music for school children called "Meet the King of Instruments" each May, an annual Halloween party with a costume parade, scary silent films and organ accompaniment, and the popular "Christmas with Cornils."

Cornils regularly features guests at his concerts, including local choral groups, vocal and instrumental soloists, and the Kotzschmar Festival Brass Ensemble.

Cornil's musical talents, as well as his administrative skills and vision for the city music program have brought Portland's Kotzschmar Memorial Organ to a new and respected height in the music world.

Listen to Ray Cornils in a recording made in the summer of 1998 play the final section of Charles-Marie Widor's "Toccata from the Fifth Symphonie" on the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ:

Austin Organ console, Portland, 2000

Austin Organ console, Portland, 2000

Item 6187 info
Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ

Portland's City Hall Auditorium was renovated in 1995 and renamed Merrill Auditorium. The acoustics were greatly improved, and for the first time the hall was air-conditioned.

The Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ has raised more than $500,000 during its existence through grants, gifts, bequests and donations, to maintain the organ.

A new Austin five manual console was dedicated in October 2000 by Dame Gillian Weir. In 2002 a month of festivities and special concerts marked the 90th anniversary of the dedication of the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ.

Sources Bok, Edward W. A Man from Maine. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1921.

Edwards, George Thornton. Music and Musicians of Maine. Portland, The Southworth Press, 1928.

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

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

This slideshow contains 23 items
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