Dr. William C. Carl and the Guilmant Organ School - New York City
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Guilmant Organ School

Lincoln Towers
205 West End Avenue at 66th Street
New York, N.Y. 10023

Organ Specifications
205 West End Avenue at 66th Street (1963-closed early 1970s)
III/57 Allen Organ Company electronic (1968)
II/2½ M.P. Möller, Op. 9859 (1964)
12 West 12th Street (1899-1963) – See First Presbyterian Church
► IV/92 Austin Organs Inc., Op. 2408 (1961)
► IV/72 Skinner Organ Company, Op. 293 (1920)
► III/52 Frank Roosevelt, Op. 368 (1887)

William C. Carl, like many American students, went to Paris to study with Alexandre Guilmant and the two became life-long friends. Guilmant (1837-1911) came from a long line of organists and was not only known as a great teacher, but also as an organ virtuoso and church musician. Guilmant toured America three times, performing in major churches and concert halls, and played forty recitals at the St. Louis 1904 Exposition. Since the American public had never heard or seen organ playing like this, Guilmant immediately became a celebrity. He performed several times at First Presbyterian, and Walter Damrosch referred to him as “a wizard of the organ.” When he played a passage with his feet alone, the audience was wild with excitement.

Alexandre Guilmant  
Alexandre Guilmant  
Guilmant was organist at La Trinité, Paris (a position Messiaen held later), and taught at the Paris Conservatory. In 1894, he founded, along with other colleagues, the Schola Cantorum in Paris, a school for training church musicians. Guilmant’s stylized playing is best described as having a singing, clean, legato line. His method of teaching was revered, and he paid close attention not only to organ playing technique but to the poetry of the music as well. He was married, with two daughters and a son, who was a painter. The whereabouts of a portrait of Carl by Guilmant’s son is unknown today. Guilmant was a prolific composer, and his wife ran the family publishing business. He is characterized as a tireless worker.

In 1898, during Guilmant’s second American tour, Carl and Guilmant decided to open a school for organ instruction in New York based on the master’s method of teaching. In 1899, Dr. Duffield invited the Guilmant Organ School to open at First Presbyterian Church with the magnificent Roosevelt Organ as the centerpiece for lessons and recitals. The first class was held on October 9, 1899, in the chapel. Guilmant was the President, Carl was the Director and Instructor of Organ, and Dr. Duffield was the Chaplain and Instructor in Theology. The following excerpt from the initial announcement gives a clear idea of the purposes of the school:
William C. Carl having been authorized by Alexandre Guilmant to open an organ school under his patronage begs to announce the Guilmant Organ School, in which the method as set forth by the great French organist will be taught. Since the phenomenal success of M. Guilmant in America, a new impetus has been given to the organ as a solo instrument and in its relation to the church service. Organists in all parts of the country are giving more attention to its study and in the preparation of their work. Organ concerts are in demand with a growing success. Church committees are exacting a higher degree of ability from their organists and the press is giving it attention.

These facts have demonstrated to Mr. Carl the necessity of such a school, where the organist will receive a practical training for the church service and a more thorough understanding of the ecclesiastical music.
The Guilmant Organ School at First Presbyterian Church quickly became one of the leading institutions for the study of organ and church music in America. The school awarded a diploma after two years of study, and courses were offered in private organ instruction, general music studies, and theology. A silver and gold medal designed by Tiffany was awarded to the graduate of each class with top honors. In addition to Carl and Duffield, local organists and other musicians served as faculty members. Two notable men associated with the school were Robert Hope-Jones, an American organ builder, and Dr. Clarence Dickinson of the School of Sacred Music at Union Seminary, who served as an examiner. In 1915, six scholarships were established, so that students from across America could study at the school.

Dr. William C. Carl - New York City  
Through the years, Carl and the Guilmant Organ School gained international recognition. The French government bestowed on him the Officer de l’Instruction Publique, and he was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in recognition for his work in promoting the works of Guilmant and other French composers. New York University conferred on him an honorary Music Doctorate Degree.

The impressive Roosevelt Organ was used until 1918, when it was replaced with an E. M. Skinner Organ located in the newly constructed choir loft in the front of the church. The Skinner, which was rebuilt in 1928, was eventually replaced in 1964 with a four-manual Austin Organ that incorporated some pipework from the Roosevelt and Skinner instruments.

The 25th anniversary of the Guilmant School was celebrated in 1924. One hundred and fifty students had graduated from the school, and 26 of them were in responsible positions in the greater New York area.

To celebrate Carl’s 40th anniversary as Organist at First Church in 1932, the church installed a bronze plaque in the choir. In 1935, Carl was granted a leave of absence from his duties at the school for health reasons, and Willard Irving Nevins, Carl’s first student and associate, became director of the school. On December 8, 1936, Carl died and in January 1937, Mr. Nevins was appointed Organist and Choirmaster of First Church.

Under Mr. Nevins, the school continued its fine service in the field of church music. With a view toward solidifying the position of the school in the education scene, Mr. Nevins arranged for incorporation of the institution, in 1940, under the laws of the State of New York. The school was later approved under the regulations of the University of the State of New York, in order that colleges could give credit for work done in the school. In 1956, Willard Nevins retired as Organist and Choirmaster at First Church, but remained director of the school until his death in 1962. On January 18, 1960, the school celebrated its 60th anniversary, and a gala dinner was held in the newly built Church House (now the Mellin-Macnab Church House).

Dr. George Markey, Director of the Guilmant Organ School - New York City  
Dr. George Markey  
In March 1963, Dr. George Markey, Organist and Choirmaster of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, became the third director. At this time, the school left First Church and moved to space on the ground floor of the Lincoln Towers apartment building, located at 205 West End Avenue at 66th Street. The school remained at this location about a year, after which classes may have taken place at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, where Dr. Markey was organist. Dr. Markey’s dream was to recast and update the school in order to compete with major American music conservatories. The school continued to receive much attention when, in 1965, the Guilmant Organ Festival was held on the new Aeolian-Skinner Organ in Philharmonic Hall (Avery Fisher Hall), Lincoln Center. However, after leaving First Church, the school never found a permanent home and closed in the early 1970s.
  M.P. Möller Organ, Op. 9859 (1964) in the Guilmant Organ School - New York City
Dr. George Markey, director of the school, and Dr. Alan C. Lightstone, donor of the Allen organ
Allen Organ Company
Macungie, Penn. (1968)
Electronic tonal production
2 manuals, 57 stops

In 1968, a three-manual Allen electronic instrument was given to the Guilmant School by Dr. Alan C. Lightstone.

Specifications for this organ have not yet been located.
  M.P. Möller Organ, Op. 9859 (1964) in the Guilmant Organ School - New York City
  l to r: Elizabeth Kacik, William Hiemstra, Jean DiStasio, Charles Wilson, Rose Hinton, Carol Buckley (seated), Dr. George Markey, Frederick Bailey, Lily Andujar Rogers, David Braun and Victoria Martinez.
M.P. Möller, Inc.
Hagerstown, Md. – Opus 9859 (1964)
Electro-pneumatic action
2 manuals, 10 stops, 2½ ranks

This practice organ, built by M.P. Möller in 1964, was voiced on 1-3/4 inches of wind in the classic manner, and had two and one-half ranks.
Manual I – 61 notes
1 1/3
  Larigot [from TG?]
Manual II – 61 notes
   (top action from Principal)
1 1/3
   (repeat top octave)  
Pedal – 32 notes
     Classical Composers Database web site: http://www.classical-composers.org
     The Diapason (Sept. 1963). Specifications of M.P. Möller Organ, Op. 9859 (1964). Courtesy Jonathan Bowen.
     "The Guilmant Organ School at First Church," First Presbyterian Church web site: http://www.fpcnyc.org/guilmant.html.
     "Guilmant Organ School Receives Allen Instrument," The American Organist (Feb. 1968).
     Murphy, George. Telephone conversation about the latter years of the Guilmant Organ School.
     "New Guilmant Practice Organ," The American Organist (June 1963). Specifications of M.P. Möller Organ, Op. 9859 (1964).

     The American Organist (June 1963). M.P. Möller Organ, Op. 9859 (1964).
     The American Organist (Oct. 1963). George Markey.
     The American Organist (Feb. 1968). Allen electronic organ (1966).
     Classical Composers Database web site. Alexandre Guilmant.
     First Presbyterian Church web site. Undated photo of Dr. William C. Carl and students of the Guilmant School.
     Henniger, Rich. Dr. William C. Carl tour poster.