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All The Stops: The Glorious Pipe Organ And Its American Masters Paperback – September 14, 2004


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All The Stops: The Glorious Pipe Organ And Its American Masters + An Introduction to Organ Registration (Church Music Pamphlet Series) + Pedal Mastery
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; New Ed edition (September 14, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586482629
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586482626
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 5.5 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #975,504 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this lively history of the pipe organ in America, Whitney, assistant managing editor of the New York Times and an amateur organist, weaves a tale of opposing ideas and colorful personalities. Pipe organs in this country were built much as they had been for centuries in Europe until the early 20th century, when Ernest Skinner electrified their mechanical parts, thus enabling them to produce massive sound that could fill theaters and concert halls. In the 1930s, Skinner's ideas were challenged by one of his associates, G. Donald Harrison, who advocated a return to organs built with mechanical action. Harrison prevailed, and eventually Skinner was driven out of the company he had founded. Mirroring the story of the contest between Skinner and Harrison is Whitney's account of the rivalry between two of the best-known organists of the mid- 20th century Virgil Fox, the flamboyant showman who developed a cult following with performances on electronic organs (without pipes) in rock concert halls, and the more reserved but equally popular E. Power Biggs, who agreed with Harrison's philosophy. In the 1960s and '70s, Charles B. Fisk devised a way to build mechanical-action organs that could produce rich, full-bodied sounds as well as the bright, crisp sounds appropriate for German baroque music. Whitney (Spy Trader) admits that many important American organ builders and performers are left out of his history. But by concentrating on a few outstanding personalities and the organs they built or played on, he presents an engrossing story that should help fuel the resurgence of interest in the organ in this country. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From The New Yorker

In the nineteen-twenties, the pipe organ proliferated in churches, concert halls, theatres, and department stores, and no mansion was complete without one. But today the King of Instruments is a monarch that few people ever see or hear and even most musicians know little about. Whitney, a Times editor and amateur organist, deftly chronicles the twentieth-century battle for the "soul" of this most complex of musical beasts, fought among great American manufacturers like Ernest M. Skinner, a scrappy New Englander who perfected the big "orchestral" organ of the late Romantics, and G. Donald Harrison, whose American Classic model became a force in the back-to-the-Baroque movement. These divergent styles were reflected in the playing of virtuosos such as Virgil Fox, whose flamboyant "Heavy Organ" tours in the seventies were sold-out, marijuana-filled follies, and the dapper, straitlaced E. Power Biggs. Whitney extolls the organ's eclectic heritage at a time when the instrument seems poised for a return to the mainstream, and his glossary of its colorful terminology will help novices tell a windchest from a bombarde.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Very informative, and it's easy to read.
Sally M. Conley-Oyster
Whitney is a keen observer of the instruments and the politics, so this book ends up being a combination of artistic testament, business history and social commentary.
David Robinson
All that may be changing thanks to a pipe organ renaissance underway in this country and swell of interest generated by this book.
Kaayla T. Daniel

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Jon Hunt on July 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was pleased to discover Craig Whitney's "All the Stops" when a friend recently received a copy of the book. I was even more satisfied when I bought my own copy and finished reading it.
Whitney has done a remarkable service to the world of pipe organs. For those of us who play the organ "All the Stops" contains a rich history of the instrument over the past one hundred years and it is told by an author who is an unabashed organ fan and player himself. Reading this book is like witnessing a tug of war on several levels. There is a battle of organ builders about whether or not to use tracker or electropneumatic action. Wars rage with regard to pipe vs. electric organs. How good are European organs when compared to organs in America? How much input should an organist have with regard to a particular organ being built? As Whitney underscores, the organ world is a rather elite one with egos and tempers as big as the instruments on which organists play. And all of this takes place under the shadow of two men....E.M. Skinner, one of the most successful organ builders of all time and the larger shadow of Johann Sebastian Bach.
The most enticing chapters of "All the Stops" contain the mini-biographies of and the rivalry between the two best-known organists of the twentieth century...E. Power Biggs and Virgil Fox. The playing styles and personalities of the two couldn't have been more different and Whitney does a nice job in setting the two up in conflict. Biggs and Fox represented two different likes and dislikes of organs as well with Biggs preferring the European sound and tracker action and Fox opting for a larger, more romantic style.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By David Robinson on July 5, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As Whitney quotes one expert, organists are an odd lot for musicians: They often work out of sight, and almost never show much interest in other classical music. So I doubt this book will become a mainstream best-seller, but it has much to recommend it.
Whitney manages to combine a history of the pipe organ in America, especially its flourishing from about 1925 to 1975 with the personalities of the builders (Skinner, Harrison and Fisk) and two performers who defined the age. Patrician, starchy E. Power Biggs (b. 1906) who came to represent the "back to basics" German school of playing, and the flamboyant Virgil Fox (b. 1912) who promoted the romantic orchestral sound of the organ.
There's just enough background to understand the different schools of organ building (North German, English, French and American Eclectic) without getting bogged down in stoplists. Whitney is a keen observer of the instruments and the politics, so this book ends up being a combination of artistic testament, business history and social commentary. Quite an achievement and nicely readable too!
This would make a fine gift for any young organ player, and should be read by every church musician. It belongs in every school library too.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By musik78 on January 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I received this book as a Christmas present this past year. It didn't take me long to read it from cover to cover! Whitney provides a great history of the pipe organ from E.M. Skinner's era up through today, including two very informational biographies of both E. Power Biggs and Virgil Fox, the organ showmen of the 20th century.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone even remotely interested in the pipe organ. Whitney has a very easy writing style to read, often incorporating definitions of the organ terms he uses as he goes along. He also includes a glossary of other terms at the end for further clarification. I thoroughly enjoyed this book!
And just as an end note, I believe that those who review books online (such as Bob Myers, July 14 2003, below) should remember that this is a chance to voice OPINIONS. Nobody can judge an opinion, such as his statement that this book is "boring." But it would be much more accurate for him to state that this book is, in HIS opinion, boring... rather than possibly giving someone who would very much enjoy this book the wrong idea before they even read it.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Vitacco on May 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book is the best thing to happen to the pipe organ since the Erzähler. "All the Stops" can be read by anyone that just enjoys classical music and serves as a thorough, enjoyable introduction to the King of Instruments. Organists will enjoy Craig's book as it brings together under one cover a well researched history of the American Pipe Organ. Every organ professor should make this book mandatory reading for their students! The United States has an organ history as rich as Europe's.
Just buy all the stops.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Bob Zeidler on July 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Craig R. Whitney, a superb writer (his "day job" with the N.Y. Times has included assignments as correspondent, foreign editor and now assistant managing editor) and an enthusiastic pipe organ expert (and, one would expect, performer as well) has written what I believe to be the authoritative book on the history of organs and organists in America. And he's written it so well that it can't fail to interest both pipe organ aficianados and the general public as well.

There are two stories interwoven together here, set against the cultural milieu that gave rise to the popularity of pipe organs in America in the first third of the 20th century, then a slow decline in interest with the advent of alternative forms of entertainment ("talkies," the phonograph, and radio and television), and, quite recently, a renewed interest in the design and installation of new instruments and the preservation and restoration of older ones.

The first story is that of the instrument itself, and of the people "who made it happen": the organ designers/builders who were central to the development of the pipe organ in America. Whitney singles out the three most influential 20th century practitioners - Edward M. Skinner, G. Donald Harrison and Charles B. Fisk - without ignoring the influences of either their domestic predecessors (George H. Ryder, E. & G.G. Hook) or their international competitors (Cavaillé-Coll, Casavant Frères, Flentrop, Ruffati). The efforts by these three, affecting the sounds of pipe organs in all sorts of installations (places of worship [obviously], but also concert halls, museums, theaters, and even retail stores and private residences), can be summarized as the search for "eclectic" organs, i.e.
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