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Friends of the Wanamaker Organ

Many first-time visitors ask about whether there is a charge for the daily concerts, or if special preparations are needed. The Wanamaker Organ plays into the huge atrium of a grand department store, and the concerts are a free part of the daily Macy's shopping experience. The regular daily schedule is Here.

VIRGIL FOX REMEMBERED - Peter Richard Conte's concert tribute to the King of Heavy Organ has been drawing rave reviews, including a glowing piece in Choir and Organ giving it four stars, and expressing the "heretical" sentiment that Peter Richard Conte is the better artist. You may order it from our webstore and read all about it HERE.

Our new Digital "Encyclopedic Memory" Combination Action will make its debut shortly. Rick Seifert filed this report:

Jonathan Buchanan (below left), Matt Taft (below right) and Scott Kip were in the final days of completing a year-long project to enhance the Wanamaker Organ's Combination Action Memory system.


They explained it to me like the FM Radio presets in your car.

FM 1 has 5 stations

FM 2 has a second level of 5 additional stations, so one can have 10 FM stations ready to be select at the touch of a button.


The Wanamaker combination action currently has 50 levels of memory for the organist, that can be preset for registration recipes of tonal color. When this enhanced system is completed October 15, it will give the organist literally thousands of Memory levels-a virtually encyclopedic memory.


This new amount of memory will allow Peter Richard Conte to register the complex and intensely varied registrations needed when play the large scale Orchestral and Operatic transcriptions that Peter creates and frequently premier's at the FOWO concerts.


More color...More Sounds...more variety.

More memory means more of the organ can be heard; after all the organist can only push and pull just so many stop tablets and swell shoes while also performing a piece of music. With the Wanamaker Organ Console's 168 piston presets, access to these new memory levels will open up a new spectrum of sound possibilities not ever before possible.


JULY 8 SANSOM STUDENT CAMP - Congratulations to this year's participants:  Emily Amos, Adrian Binkley,  Benjamin Henderson, Matthew Johnson, Aaron Patterson and Martin Jones. We extend heartfelt thanks to the Sansom Foundation, Rudy Lucente and Macy's for making this rare opportunity possible. Previous participants have gone on to top conservatories, and at least two, Michael Hey and Joshua Stafford, are finalists in this year's Longwood Gardens Pierre S. du Pont competition.

Aaron Patterson's sassy performance of George Gershwin's 'Promenade' is excerpted Here.

July 11 was John Wanamaker's birthday, and Philadelphia Magazine published thirteen things you may not know about the merchant prince, Here.

Peter Richard Conte played for the July 4 concert at Washington Cathedral and discussed some of the challenges of playing in a department store and on the cathedral organ, all seen Here. Included is a duet for Sousa's "The Stars and Stripes Forever."  (Hat tip Rick Thompson).

The Flag Day concert paying tribute to the U.S. Army may be viewed HERE.

A Philadelphia Inquirer piece on Wanamaker Organ Day is HERE.

A short film on the spectacular collection of flags commissioned by Rodman Wanamaker and acquired by the Friends is HERE.

Congratulations to Joshua Stafford, winner of the Longwood Gardens International Organ Competition. Here is a clip of him performing for the 2010 Wanamaker Organ Day.

June 22 marked the 105th anniversary of the Wanamaker Organ as a daily feature in Philadelphia department-store retailing. On that date in 1911 England's King George V and Queen Mary were crowned in Westminster Abbey. John Wanamaker was on hand in London for the 1911 festivities. Film from that occasion is HERE.

Over the summer we are restoring the Choir Division, the Contra Bombarde, the Chorus Third Diapason chest, various Expression Shade motors and the Mustel Celesta. Full details and concert plans are in the Friends' newsletter, available exclusively to members. Your participation is the only way we can keep on doing what we do. Look for the Join the Friends item at our webstore today!

Archived streamcasts of the monthly WRTI-FM broadcast are available HERE, and include performances by many guest artists as well as our beloved Peter Richard Conte.

Admission to our monthly last-Saturday-of-the-month Organ Tours are available by appointment. Secure your admissions clicking HERE and meet your tour guide Nik Sizgorich at noon at the Eagle on the day of each tour. After the noon concert is finished, Nik will then take ticketholders on the tour.

Included in the tour is the Friends Museum, which includes first editions from the personal library of organ architect George Ashdown Audsley, all of his own works, placed on deposit with the Friends. The actual Leopold Stokowski 78 rpm record that inspired Virgil Fox to arrange "Come Sweet Death" may be viewed, as may the medal Dr. Audsley received at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, and a silver tray given to his father in 1838. Other exhibits include documents signed by Rodman Wanamaker, and memorabilia pertaining to Wanamaker Organist Keith Chapman and former curators.

Private tours are available by appointment when guides are available, but incur an extra charge to cover the expenses of securing a guide. (We are a small organization and do not have a tour guide staff on site.) Cost per person is $18 (you can use the Student Rate at our webstore to secure admissions). The cost of securing a guide for a private tour is extra, and depends on what is negotiated with the guide, who is paid his or her fee in person and usually travel into town for the tour. Please try to give us as much advance notice as possible.

Also note that taking a tour makes a participant eligible to get issues of The Stentor. If you take a tour and someone else submits their name with the financial information, e-mail us with your own information as well. You can E-mail us about tours and availability at execdirec@wanamakerorgan.com.

NOTE: There are no regular monthly tours in November or December because of the Christmas Light Show.

Please consider the Friends in your giving. Each year we start afresh, dependent on your generosity, having depleted the funds of the season before. Thank you for your consideration as we strive to grow our musical mission.

Take a look at the new Friends of the Wanamaker Organ film intended as an orientation for store visitors. Linked here is the most recent edit. Macy's has also put it on their official website, accessible HERE.
To play the video, simply click on the illustration at right.


Peter Richard Conte and flugelhornist Andrew Ennis were interviewed by WRTI's Susan Lewis HERE.

A new article on the Rodman Wanamaker flag collection by Karen Chernick of Hidden City is HERE.

The Wanamaker Organ Hour program continues on WRTI-FM and at WRTI.org on the first Sunday of each month, at 5 pm.

Matt Blitz is a writer for Smithsonian.com who took a tour of the Wanamaker Organ a few weeks ago and was so impressed that he wrote a detailed feature article on it for Smithsonian Travel. Included is video footage of Michael Stairs playing the organ, with the assistance of Doug Backman.
You can click HERE to read Matt's engaging new feature.


Regular membership in the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ enables us to be eligible for the special funding that allows this restoration work to go forward. You can help support the restoration and all our programs and get prompt news on our events by becoming a new Friend of the Wanamaker Organ. For just $25, new members receive our acclaimed quarterly 16-page newsletter, which is chock full of concert and restoration news and historical memorabilia, information that is only available in printed form.
You can Join the Friends by clicking here or on the membership icon at right. (Members may renew by clicking the Renewal Box at the top of this page.

Tourist information for Wanamaker Organ visitors, including hotel and restaurant ideas and money saving tips, is available by clicking the banner below. We look forward to seeing you!

Our CafePress store makes items individually as ordered and direct mails them to the purchaser. As a result, classic Wanamaker items are available on everything from posters to cufflinks. Check it out by clicking the banner above!

A Philadelphia Daily News video piece is available HERE.

Information on the Wanamaker Organ and the  historic Store is available at the MACY's INFORMATION DESK on the Main Floor of the Center City Macy's Men's Department. At the present time, the desk has discontinued offering a selection of organ CDs, DVDs and Books as their sales system is being reviewed.

You will find the desk along the right side of the center aisle just as you enter the Grand Court.
The desk is generally staffed from 11 am to 6 pm, Monday through Friday, and Saturday from noon to 5pm. (Please remember that the Wanamaker Organ does not play on Sundays.) The staff prides itself on its knowledge of the Store and its heritage. Macy's has also been offering historic tours. Please consult the information below and contact Macy's to see if this offering is still available at the time of your visit.

Historic Tours
Daily Guided Historic Store Tour

Discover the magic of Macy's Center City Philadelphia, with highlights including the breathtaking Wanamaker Building, Wanamaker Grand Court Organ and Grand Court Eagle. Plus, learn how Macy's has grown into America's largest department store with 800+ locations and over 100 years of retailing history. Tours can be customized to focus on architecture, merchandising, marketing or fashion. All participants receive a Macy's Visitor Savings Pass. Tours last approximately 45 minutes and must be scheduled in advance. For more information or to book a tour, contact Macy's Center City Visitor Center at 215-241-9000 ext. 2408.

Folks who identify themselves as Wanamaker Organ tourists at the Visitors' Center and come from a distance away are entitled to a Macy's Savings Pass, so be sure to ask about that as well!
Incidentally, there is no sales tax on most clothing purchases in Pennsylvania! Jennie Funches (pictured) is your host. 

Keep up with all the restoration news in the Friends' newsletter The Stentor. Four issues come with your membership, and are packed with restoration and concert news with historical insights and letters from other members.
Please consider making a contribution here. A prospectus on the fund is available here.We are counting on this fund to create quality presentations for many years to come as we help secure the Wanamaker Organ's place in musical life in the years ahead.
The icon above takes you to a page with interactive links to media stories on the Wanamaker Organ, including a recent Pipedreams with highlights from Wanamaker Organ Day, a fascinating interview with our carpenter Scott Kip, and a superb Bob Krist National Geographic short film on "The Voice of Philadelphia."
Hearing Philadelphia's Wanamaker Organ is a life-changing experience. Our society is sponsored by people around the world who are helping protect the world's largest playing pipe organ. We invite you to join the Friends and receive four issues of our 16-page newsletter and member-access to all Friends activities.

The Wanamaker Organ is undergoing a multi-year restoration. Divisions that have been patched together are getting a thorough restoration. Members help sustain this crucial work and our music, education and hospitality programs.
Members  receive all the details on the restoration and Friends concerts, as well as news of private concerts, tours, and fund-raisers, in our acclaimed quarterly newsletter, The Stentor.
Macy's and the Wanamaker Organ are located at the Wanamaker Building at 13th and Market Streets in Center City Philadelphia, PA, next to City Hall.
Macy's is easily accessible by SEPTA (www.septa.org), PATCO www.ridepatco.org), and NJT (www.njtransit.com) bus and rail lines to Center City, Philadelphia.
This website was made possible by people just like you who love the Wanamaker Organ and want to share that joy. Please look through our website menus for answers to all common questions about making your visit to our Philadelphia wonder thoroughly enjoyable.

IMPORTANT: Are you using a mobile device for turn-by-turn directions to the Store? Please enter 1300 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA   19107 to reach Macy's and the Wanamaker Organ. Please do NOT enter the Friends' business address below.


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