Chicago-Midwest Chapter

Organ Historical Society

Who We Are

The Chicago-Midwest Chapter of the Organ Historical Society was formed in 1980 as a Chapter of the Organ Historical Society, Inc., Richmond, Virginia.  Since that time, the Chapter has enjoyed a rich and varied range of activities, and has grown to include membership from as many as fourteen states.  At the time of its formation, the name Chicago-Midwest was chosen since, while the Chapter's primary focus was the organ in the Chicago area, it was then the only OHS Chapter in the Midwest region.  Since that time, other Chapters have been formed, namely in Wisconsin, Eastern Iowa, Michigan, and Minnesota.

The Chicago-Midwest Chapter issues a quarterly journal, The Stopt Diapason, long recognized for its excellence in quality research on organs not only in Chicago, but in many other areas, as well.  The Stopt Diapason contains regular and complete information about all Chapter activities and welcomes submission of other articles for publication as well.  The Stopt Diapason is mailed to all active members, and is catalogued in several libraries, including the Chicago Public Library (Harold Washington branch in the Chicago Loop) and the American Organ Archives of the Organ Historical Society, located in the library of Westminster Choir College, Princeton, New Jersey.

The Chapter has hosted two National Conventions of the Society, held in 1984 and in 2002.  The 1984 Convention spanned four days and included visits to twenty organs in the metropolitan area.  The 2002 Convention lasted six full days and an extra evening, and included thirty-five organs located between Woodstock, Illinois, and Michigan City, Indiana.  Interestingly, the earlier Convention was located in the Bismarck Hotel in Chicago's Loop district; and the latter Convention was headquartered in the same building, now known as the Hotel Allegro, a fitting name for the launching site of a fast-paced, musical gathering.

Annually, the Chapter proudly sponsors anywhere from four to ten programs, ranging from recitals by professional organists featuring an historic organ, to day-long, informal "Organ Crawls," which might feature four to six organs and their splendid buildings.  Many of these venues are relatively unknown to members, and, often, the organs are in need of attention.  Occasionally, and happily, our presence sparks interest in an organ's owner to cause restorative repairs!

Additionally, the Chapter has been actively involved in ensuring that a historic organs are valued - sometimes, saving an instrument from imminent destruction.  As an example, our efforts assisted with the salvation of the five-manual, 1915 Austin organ, located in the former Medinah Temple of Chicago, which was relocated to storage in a unique cooperation between the City of Chicago and the organ's builders, Austin Organs, Inc.  In other instances, our ambassadorial work on behalf of an organ has helped a congregation to better appreciate its organ and to cause its restoration, such as the 1891 Frank Roosevelt organ in the First Congregational Church of Michigan City, Indiana.  Still more remarkable, Chapter members have volunteered their work to assist with actual restoration work, most notably for restoration of organs in preparation for the Society's National Conventions.  Three examples of Illinois-built organs which were restored with Chapter efforts include:  cleaning and repairs to the 1905 Lyon & Healy organ of two-manuals, seven-ranks, in Saint Andrew's Episcopal Church of Evanston, Illinois (with professional oversight and participation with the Bradford Organ Company); repairs and tonal restoration of the three-manual, 1916 W. W. Kimball organ in the Arts Center of Oak Park (formerly First Church of Christ, Scientist), Oak Park, Illinois (with professional oversight and participation with the Berghaus Organ Company); and repairs and restoration of the one-manual, 1922 Hinners organ in the now-closed Saint Dominic Catholic Church of Chicago.

The Chapter has recently begun a program of recording some of Chicago's notable and historic instruments.  Cooperative efforts led to the release in 2002 of the Chapter"s first compact disc recording, of the 1891 Frank Roosevelt organ in Saint James Catholic Church of Chicago.  Proceeds from this recording are earmarked for what is hoped to be a restoration of this excellent organ.  Works on this disc are played by Wolfgang Rübsam, William Aylesworth, and Michael Surratt.  Information on purchasing this disc may be found at:  insert link here.  The Chapter is in the process of producing its second recording, of the 1928 Skinner organ of three-manuals in the University Church, Disciples of Christ/United Church of Christ, Chicago.  The recording artist is Derek Nickels.  We hope to have this disc available for purchase in late 2004.  Proceeds from this disc will help University Church with their efforts to restore the Skinner organ.

Membership in the Chicago-Midwest OHS Chapter is open to all interested persons, organists and non-organists alike.  An appreciation of the rich history of the organ in the Chicago region is the only requirement.  Join the ranks of the Chicago-Midwest Chapter today! 

The Chicago-Midwest Chapter of the Organ Historical Society is a non-profit corporation, registered in the State of Illinois, and has obtained 501 (c) 3 status with the United States Government.


1/5/2005 - © Chicago-Midwest Chapter, Organ Historical Society