The AEolian-Skinner Organs in Longview – Kilgore, Texas


Among musicians, only the organist seems to suffer from a chronic indecision in defining his instrument.  The pathology of this condition just about parallels the history of the organ, and is perhaps inevitable, since the factors involved in making an organ present a wider latitude of choice than those presented by the piano or the violin.  The varying fads and fashions of organ design have had their effect on organ literature; just so has the current repertoire in a given period influenced the thinking of organ designers.

                From time to time in the history of this apparent confusion an artist-builder has stood out from the ranks of organ makers to stamp his aesthetic ideals on the organs and the organ music of his era, thus stabilizing for a time a concept of the organ worthy of the respect of musically educated people. Such men were Silbermann in 18th century Germany, Cavaille-Coll in 19th century France, and Father Willis in England.  Each of these men, in his own country and his own time, combined a clear historical perspective and a just appreciation of function to produce great, if differing, masterpieces of the organ builder’s art.  In 20th century America the man worthy to be named in their company is certainly G. Donald Harrison.    

                                                                                                    Mr. Harrison is personally familiar with the historical aspects of his art, having examined with a critical ear the best surviving instruments of all periods.  Just as a contemporary painter understands the techniques of Da Vinci but refrains from copying Mona Lisa, Mr. Harrison has rejected mere imitation.  He has experimented in all styles of organ building, but only to create a style of his own that is eclectic and individual at the same time.  It is his expressed aim to create organs on which all worthy organ music can be performed with the highest artistry.

                A decade and a half ago the tonal designs of Mr. Harrison were considered revolutionary, mostly because of the considerable publicity given a few of his organs built in the so-called Baroque style.  At the present time, when tastes range all the way from extreme Romanticism as exemplified in electronic instruments to the bleak austerities of the Baroque, his tonal ideas represent a temperate middle-of-the-road.  The flexibility of his thinking is well demonstrated in the three organs considered in this booklet.  None of these organs is extreme in any direction.  They are alike only by way of family resemblance, but each in its way is a work of art.  They provide a generous education in contemporary organ building as interpreted by this great artist, and are happily concentrated in a small geographical area.


First Presbyterian Church, Kilgore

Opus 1173



8'            Principal

8'            Flute Harmonique

4'             Octave

4'             Flute Couverte

2 2/3’      Twelfth

2’             Fifteenth

IV Rks    Fourniture

III Rks    Cymbale

8’             English Horn

8’             French Horn

8’             Trombone (Ped.)

8’             Trompette en Chamade

4’             Trompette en Chamade




8'             Diapason

8’             Rohrgedeckt

8'             Viola

8'             Viola Celeste

8’             *Flute Celeste (2rks.)

4’             Principal

4’             Flute Triangulaire

4'             Quintaten

2 2/3’      Nasard

2’             Octavin

V Rks      Plein Jeu

16'           Bombarde

8'             Trompette

8’             Hautbois

8’             Vox Humana

4'             Clairon



8'             Concert Flute

8’             *Spitzgeigen

8’             Gamba

8’             Gamba Celeste (2 rks.)

8'             Spitzflote Celeste (2 rks.)

4’             Montre

4'             Koppelflote

2 2/3'       Nasat

2'             Blockflote

1 3/5'       Terz

8’             Cromorne

8'             Oboe



8’             Trompette-en-Chamade (Great)

8’             Trombone (Pedal)


32'           Sub Bass

16'           Principal

16’           Flute Ouverte

16’           Bourdon

16’           Gamba (Choir)

16'           Rohrgedeckt (Sw)

8'             Octave

8’             Flute Ouverte

8’             Bourdon

8'             Gedeckt (Sw)

4'             Choralbass

III            Mixture

32’           *Bombarde

16'           Trombone

16’           Bombarde (Swell)

8'             Trombone

4'             Clarion


* In construction 

The Memorial gift of Mrs. Lou Della Crim, her daughter, Pauline, and her sons, J. Malcolm, John T., and Liggett. 


In a church where a typical music list will include the names of Healey Willan, David McK. Williams, and Leo Sowerby, an extremely retrospective (i.e., Baroque) organ would be inadequate if not useless.  The aim here has been rather to produce what might be called the Classic-Romantic organ, and judging from the results, one might well add the words “de luxe.”  In the primary choruses, both reed and flue, all the elements of a fine and flexible ensemble are generously present.  In addition, the secondary flutes, strings, and small reeds are here in such quantity and beauty of color as to give this organ a unique and enviable appeal.

                The manual and pedal flue choruses are musical and satisfying in almost any way they are built up.  The quality is brilliant but not aggressive, and not a single pipe ‘sticks out.’ The chorus reeds color the flue mass without dominating it, and although they are made with open schallots, their rather broad scale gives them more of an English effect than French.  The unenclosed manual reeds, including the brilliant trompette-en-chamade, are not intended as part of the chorus, but are to be used tuba-wise against the organ.  The trompette-en-chamade is the first modern example of this particular pipe construction, and has attracted international notice to this organ. It is a spectacular success.

                Especially notable is the eloquent chorus of strings and celestes.  These are carefully graded to build from the merest whisper to a rich and impressive forte, and the transition to the normal buildup can be made imperceptibly.  Nothing could be of greater value in choral accompaniment.  The great flutes and small reeds have the advantage of a swell box and a tremulant, so that in quieter music this manual can function as a solo organ.

                The acoustical environment in First Presbyterian is unusually kind to both organ and singers.  The factors involved – shape and size of the room, building materials, position and layout of the organ – impart to every sound a warm and sympathetic quality often wished for but seldom realized.  The organ has been carefully finished to take full advantage of this happy situation.


The First Baptist Church, Longview

Opus 1174



Great Organ:


8'             Principal

8'             Flute Harmonique

8'                 Spitzflote

4'             Octave

4'             Flute Couverte

2 2/3'       Twelfth

2'                 Fifteenth

VI Rks                 Fourniture

IV Rks    Cymbel





16'           Gedeckt

8'                 Geigenprinzipal

8'             Gedeckt

8'             Viole de Gambe

8'             Viole Celeste

8'             Flute Celeste (2 rks.)

4'             Principal

4'             Flute Triangulaire

2 2/3'       Nasard

2'             Octavin

III Rks    Plein Jeu

III Rks    Scharff

16'           Bombarde

8'             Trompette

8'             Hautbois

8'             Vox Humana

4'             Clairon



8'             Concert Flute

8'             Viola

8'             Viola Celeste

8'             Gamba Celeste (2 rks.)

8'             Dolcan

8'             Dolcan Celeste

4'                 Spitzprinzipal

III Rks    Kleinmixtur

16'           Fagot

8'             Trompette

8'             English Horn

4'             Cromorne





8'             Nason Flute

4'                 Nachthorn

2 2/3'       Nasat

2'                 Blockflote

1 3/5'       Terz

1'             Sifflote


32'           Bourdon

16'                 Contrebasse

16'           Bourdon

16'           Contra Viola

16'           Gedeckt  (Sw)

16'                 Quintaten (Gt)

8'             Principal

8'             Bourdon

8'                 Spitzflote

8'             Viola      

8'             Gedeckt (Sw)

4'                 Choralbass

4'                 Nachthorn

III Rks                 Fourniture

32'                 Bombarde

16'                 Ophicleide

16'                 Bombarde (Sw)

8'             Posaune

4'             Clarion

16’           Gallery Bourdon


8'                 Trompette Harmonique

4'             Clairon Harmonique

VI Rks    Cornet


8'             Bourdon

4'             Principal

IV Rks                 Fourniture




The gift of Mrs. Rogers Lacy in memory of her husband 


                It has been remarked that the famous European organs owe a good part of their success to the vast and resonant Gothic buildings in which they stand free and open.  Present day building costs have put great Gothic churches out of reach, but in Longview’s First Baptist Church the architectural firm of Wilson, Morris & Crain has preserved the Gothic spirit in line and proportion within the comparatively moderate cost levels of contemporary style.  They have created a lofty and spacious church of real architectural distinction; and they offered the organ builder an ideal set of conditions, most of which he himself was allowed to specify.  All matters of acoustics were put into the hands of Messrs. Boldt, Beranek & Newman at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with the requirement that the finished building must be entirely satisfactory both for speech and music, with Mr. Harrison to have the final say on the latter.  This difficult aim has been perfectly realized.  Furthermore, the organ was given a commanding open location, with the organ builder’s wishes followed to the letter.  Under these conditions Mr. Harrison has created a truly great organ in the French Cathedral style, but with a refinement and finish the French builders never dreamed of.


                There being three reed choruses, the full organ has the fiery brilliance one associates with French organs, but the reeds in no way outshine the splendor of the flue work.  The great Principal, for instance, has a lovely singing quality which this remarkable room preserves and delivers to the ear even at the back wall 220 feet away.  This quality is present in all the stops singly and in any combination, so that the tone is fresh and vital to a superlative degree.  Even the mouth characteristic of the pipes is clearly audible (this made extra careful regulation mandatory) so there is no question of anything less than complete clarity.


                The lavish provision of mixtures and mutations yields a tone of fascinating complexity, in which every sound interlocks without confusing pitch lines.  An additional small flue chorus is located in the gallery, not as an echo organ, but to bolster congregational singing.


                Although this organ leans toward the Classic side, it affords five pairs of strings and quasi-strings, a vox humana, and percussions, not to mention the wonderful flutes and small reeds.  It will do full justice to any music, even the humblest; in grandeur it holds its own with the great organs of the world.


 St. Luke’s Methodist Church, Kilgore

Opus 1175



16’           Quintaten

8’             Principal

4’             Octave

2 2/3’      Twelfth

2’             Fifteenth

IV Rks    Fourniture


 Enclosed Section:

8’             Concert Flute

8’             Flauto Dolce

8’             Flute Celeste

4’             Koppelflote

8’             Cromorne



8’             Gedeckt

8’             Viola

8’             Viola Celeste

4’             Principal

4’             Rohrflote

2 2/3’      Nasard

2’             Blockflote

III Rks    Plein Jeu

16’           Bassoon

8’             Trompette

4’             Hautbois



16’           Contrebasse

16’           Quintaten (Gt)

16’           Gedeckt (Sw)

8’             Spitzprinzipal

8’             Gedeckt (Sw)

4’             Choralbass

III Rks    Fourniture

16’           Bassoon (Sw)



                St. Luke’s Church presents an exactly opposite set of conditions to those at First Baptist in Longview.  Of a type all too common in the United States, the church is cozy and small, with a low pitched and padded roof, and a complete absence of “live” acoustical characteristics.  The architect provided no organ space at all.  The organ builder’s problems were manifold but not insurmountable, and, with the cooperation of a sympathetic and realistic committee, they have been solved with notable success.

                The committee rejected a rather skimpy three-manual plan in favor of a very comprehensive two-manual.  This wise choice put the maximum of available funds into pipes rather than mechanism, and gave the church the distinction of having one of the largest two manual organs in the world.

                The usual snag in designing a two-manual organ for church use is in the matter of swell boxes.  The great chorus suffers from enclosure as a rule, or else service playing is handicapped by the limitation of a single enclosed division.  At St. Luke’s this difficulty is solved by a split great.  The chorus is in the open as it should be, and visible; and the secondary great voices, including a soft celeste and a color reed, are in a box.

                The tonal aim was to produce a thoroughbred “Grand Orgue” effect, but on a miniature scale in keeping with the intimate character of the church.  To avoid excessive loudness on the one hand and a tonal dryness on the other, with all elements in balance, is a severe test of an organ builder’s skill.  By the use of moderate scales, low wind pressures, and very careful voicing techniques St. Luke’s organ has come off very well indeed.  It is possible to use the full organ for hymns without complaints from the congregation; the organ is smooth and flexible for choral accompaniment; and there is hardly anything in organ literature that cannot be played with complete satisfaction.

                The reed chorus is exceptionally good.  A half-length Bassoon, a small scale Trompette, and an octave Hautbois provide three distinctive solo voices which unite into the intense band of tone essential to a proper swell organ.  A little gem of a mixture goes equally well with these and with the flue chorus on a broad viola-gedeckt base.  An equally distinguished tone quality is present throughout the entire organ.    




 A word of praise must be said for Mr. T.J. Williams and his son, J.C. Williams, who installed and maintain all three of these organs.  The superb craftsmanship of these men is rare and precious in our mass-produced world.

                -ROY PERRY


Nora and Jimmy Williams (Mr. and Mrs. J.C. Williams) 

Below is an excerpt from Roy Perry's "The Church Musician."  For the full text, click on the link following these paragraphs: 

Do not forget that your church is a service institution in your community. Contribute your part to it. Play regular organ recitals if your community is lacking in musical opportunities. Sponsor concert programs. Nothing will sell what you are trying to do like an hour and a half demonstration of the same thing by a visiting choir or organist.

Have some positive ideal about your profession. Do not forget that you are working in a field that J. S. Bach and Cesar Franck lifted to the pinnacle of greatness. Be constantly sharpening your tools and raising your sights. Keep in touch with the big people in your profession. When you get a vacation in New York, spend your Sundays in church instead of in bed with a hangover.

Click here for the full text of  "The Church Musician" by Roy Perry.