Hershey Community Theater
Installation Article

Chocolate candy had brought into the world another great opportunity for an organ builder and organist to enrich the daily lives of a practical culture-loving community. In this case the purchaser knew the kind of an ideal that would appeal to him, for he found it in the organ in Community Center for Westchester County, New York, at White Plains. It was a 4/95 Aeolian installed in 1930 and the stop list was published in September 1930 in T.A.O. One of its features, the ancillary Fanfare Organ, was copied exactly for the Hershey organ.

A few years ago, when Mr. Hershey decided to present the town of Hershey with a Community Building to cost about two and a half million dollars, it was his thought that the theater portion of the building should be its crowning glory. It has turned out to be just that. Seating two thousand people, it is a thing of beauty. Everything in it is of the best, cost not being permitted to stand in the way in the selection of any of its furnishings or appointments.

Mr. Hershey appointed Mr. Charles F. Ziegler, manager of the Hershey Estates, to select and purchase an organ suitable to such surroundings. Mr. Hershey and Mr. Ziegler were agreed that the unit organ would be entirely out of the question. A concert organ of dignity and power should be installed.

Mr. Ziegler, a fine amateur musician and an ardent music lover, called in Dr. Harry A. Sykes to act with him in the matter of specifications and the selection of the builder. The present Aeolian-Skinner Organ is the happy result of their investigation.

The console is mounted on an elevator platform to the left of the orchestra platform, which also rises and lowers with the players. Swell and Choir divisions are to the player's left, with Choir under the Swell. The tone of the Choir organ is indeed quite close to the player. All the other divisions are on the other side. There are no proscenium boxes in the theater, the organ occupying this space. The two walls from which the organ speaks are reasonably parallel. There is, of course, some little flare, widening toward the audience, but the tone of the two sides congeals remarkably in the ensemble. The audience can sense the source of the solo stops, but this is rather an advantage. They enjoy locating the more colorful voices.

Dr. Harry A. Sykes, who gave the dedicatory recitals has this to say about the Fanfare Organ, which, as has been mentioned, was borrowed exactly from the Fanfare of the Westchester Community Center organ:

"The single feature which is perhaps the most valuable is the floating Fanfare division. Each manual stop-control division has a Fanfare draw-knob, making it a simple matter of bringing these glorious reeds in with whichever division seems desirable. The Fanfare sub and super couplers come along with this arrangement, if they happen to be on at the time. To be able to have the Solo Tuba on its own manual, contrasted with the flary Fanfare reeds played from another manual, at the same time having ready the brilliant Swell and solid Great, is a most satisfactory tonal experience.

"As would be expected, the solo stops are of the quality we have for so long associated with the Skinner Company. They are characteristic and of great beauty."

The stop list speaks for itself. With the exception of the Choir Gemshorn, the manual divisions are straight; this Gemshorn unification is acknowledged to be one of the most practical of all, in the things an organist can do with the off-unison borrows. Here, too, we have tour stops of the 5r Mixture drawable separately.

An organ is no better than its console, for without the versatility of the modern American console the finest organ in the world would revert to the grimness of seventh century playing. The Hershey console must be a delight to play. Among its features are:

Double touch manual combinations by which the organist may change his Pedal registration or leave it alone, whichever he prefers at the instant of changing his manual registration.

A combination lock by which his registration - set perhaps with the infinite patience of a Farnam - is fully protected against destruction by chance visitors.

Six register-crescendo stations, by which the register-crescendo shoe may be physically stopped at any one of six points determined by the organist.

Independence for the shutters of the Fanfare crescendo-chamber. Only too often a designer thinks the shutters for any floating division should automatically be hitched to the shoe controlling the shutters of the division to which it is coupled. No greater mistake could be made. In this organ the builder allows the organist to couple the Fanfare to any manual he wants, and the shutters to any shoe; the two are independent. No artist would have it any other way.

The Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company, builders of the organ, have done all any builder can, and have installed a magnificent concert organ; the rest is up to the organ profession.