2 November 2020
There are no new pipe organ installations to report this month, but word has reached us that the long-postponed renovations to the Cathedral in Macau have started, and that this will include the installation of the new Casavant organ, we hope by the end of next summer.
The October updates have been delayed by two days so that we could provide the link for Prof. Urrows’ interview with Guy Whatley, published 1 November in the online organ journal, Vox Humana.
Dr. Whatley discusses The Pipe Organ in China Project, Keys to the Kingdom, and a variety of related topics with Prof. Urrows, and we are very grateful to everyone at Vox Humana for their interest in this work. The interview can be found here: http://www.voxhumanajournal.com/urrows2020.html
Organs in the Census: 192
Year-to-date hits: 10,231
Hits since launch (June 2108): 21,305
Photo of the month: Advertisement for a foldable reed organ, from Guide to Catholic Shanghai (1937). The price is (still) in ‘dollars Mex’. These simple, ‘portable’ harmoniums were made by many small firms in China at the time, as well as larger companies, such as Moutrie’s. They continued to be made in the 1990s, when Prof. Urrows saw them for sale in music stores in Shanghai and Guangzhou.
30 September 2020
The following updates have been made on the POCP website this month:
MAC1831, small updates to images and text.
SHA1881, minor updates to text.
A new blog post from Prof. Urrows, about the controversy in 1865 over the design of Holy Trinity Cathedral in Shanghai, was posted on 2 September.
Prof. Urrows’ article, “Life and Death at Dongjiadu: A Jesuit writes during the Taiping Rebellion”, was published in Vol. 6 of The Journal of the Macau Ricci Institute (in English and Chinese.) Prof. Urrows is a Research Fellow of the Institute. This article concerns François Ravary SJ, the ‘mastermind’ behind SHA1857 and all the other bamboo organs built at Zikawei and Tushanwan. Please following this link to download the article:
Finally, The Project was sorry to learn, belatedly, of the death of Herr Dr. Paul Steinmeyer, on 3 August 2019, at the age of 85. Dr. Steinmeyer was the heir to Orgelbau Steinmeyer, a venerable firm of German organ builders in Oettingen, Bavaria, which closed down in 2001. Dr. Steinmeyer kept the factory is good condition, conducted tours, and the building is now an organ museum. Most importantly, he managed the archives of the firm which operated for 154 years. During the 2000s he provided The Project with important information and documents relating to the one Steinmeyer organ installed in China (SHA1932), as well as to their renovation of the 1909 Link organ in Qingdao (TAO1909) in the same year.
Photo of the Month (below): Choirboys rehearsing with a harmonium at Pakhoi (Beihai), Guangxi Province, 1920s or early 30s. Note the two cantors singing from the double music stand, and the harmonium player in ‘civies’.
Organs in the Census: 192
Hits over the past year: 10,422
Hits since launch: 20,450
HAPPY MID-AUTUMN FESTIVAL 中秋節
from the POCP.
2 September 2020
Prof. Urrows writes:
Having written two posts for this blog on the humorous harmonium (which is somehow easier to poke fun at than the pipe organ) I came across something from research done 30 years ago, that I have always hoped to pass on for its unintentional funniness. This doesn’t exactly have to do with the pipe organ, but is related to one of the churches in China that played a big role in that history: Holy Trinity Cathedral in Shanghai.
The present building (still standing) was constructed between 1866 and 1869, replacing an earlier structure that had fallen into disrepair. The organ for the earlier Holy Trinity Church was the two-manual and pedal Gray and Davison organ (SHA1856). This instrument was moved into the new Cathedral church upon its dedication in 1869, before being replaced by a three-manual Walker in 1883 (SHA1883a).
Shortly before the new church was opened, an irate member of the English community in Shanghai, using the pseudonym ‘Nemo’ (nobody), inveighed in the local newspaper against the new building and its furnishings (specifically the pews) in a letter to the Editor that is worth remembering. Much of this probably had to do with the general dislike of the Sir George Gilbert Scott’s design, modified in Shanghai by a local architect named William Kidner. These sorts of Gothic Revival buildings executed largely in brick, were not too different from the great railway stations of the Victorian era (or vice versa). This can be seen at St. Pancras Station in London, also designed by Scott.
The letter, dated 9 April, appeared in the North-China Daily News on 13 April 1869, under the headline, “The New Church.” The Editor added at the end, that “The bilious climax which our correspondent reaches, in his last sentence, is simply sublime.”
To the Editor of the North-China Daily News.
Dear Sir, — What is going to be done about those church seats? Although removed from the magnificent structure destined at some period to be the new Church, (but which internally is excessively like the Strand Music Hall, with a slight dash of Barclay and Perkins’ Brewery about it,) to the more humble shed adjacent, yet from their presence in the compound at all, there seems no doubt of their being misapplied to the purpose to which they were intended.
In the name of common sense I protest against such uncomfortable benches being accepted; surely they cannot have been made from any design! If they were, I suggest that they be presented, accompanied with an address and a leather medal, to the able individual who conceived such perfection in the way of ugliness and discomfort.
We have all subscribed liberally to the Church, but rather than it should be disfigured with seats like those made for it, let us subscribe again, to have proper, partitioned, comfortable benches, instead of these abortions between a school form and a garden seat.
When in the Church two days ago, I studied the architecture and formation of the choir seats. Foolishly I sat in one, and being rather broad and square shouldered, I regret to say, I was caught by two projecting arms at the height of the shoulders, so that I could with difficulty get out again. These choir seats really are very chaste; but after the first Sunday or two, I fear the fair creatures who so kindly and so beautifully do sing, will be found wanting – unless they retain agreeable reminiscences of the school “back-board”, which these choir seats have been made most perfectly to imitate.
I have seen many churches in England and elsewhere, but I never yet came across one with “bottle green” glass windows. There were, doubtless, intended to add to the harmony of colours so beautifully displayed in the new church. These, for those who have not seen them, it may be well to mention. They are Red, Black, White, Brown, Blue, Stone colour, and Bottle green. The “tout ensemble” may be imagined. In addition to the Music Hall and Brewery style, which have been so ably combined, the Bottle green windows give it another peculiarity, making it strongly to resemble the Greenwich Baths and Wash-houses, with a touch of a Corn market.
On Sunday next, I would suggest to church-goers that additional zest will be given to their appetites, and a fruitful subject furnished them for discussion, if, after church, they will visit the structure which will have cost more money than, and exceed in ugliness, any building of the like kind put up anywhere on this earth.
 Built 1864 on what is now Aldwych in London, but demolished in 1868, a fact that ‘Nemo’ does not seems to have known.
 A noted London brewery, located on Park Street, Southwark.
 Built 1850-51 on Trafalgar Road, torn down in the early 1920s, and replaced by a new building (1923) now under threat of redevelopment.
30 August 2020
The following things have been updated on the Website during the past month of August 2020:
A previously unrecorded installation, HAR2015, has been added to the Census.
Photo of the Month: The Free Christian Evangelical Church in Shanghai (built in either 1920 or 1939, sources do not agree) at 25 Wulumuqi Beilu, photographed in 2013. Now called the Xin-en (Grace) Church. We cannot trace an organ here, and so it probably made do with a harmonium and/or a piano before 1949.
We wish all our visitors health and happiness and patience to cope with the ongoing epidemic.
Organs in the Census: 192
Hits year-to-date: 10,432
Hits since launch: 19,678
31 July 2020
The following things have been updated on the Website during the past month:
The Errata list has been updated.
The FAQs have seen a small, comprehensive revision.
There is an update to PEK1687, connected with an email we received from Mr. Guido Schumacher, of Schumacher Orgelbau in Belgium.
Mr. Schumacher reports to us that the engravings in Athanasius Kircher’s Musurgia universalis (1650) which were used for the construction of the automatic playing mechanisms of PEK1680, PEK1682, and PEK1683 by Tomás Pereira, and the organ-fountain built for the Kangxi emperor by Ferdinand Verbiest (PEK1687), are actually based on an earlier source. The book in question was written by the French Huguenot engineer, architect, and inventor Salomon de Caus (1576-1626): Les raisons des forces mouvantes avec diverses machines tant utilles que plaisantes aux quelles sont adjoints plusieurs dessins de grottes et fontaines of 1615. Such ‘borrowing’ by authors was very common at this time, before the concepts of copyright and of intellectual property were developed and accepted.
More importantly, Mr. Schumacher and architect Yves Weinand have built a replica of one of de Caus’ hydraulic organ-fountains. This really brings Flettinger’s description of the 1687 organ-fountain in Beijing to life. Pictures and more information can be found at: http://www.orgel-schumacher.com/fr/references/curiosites/michaelstein-musique-ancienne.
The Project very much appreciates Mr. Schumacher’s communication of this interesting information.
Year-to-date hits: 10,118
Hits since launch: 18,712
Photo of the Month: the interior of St. Saviour’s Church, Guangzhou (Canton). This photo, taken in 2010 in the former London Missionary Society (Anglican) church, shows a ‘fake’ pipe organ: what is installed is actually a Rodgers electronic, with a split chancel façade of dummy pipes on either side of the altar for decoration. The church celebrated its centenary in 2019, and can be found at 184 Wanfu Road in the Yuexiu district. The nearest metro stop is probably Beijing Road on Line 6 of the Guangzhou metro.
29 June 2020
This month has been relatively quiet at The Project. But a big event occurred on 20 June: the Second Anniversary of the launch of the POCP Website on 20 June 2018. To date we have had 9,182 hits in the past year, and 17,183 since the launch!
The following are the updates posted this month:
This month’s photo (below): August or September 1966, Red Guards and students sack the Nantang, Beijing, and burn books and furnishings. The banner hanging on the façade reads “Long live (lit., ‘ten thousand years to’) Chairman Mao!” PEK1890, moved to this church in the late 1950s, cannot be traced after this event.
19 June 2020
Prof. Urrows writes:
In Keys to the Kingdom, at several points I advanced the hypothesis that some of the organs in Macau and southern China in the 17th Century may have been made in and imported from the Philippines. The first of these is FCW1631, the ‘Western qin’ played by Giulio Aleni to a group of excited onlookers on 8 May 1631 at the little mission at Sanshan in Fujian province (see pp. 41-46). Other such instruments are the organs in Madre de Deus (St. Paul’s) Macau (MAC1670, MAC1701, MAC1709, MAC1743a, and MAC1743b), CAN1678, and finally MAC1831, the organ at the Santa Clara convent, which I believe to be a much earlier organ than its date of first mention. The only pipe organ indisputably known to have come from the Philippines to China is CAN1703, which confirms however that the idea that such a trade is at least plausible.
By way of background explanation I wrote several pages on the complex political situation existing at the time between Spain and Portugal, and between both these nations and China, in particular the enclave of Macau which would have been the natural point of entry for most if not all imported instruments. This was despite the more-or-less consistent ban on trade between Macau and Manila at this period (the ‘dual monarchy’ of 1580-1640). My writing was based on data going back to the mid-20th Century, and I mentioned that the hypothetical importation of pipe organs from Manila had to be balanced by “the lack of documentation about these instruments” which “might possibly hang on the fact that no one in Macau was supposed to be trading with the Spanish at Manila (or vice-versa)” during the dual monarchy, “except during an experimental sanction of commerce in 1629, which was quickly rescinded in 1633.” Almost all my sources were thus Macau or Portugal-based.
Recently I have been reading some new analysis of the trade situation and patterns, in particular an article, published by the Instituto Cultural de Macau in 2003 , which looks at the problem from Manila and the Spanish point of view. I had read this article while writing Keys to the Kingdom, but lack of space prevented my using it as a source, coupled perhaps with an over-reliance on Portuguese/Macau sources as definitive.
Prof. Seabra has gone through a lot of trade records (many originating in the AGI – Archivo General de Indias) and has come up with some figures that show that during this period “direct trade from Macao to Manila…was maintained on a regular basis, with the annual arrival of a least one Portuguese ship from China.” This is correct, and also noted in my book: this annual arrival was an official government-sponsored ship, and not a private trader. But it is precisely the private cargo trade (which Seabra calls the “private illegal trad[e]”) that would have taken advantage of the opportunity to ship an organ from the Manila to Macau. This is where Seabra has found new and interesting data. For example, in the period for the hypothetical shipment of FCW1631 from the Philippines to China, Seabra gives the following figures for Portuguese ship arrivals from Macau in Manila:
and then as one would expect
He goes on to quote “annual amounts and percentages of imports subject to tax in Manila.” So, unlike Macau, where there are next to no tax records at all (since no one was supposed to be trading with Manila in the first place) here we find that between 1613 and 1631, Macau imports to Manila (that is, Macau outbound, and not exports back to Macau) varied from between 5 and 36% of all the port tax collected. In 1630 this trade accounted for 35%, amounting to 194,000 ‘Portuguese pesos’ [sic].
Almost all the ships mentioned here had to be private traders, flying the Portuguese flag. If I were a gambler, and believed blindly in my own hypothesis, and if I had to pick a year in which I thought that FCW1631 may have come to China, I would definitely pick 1630 from the list above, based on the number of ships crossing the South China Sea, and the value of their outbound cargo. Seabra’s lists don’t confirm that all these ships returned, or returned safely to Macau (there were sometimes diversions to Macassar, to get around the inbound customs problems.) But it is a new avenue for research on this little corner of the larger topic: where did some of the organs of 17th Century China come from, if they were not built locally?
 Leonor Diaz de Seabra. “Power, Society, and Trade: The Historic Relationship between Macau and the Philippines from the 16th to 18th Centuries.” Revista de Cultura, International Edition 7 (July 2003), pp. 46-58.
30 May 2020
Despite the ongoing lockdowns all over the world, there has been a lot of activity at the Project in the past month.
1. New installation: A three-manual concert organ at the New Yunnan Grand Theater in Kunming, built by Freiburger Orgelbau and installed in 2017 (KMG2016).
These three updates were made possible by information sent in by our friends around the world. We would like to thank Lionel Hong, Xu Mengfei, Deirdre Wildy, and Keith Robinson.
A few other changes include:
renumbering MAC2018a to MAC2018 (as the Casavant in the Cathedral of Macau announced for that year has still not yet been installed),
and minor updates to
One-year visits: 8,441
Total hits since launch: 15,713
Stay safe, everybody!
13 May 2020
The Project does not actively deal with the questions of repertoire or performers in the history of the pipe organ in China, except where these things have some important bearing on the history of instruments themselves. One of the organists mentioned in Keys to the Kingdom, in connection with the Gray and Davison (SHA1856) and Walker organs (SHA1863b, and SHA1883a) in Shanghai was G.B. Fentum, and his name and excerpts from his letters have appeared in publications by the Project going all the way back to Prof. Urrows’ original articles in TAO in 1993.
Recently, we heard from Mr. Keith Robinson in the UK, who is writing what promises to be an interesting book on Sir Robert Hart (1835-1911, long-time inspector general of the China Imperial Maritime Customs) and his musical activities. Hart knew Fentum, and some biographical information on Fentum prepared by Deirdre Wildy (Head of Special Collections & Archives, The McClay Library, Queen’s University Belfast) was passed on to us as well. We are grateful to Mr. Robinson and Ms. Wildy for their help in learning more about Fentum, to which Prof. Urrows has here added his own findings. (Some further information on Fentum in Singapore has been found in the e-book, The Singaporean Soundscape: Musical Renaissance of a Global City, ed. Jun Zubillaga-Pow and Ho Chee Kong (2014), available here: https://www.scribd.com/document/242878621/The-Singaporean-Soundscape .)
Fentum was born George Benjamin Fentum in St. Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands. His father, also named George, was a ‘professor of music’ (meaning simply a music teacher.) His family appears to have been widely involved in music, and the manufacture of musical instruments: a John Fentum (fl. 1774- ca. 1835) was a violinist and music publisher and seller in London, with a shop in the Strand established by his father, Jonathan Fentum. In Keys to the Kingdom (pp. 190-191) G.B. Fentum is discussed in connection with the Walker organ in Shanghai’s Holy Trinity Cathedral (SHA1883a), a major installation that replaced an earlier organ by Gray and Davison (SHA1856), which was in turn moved and reinstalled in the Masonic Hall on the Bund (built in 1867).
Ms. Wildy’s research confirms (as also noted in FN 423) that Fentum first moved from the UK to Singapore in the about 1865. It is reasonable to surmise that he was opening a branch of business for his father or other relatives, as we know that he was importing and selling pianos, instruments, and sheet music. He was also organist of St. Andrew’s Cathedral (1865-72), and director of the Singapore Amateur Music Society. Ms. Wildy reports that he did not like the climate and fell ill, and moved to Shanghai in 1872. His departure may also have been due to his failure to successfully set up a music school there, with a Dutch or Flemish colleague named I.C.H. Iburg. Ms Wildy has found press references to Fentum in Shanghai starting around 1875: accompanying a performance of Cox and Box in 1876; playing piano in a chamber music concert (including a Beethoven piano trio) in 1878; and accompanying what must have a very early if not the first performance of Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus (date not given, but before mid-1886) in China. As noted in Keys to the Kingdom, Fentum, like most of the organists at Holy Trinity Cathedral, was a Mason, and ‘District Grand Organist of the Grand Lodge of Northern China E.C.’ between 1878 and 1886 (see photo).
Ms. Wildy mentions finding a reference from 1878 about the push to replace Holy Trinity’s failing SHA1856 at Fentum’s instigation. Mr. Robinson has established a connection with Hart through a recital Fentum gave at Holy Trinity on 28 May 1886, the eve of his departure for Australia, where he spent the rest of his life. This recital included works by Lemmens, Gounod, Mendelssohn, Guilmant, Bach Beethoven, and Batiste. The previous month he had given a farewell recital at the Masonic Hall, with works by Beethoven (Piano Trio in C Minor, Op. 1 no.3, with a Mr. Ibert, violin (could this have been Iburg?), and a Mr. MacDonald, cello), Charles de Bériot (Violin Concerto No. 9 in A minor, Op. 104), and a piano concerto by Mendelssohn. In Australia “he was responsible for having many organs built there”, according to Ms. Wildy, although we do not have any details about just what installations these might have been. In Keys to the Kingdom, Prof. Urrows noted that Fentum played the Mendelssohn D Minor concerto in Singapore in 1899, and accompanied Elijah at the Town Hall in Melbourne in 1902. Ms. Wildy adds that he was director of music at the Presbyterian Women’s College in Sydney. He died in 1914.
More research should be conducted on musicians like Fentum, who were active in the ASPAC region between the start of the Treaty Port era (ca. 1840) and the end of the First World War. Much could be learned about the musical lives of the time, of the integration and development of audiences and practioners of Western music in Asian environments in the nineteenth century, and about just how these cultural transfers partly led to the saturation and, to some extent, lasting hegemony of Western concert music in Asia. This saturation has long displaced (or at least ‘relegated’, as they say in sports) traditional musics in the urban public eye (and ear), an anomaly that highlights its apparently unshakeable place in modern, developed Asian cultures. Also significant is the fact that Fentum appears to have been one of the only organists in China ever to make his living entirely as a professional musician, and not an amateur organist with a ‘day job’.
9 May 2020
Prof. Urrows writes:
Last month I received an interesting citation from my colleague, Lionel Hong, at Fu Jen University in Taiwan. This is a reference to PEK1869, the Fermis et Castay organ in the New ‘Old’ Beitang in Beijing, about which very little is actually known. The information I received, although slight, helps us to understand more about this mysterious installation, an organ that was at the center the of a minor political struggle between France and China (and the French Lazarists in Beijing) in the 1880s (see Keys to the Kingdom, pp. 178-79, 181-186, and 209-210 for the story of the organ and the church.)
The immediate source for the citation is an article published last year by Liu Qinghua, of Central China Normal University, in Wuhan (who I happened to meet at a conference in Belgium in 2012.) Liu’s article (in Chinese, with a somewhat problematic parallel English translation) is entitled: Textual Research on “The Scenic Illusion Painting of the Feast of the Sacred Heart in Beitang” in National Library of France [sic.], published in Chinese Arts Quarterly (Vol. 6/2, June 2019, pp. 1-35.) Liu’s citation relevant to PEK1869 comes in turn from a document found in the Number One Palace Archives in Beijing, and originally published in Beijing in 1998 in a volume entitled Late Qing-era Studies (清末教案. 第1版. 中囯近代史资料丛刊续编. 北京市: 中華書局, 1998, see pic below.)
The palace document in question is an inventory prepared by Qing government officials in December 1887. This inventory was made immediately after the retrocession by the French Lazarists of the New ‘Old’ Beitang site to the Chinese government. The actual handover of the deeds and the keys to the church was accomplished with a procès-verbal signed by the Bishop, Alphonse Favier, on 14 December 1887. But it had been long preceded by a negotiated agreement, known as the Convention Favier-Detring of August 1886. This agreement between Bishop Favier, Gustav Detring (the French customs chief at Tianjin), and the Chinese, represented by veteran diplomat Li Hongzhang, enraged the French government which considered the site of the old Cathedral to be sovereign French territory. However that may be, in exchange the Chinese government agreed to provide a new site and a build new church (the present Beitang, or ‘North Church’, at Xishiku). It is also known that the Dowager Empress Cixi wanted the organ left in the old church, which she planned to renovate into an audience hall and a kind of theater, and this condition was stipulated in the 1886 Convention. Here is the comment contained in the December 1887 inventory that mentions the organ:
The first [i.e. upper] floor of the church. (Note: In the center of the hall, one large [pipe] organ, inside are 941 pipes in total, outside [the case, near the balcony] railing are 58 additional pipes.
The first thing of interest is the very specific number of pipes – 941. It strains credulity to think that the Chinese officials could have counted the pipes inside the case, and so they probably got this number from Favier and the other Lazarists at the center of the negotiations over the fate of the church and its grounds. I have translated as additional where the Chinese text uses the characters for ‘spare’ (备 用). Of course, they could easily count the pipes in the façade, either from the floor of the building or up in the organ gallery over the South door. But they could not count the ones they could not see, and so in this case I think these 58 façade pipes should be counted within, and not on top of the total of 941 pipes. A less-likely scenario is that the use of the term for ‘spare’ meant that the officials had been told that these pipes in the façade were dummy pipes.
(A further suggestion has been made by one of our visitors that this comment (‘outside the balcony railing’) might refer to a rueckpositif. However, attractive as this idea may be, there are several problems. Rueckpositif divisions were not typical of French organs, although as was pointed out to us the organ at the Abbey in Foix, partly built by the Castay firm in 1869, has one. But this is a large, 40-stop organ. 58 pipes, while reasonable for an organ facade, is too many for the facade of a rueckpositif, and if this was the total interior count, why build a separate division for only one rank? And what, then, would have been under expression? The Grand orgue? The more information we acquire, the larger the number of questions about this organ.)
In any event, these functionaries didn’t even know the accepted term for pipe organ in Chinese, calling it 大風琴 (big harmonium) rather than the established 管風琴 (pipe organ), and repeatedly using the characters 笛 (transverse flute) or 筩 (tube) instead of 管 (pipe).
If the façade contained an entire rank of pipes, perhaps a 4ʹ Montre, or a collection of 8ʹ and 4ʹ diapasons, then we may suppose that the manuals had a range of 58 notes. This is possible, though it is slightly larger than the 56 notes which were characteristic of the organs of Cavaillé-Coll at this date. Based on this manual range, and assuming a 30-note pedal board, I propose the following reconstructed rough specifications:
Total pipes: 941
1 Pedal rank (usually a 16ʹ Bourdon) -30
1 Plein jeu V (5 x 58 notes) -290
621 pipes available for the other manual stops
So, say 11 manual stops, several of which, perhaps including a Viola and a Viola célesté, ran from Tenor C with only 44 or 46 notes, and which would account for the .3 shortfall in the division above. Eleven stops are too many for a single manual organ; so there must have been two manuals.
Result: two manuals and pedal (II/12+Ped):
Grand orgue: 5 stops
Récit: 6 stops (including the possible célesté)
Pedal: 1 stop
and the usual couplers
It would, of course, be most interesting to compare this hypothetical back-calculation with the actual specs of the organ, should they surface someday. And other specs could be worked out from the total pipe count, especially if one removes the hypothetical Plein jeu, and substitutes a simpler mutation such as Nazard.
Finally, the other important thing about this new information is that it has come from a primary source that has absolutely nothing to do with music or the arts. This anomaly has been very characteristic of the research and research approaches developed by The Project since its founding in 1989. It is also at the heart of a fundamental misunderstanding, one by which doors to libraries and archives have been slammed in my face over the years, with the remark “we have nothing about music” offered as some sort of excuse for not wanting to hear me out or help with my research. In this instance, a bit of ‘bean counting’ by palace bureaucracy quite inadvertently preserved important data about one of the pipe organs in nineteenth-century China. It is also significant that this is one of the few bits of data to have emerged from the problematic Chinese ‘palace archives’, which have a very crossed history and of which large parts have been lost since the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911.
27 April 2020
Despite the continuing lockdowns all over the world due to the Covid-19 epidemic, the Project does have a group of updates for April 2020.
There are updates to the following pages:
MAC1831: new image and small update to text
HKG1908: new image and small update to text
PEK1999b: minor update and link to an interesting interview on the German-language website klassik.com with the builder (Oberlinger) from 1999.
We have also noted that Casavant has released the specs for the organ (Opus 3925) that is supposed to be erected in the Cathedral of Macau. This project, originally scheduled for 2018, has been repeatedly delayed, but the projected specs can be found here: http://casavantfreres.com/Jimdo/ProjectsTables/ProjectsPages/3925-MacauCathedral.html
The Errata/Corrigenda list for Keys to the Kingdom has been updated. To find it, scroll down almost to the end of the What’s New posts.
We would also like to let our visitors know that the main picture on each page (the one in the upper right-hand corner) can be enlarged by clicking on it. Sometimes it can be enlarged twice, and then the last click will return it to its original size on the page.
One-year visitors: 8, 059
Total hits since launch: 14, 514
28 March 2020
This has been an extraordinary month world-wide, and there are as a result no updates to the Census or the Website for March 2020. We hope that everyone is safe and following all the precautions set out in different places around the world, and we can only say that we hope for the best.
Prof. Urrows, however, sent us a communication from his lockdown in Manila. He writes that despite the limitations, and the cancellation and postponement of a research trip on which he is actually supposed to be now, he is still managing to work on his new book, Jesuita Cantat: The Letters of François Ravary S.J., and a European Musical Culture in Mid-Nineteenth Century Shanghai. This research is being funded by the Instituto Ricci de Macau in 2019-2020, of which Prof. Urrows is presently a Research Fellow.
Father Ravary, as those who have read Keys to the Kingdom will know, was the mastermind behind the Shanghai bamboo organ workshop of the 1850s and 1860s. However, he and his colleagues did much more than that: they brought music and music education together as important aspects of the curriculum of the College of St. Ignatius at Zikawei; Ravary founded the first brass band in China (1857), and his colleague, Hippolyte Basuiau founded the first public chamber orchestra (ca. 1870); the organ workshop eventually became part of the musical instrument manufactory at the Tushanwan orphanage, and thus the first place in China where harmoniums were manufactured for public sale.
Prof. Urrows has transcribed and translated eight letters now in the Jesuit archive in Vanves, France, written between 1856 and 1861, for this book. Here is a sample from a letter written in 1857. Ravary writes to Basuiau in Paris about a two-manual and pedal harmonium which was about to be shipped to Shanghai, and of the erection of SHA1857, the ‘Bamboo Organ of Tungkadoo [Dongjiadu]’:
“[W]e have read, re-read, and meditated on the interesting details which you have communicated about the Parisian instrument, now awaited here. Brother Deleuze, our illustrious builder of bamboo organs, is over the moon. He awaits the harmonium, about which so much has been said, with artistic impatience; but he, neither more nor less, wants to compare and evaluate the instrument which you have sent to us with the one that has come from his hands. The future will tell. In a month, the case will be settled.
“Such Chinese pride! you’re going to say? To compare a miserable stick of bamboo with those brass reeds so painstakingly fashioned by a pair of expert hands! What do you expect? Dear Father; it is a pride understandable in an artist, just like a mother madly infatuated with her baby, which she finds beautiful even though it’s the homeliest child in town.
“Joking apart, dear Father, the work on the bamboo organ is now finished. The organ has been placed in a magnificent loft which they built at the Cathedral [of St. Francis Xavier] and which, just to mention in passing, had amplified and decorated the church perfectly. The organ is in place, and after eight or ten days the public will be allowed in to hear it. Our case has been heard, and we have won. Yes, won, because I tell you in all sincerity that our success has surpassed all of my expectations. Today everyone is free to give an opinion, and all the opinions are unanimous in praising the organ and its builder. Thanks to the [design and] construction of the building, and the [resulting] transmission of its echoes, the effect of the [tonal] ensemble is admirable and a marvel!
“The day for the inauguration is fixed for the beautiful Feast of the Assumption [15 August]. On that day, I think, we will have a fine service…”
Further details of the progress on this important new publication from The Project will be posted here from time to time.
One-year hits: 8,350
Total website visits since launch: 13,992
1 March 2020
Owing to the relocation of the Project’s files to Manila, things have been a bit slow in the past month.
An interesting communication was received from Dr. Bruce Duncan at The Organ Society of Western Australia. Dr. Duncan created some early lists, still available online, of organs in China, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, and Vietnam,. However, he has noted that it has not been easy to keep these lists up-to-date (something we know very well here at the Project.) Nonetheless, we appreciated hearing from him.
We have added to the Links page the links for the Organ Society of Western Australia (maintained by Dr. Duncan), another covering the entire Australian organ scene, and a link for a site dedicated to organs in New Zealand.
Link to Dr. Duncan’s lists (the Korea page is under construction):
Dr. Urrows also attended the 45th Bamboo Organ Festival at Las Piñas, south of Manila this month. A link for the Bamboo Organ Foundation’s website has also been added.
One-year page views: 8,938
Page views since launch: 13, 277
18 January 2020
Owing to the relocation of the Project’s office this month, the January updates are being posted early.
1-Year Page Views: 9,624
Hits since launch: 12, 564
We wish all our friends and visitors a Happy Year of the Rat! Gung Hei Faat Choi! 恭喜發財!
13 January 2020
Prof. Urrows writes:
As we noted in a What’s New post of 28 April 2019, the letters of Father Meinardi were (re-) published last year by the municipal government of his home town, Druento, in the northwest of Italy, and edited by Prof. Eugenio Menegon, of Boston University.
The letters reveal much more about Meinardi and his musical activities than I had access to when I received from a colleague in 2014 a paragraph, extracted from the 1964 Rome publication of the letters, about his mechanical box organ (listed in the POCP Census as PEK1741) built for the Qianlong emperor. I summarize here, after reading the three long scholarly articles, and all 75 letters in the book (all in Italian, a somewhat tiresome activity, I have to say), a few key findings that are relevant to The Project.
Father Sigismondo was born in Turin in 1713, and baptized as Paolo Antonio Meinardi. His father was a doctor, and the family soon moved to Druento, where he grew up. Having entered the priesthood, and the order of Discalced Augustinians, he was assigned to the China mission. His letter of recommendation stated among other things, that he “is an expert in making harpsichords.” He sailed from Lorient in Brittany to Macau in December 1736. Lorient was the main port for the French East India Company, which explains his departure on a ship from this place. The East India Company also persuaded the captain of his ship to give him special permission to take a harpsichord with him to China .
A year and half later, after arriving in Macau, and then going to Guangzhou, he received permission to travel to Beijing as an “organaro”. This generally means ‘organ builder’; but as in other eighteenth-century cases, it seems that most of the ‘organs’ which Meinardi built were barrel organs with automata and/or automatic playing mechanisms and, as he called then, bagatelle. It is a bit of a stretch to call him an organ builder in the real sense, and anyway he was in Beijing for much of the time that Florian Bahr (1706-71) was there, and no doubt he couldn’t compete with such a professional in the field.
Meinardi arrived in Beijing on 8 April 1738. He was quickly introduced to Qianlong and, after a few days, “I was called by order of the emperor to play on various harpsichords and organs which had come from Europe. When I finished, the emperor said that he wanted a harpsichord [small enough to be] hidden in a bag, for him to take to Tartary; five palms long, and able to play by itself.” The following year, he wrote that “the emperor has excused me from painting and clock-making, and I’m only to occupy myself with making organs.”
Meinardi enjoyed a friendship with Hong Zhou (1712-70), fifth son of the Yongzheng emperor, and a younger brother of Qianlong. In 1740, Hong asked him for and organ “three palms high, that plays Chinese tunes all by itself” This was probably a study for the larger automatic organ (PEK1741) built for Qianlong the following year. It is worth quoting the whole story, since only a part of it is included in Keys to the Kingdom and on the Website page for this organ:
“In this year [of 1741], to give you news of my bagatelle, I built a small organ, about three palms high and two palms wide, with bellows and a cylinder, all hidden inside the sound box made of rare brazil wood and boxwood, so that outside one could not see anything but the sound box and twenty pipes. Inside there were also small bells, which I also made; [the mainspring] automatically activated the bellows and made the cylinder rotate, playing three Chinese sonatas [suonate, possibly better translated as ‘melodies’ or ‘tunes’]. To crown it, with the clever help of Father [Giambattista] Serafino (1692-1742) I made a rooster as large as a duck, which, when each sonata [tune] ended, would stand up, raise his head, flap his wings, and sing cucùlucù. Father Serafino and I presented this to the Emperor on the 1st of August , who enjoyed it a lot, and who gave each of us two pieces of silk, the same as he wears himself, as a gift.
“The fifth Lord, his younger brother [Hong Zhou], saw that he wanted to have one made [by me]. When finished, and because he had to order the court officials to give me the necessary materials, he only gave me three pieces of damask cloth, probably because I didn’t make [it with] the cucùlucù mechanism…”
At the end of 1741, Meinardi was one of the three priests summoned to the palace to teach music (along with Teodorico Pedrini (1671-1746), and Bahr) and the following year his name appears in the court records of musicians. Meinardi recorded the original instrumentation of the famous chamber ensemble of the 1740s quite accurately: six violins, one cello, eight recorders, four transverse flutes, one tromba marina, and two harpsichords. As late at 1747, he was still being called to the imperial palace to regulate ‘organs’, but this may very well mean mechanical instruments.
Pedrini died in 1746, and Meinardi seems to have been involved in rebuilding the 1723 Xitang – which Pedrini had both founded and built – and finished this work in 1753. This is the last interesting detail about his musical activity, although the organ does not figure in it. I let him tell the story for himself, of the schola cantorum which he founded there:
When the Xitang “was finished to the glory of God, I wanted to have Mass sung on the solemn feasts with Chinese music. In this, God aided me, because a Chinese prince of my acquaintance told me he wanted to help, and gave me some Chinese instruments. Then I went on with the most difficult part: I taught eight boys to sing the [Ordinary] of the Mass, and to Chinese music. The other Christians accompanied on the instruments, and already they have sung Mass on different occasions to a big crowd, more or less as I intended…”
Meinardi died in Beijing on the 29th of December 1767, at the age of 54. This publication of his letters and the scholarly articles (as Il mondo di Sigismondo), goes a long way to raising his status as an important missionario-musicista in China during the reign of the Qianlong emperor, one who was already active in trans-cultural musical exchange two-and-more centuries before it became ‘trendy.’
27 December 2019
“Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.” (Ecclesiastes 11:1)
This raises another question in connection with another mystery organ: PEK2004b, the Oberlinger organ reported to us as installed at the ‘Nestorian Church’ in Beijing. As the Census webpage states, we have long considered this (un-located) site as likely to be a spurious report of a non-existent organ in a fictitious church.
An appealing hypothesis now is that the word, union, and second syllable of Nest-orian would sound almost identical to a native Chinese speaker, especially one with a weak command of English. And so perhaps this is how the confusion arose: through a garbled transmission of the name of the location; the putative ‘Nestorian’ organ may turn out to be the one at the Union Seminary.
An inquiry was sent to the Oberlinger firm at the start of December, but at post time no reply had been received. Until this issue is resolved, we have not updated the page for PEK2004b.
In 2015 Prof. Urrows gave a paper at a conference in Hong Kong on Father Rühl, which however has not been published in full. Parts of it are, in a different form, in Keys to the Kingdom (see pp. 224-228). It occurs to us that visitors to this site might be able to help with gathering more information about this elusive figure. Fr. Rühl is perhaps best known for his discovery of the 12 Sonatas for violin and basso continuo of Fr. Teodorico Pedrini (1671-1746) in the Beitang Library in Beijing in 1935.
In particular we would like to track down copies of any of Rühl’s musical compositions. These include the Lieder Communion, Op. 24 (originally published by Schwann in Düsseldorf), which title suggests that there were at least 23 opuses preceding it. Another work that would be most interesting to see, is his book (in Chinese) on organ playing and accompaniment (see the illustration below), published in Beijing in 1939.
Please use the Contact Us page to send information, which is always gladly received and acknowledged.
3. There is a small update to an earlier post on Alois Strassl.
Total website visits: 12,076
One-year views: 9,995
3 December 2019
November was quiet month at The Project. There is one major news article to share:
This month marked the 30th Anniversary of the installation of HKG1989, the IV/93 Rieger organ in the Concert Hall of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre. An article/video appeared on the Hong Kong Government’s website to mark this:
The Project notes that organists Simon Chan and Shirley Cheng, interviewed here, were both students of Prof. Urrows at HKBU.
Total one-year hits to date: 10,106
Total hits since launch: 11,744
Number of organs in the Census: 190
9 November 2019
Prof. Urrows writes:
In Keys to the Kingdom, a variety of partial transcripts of interviews conducted by The Project over three decades appear. Sometimes these accounts are shorter than a full sentence, sometimes they amount to several paragraphs. One of the longer reports (see pp. 298-99) was the result of a 1998 interview with the former curator of SHA1934a, the 3-manual Austin organ installed at what was then the American Community Church in Shanghai. The informant detailed for me its destruction by Red Guards in mid-August 1966.
Recently I picked up a used copy of Colin Thubron’s travel narrative, Behind the Wall: A Journey Through China (1987). This was one of a number of such accounts published in the 1980s by famous travel writers who had the opportunity to visit China during what is called the ‘normalization period’ following the fall of the Gang of Four in 1976. Thubron was traveling in China in the autumn and early winter of 1985, mostly by rail. He interviewed staff at the Shanghai Conservatory, and then recounts that he visited (seemingly by accident) the nearby Community Church, by then known (as it is today) as the International Church.
While it is impossible to say to whom he spoke to in 1985, his account completely confirms that given to me 13 years later:
“Walking one day along a suburban street [Hengshan Lu], I glimpsed behind high walls the chancel of a church, and snooped into a close where a mullioned vicarage stood green with ivy. Even the flowers looked English. Down the nave the dark-wooded pews and the clouded glass spread a liturgical somberness, so that I did not notice the sacristan until he had flitted up behind me – a wraith of a man with delicately boned features…He waved his arm about the nave. ‘The harmonium is relayed by microphones, since our organ was smashed in the sixties.’
The Cultural Revolution: its rupture lay across every past. Even in the present people lived with its detritus – split families, brutalized psyches, a whole skein of invisible divides. The old man sat down in the pew beside me: his height seemed to remain the same. ‘The organ was a gift from America, but it was so old that they had no spare parts for it.’ He spoke of it with tenderness. ‘And do you know who broke it? Red Guard students from the Shanghai Music Conservatory. Can you understand that?’ He put on his glasses as if this might help. ‘I can’t. Nor how they could break our violin.’ He said ‘violin’ in English. The word’s poetry seemed suddenly tragic. ‘How could anyone break a violin?’
‘As for this place, it was used as a rehearsal studio for those Revolutionary operas.’ We sat in a momentary silence, facing the altar where the makeshift stage had once usurped the sacraments under the voiceless organ. ‘What I don’t understand,’ he said, ‘is that nothing inside those young people told them they were doing wrong…’”
(Colin Thubron. Behind the Wall: A Journey through China. London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1987/Penguin Books, 1988, pp. 148-49.)
The comment about ‘spare parts’ probably has to do with the effort in the early 1950s to acquire a new blower for the organ, which was prevented by a U.S. State Department decision that it would be “contrary to the national interest.” The harmonium mentioned may have been the large 1931 Watkins and Watson 2-manual and pedal harmonium I noted in the former Alumni Room in April 1990, less than five years after Thubron’s visit (see photos below.)
Although this is a sad story, it is important that it continued to be told. Thubron was able to record this account less than a decade after the end of the Cultural Revolution, and it is helpful confirmation of the general accuracy of the accounts which I obtained between 1989 and 2016.
31 October 2019
Updates to the Pipe Organ in China Project Website for October 2019:
Although there are no new installations to report this month, there are several updates.
However, nothing is known, according to Fr. Chen, about the organ reported earlier this spring as under design for Zikawei Cathedral. Information on this installation will be posted as it is received.
At the same time, it was depressing to learn that the construction work in the vicinity of Dongjiadu and St. Francis Xavier Church (site of SHA1857, the ‘Bamboo Organ of Tungkadoo’) has been so destabilizing, that in 2016 the church was closed for safety reasons. The local government has ‘promised’ to restore it when the wholesale domicide of the area is done and the new, luxury homes are completed.
One-year views: 10,010.
Pipe organs in the Census: 190
29 September 2019
September 2019 marks the 30th Anniversary of what became The Pipe Organ in China Project. Prof. Urrows tells the story of how it all started in the Introduction to Keys to the Kingdom. It is perhaps is worth mentioning that the unnamed colleague, whose question about the ‘Bamboo Organ of Tungkadoo’ started the whole thing, is now also retired but very much alive and enjoying (we think with some surprise) the effect of his apparently simple question thirty years ago.
萬歲,萬歲,萬萬歲! man seúih, man seúih, man man seúih!
The first published review of Keys to the Kingdom: A History of the Pipe Organ in China in a ‘scholarly’ publication has recently appeared in the Spring issue of the Galpin Society Journal (http://www.galpinsociety.org/journal.htm), LXXII (2019) pp. 241-242. Written by Prof. Stewart Carter of Wake Forest University, it is for the most part a positive review, and we appreciate Prof. Carter’s close reading of the text. Indeed, he has identified one important theme of the book when he writes that it is not only “an engaging, thorough study of the pipe organ in China…it is more than that. It is also a history of Christianity in China through the ‘lens’ of the organ.”
We would just like to clarify two points. The POCP was founded at Hong Kong Baptist University (or HKBU, as it is now known); it is a Hong Kong government-funded tertiary institution, and has never been known as the ‘Baptist University of Hong Kong’. And Prof. Urrows retired from the teaching staff in 2018, not in 2016, and continues to be affiliated as a University Associate.
An “International Organ and Electronic Organ Festival” was held in Beijing between 4 and 8 September 2019. Part of the festival was held at the Central Conservatory of Music (CCOM), and at least one concert was played at the National Center for the Performing Arts (“The Egg”) on PEK2007a.
Just what this festival consisted of is not clear. There is nothing about it on the CCOM website (http://www.ccom.edu.cn/), although there were reportedly recitals on the Rodgers hybrid at CCOM, lectures, and master classes. The inclusion of ‘electronic organ’ and other substitutes for a pipe organ in the title is telling: Rodgers and Viscount were in fact major sponsors, see: https://www.viscountinstruments.com/news/beijing_international_organ/ and
http://www.rodgersinstruments.com/news/rodgers-china. Casavant also sent a representative, and L’ensemble InSpiration from Montréal performed as well.
That this kind of event can be held at all is a big and positive development for organ culture in Mainland China, and these kinds of educational opportunities are much needed. However, it does not seem to have been publicized internationally (even to Hong Kong or Macau), making the ‘international’ aspect dependent upon the presence of a couple of organ and electronic organ manufacturers (and the promotion of their instruments), and a handful of invited performers. We hope one day to see a proper festival (or even a POE, or organ academy) that will really promote the pipe organ, of which there are now plenty in Beijing alone for such an event to be successful. For the time being, however, events like these are probably doing good.
In Keys to the Kingdom, reference is made at various points (especially in Chapters 4 and 5) to Robert Nield’s The China Coast: Trade and the First Treaty Ports (2010). This small, but valuable book is largely free of the usual cant and onerous ‘official historical narrative’. It is a refreshing, objective look at a tumultuous and difficult period in East-West relations. Prof. Urrows reports that he had the pleasure of finally meeting Robert Nield himself at an art gallery opening in Hong Kong at the start of September. A cordial conversation followed. We recommend Mr. Nield’s books to anyone interested in this topic.
HKG1933a: some updating based on information sent by a colleague in Hong Kong about this two-manual Blackett organ, and an additional report of a choir organ, also at Rosary Church.
YCF1937: there is a small update to this installation following a communication received from the Klais firm in Bonn.
Organs in the POCP Census: 190
Hits as of 29/09/19: 9, 756
29 August 2019
3. The Project is sad to note the passing on 1 August of Prof. R.G. (Gary) Tiedemann (1941-2019), of Shandong University (山东大学), Jinan, PRC, and formerly on staff at the School of Oriental and Asian Studies (SOAS) at the University of London.
Prof. Tiedemann was a giant in the world of China and Christianity studies, and an authority on the Boxer Uprising of 1900. He was a distinguished author, a great personal resource for countless China scholars, and was consulted on many occasions during the writing of Keys to the Kingdom. Without his vast knowledge of many obscure people, places, and events, and his willingness to share his expertise, the historical side of Chapter 4 would be much diminished. He will be greatly missed by everyone connected to The Project. An obituary posted to his website can be found here:
4. New book about Fr. Sigismondo Meinardi: as mentioned in an earlier update, a new edition of the letters of Sigismondo Meinardi OAD has been published in Italy. Fr. Meinardi built an elaborate mechanical box organ during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor, listed in the Census as PEK1741.
The link for (free) download of the entire book is: https://www.comune.druento.to.it/it-it/vivere-il-comune/rubriche/il-mondo-di-sigismondo-1880-1-20bf3a4b322e734557081b008ab49bae
The book is described by the publishers as follows:
Assessorato alla Cultura del Comune di Druento, ed. Il mondo di Sigismondo. Un druentino nella Cina del XVIII secolo. Lettere dell’agostiniano scalzo Padre Sigismondo Meinardi da S. Nicola. Druento & Venaria Reale (Torino): Comune di Druento – Tipografia Commerciale, 2019, 248 pages, local publication, no ISBN.
This is a reset and slightly revised edition of 75 “Turinese letters” in Italian, first printed in a limited edition in 1964 (Sigismondo Meinardi da San Nicola OAD. Epistolario. Parte prima. Lettere originali inviate a Torino. Roma: Edizioni di «Vinculum» – Rivista interna dello Studentato Teologico di Gesù e Maria dei PP. Agostiniani Scalzi, 1964), with some additional essays. These letters were sent to his family and his superiors in Turin by Meinardi (1713-1767, Xi Chengyuan 席澄源), a missionary in Beijing and a clockmaker for the Qianlong emperor.
5. Website hits to date: 9,137.
29 July 2019
Updates to the POCP Website for July 2019:
2. Project Founder Prof. David Francis Urrows visited Macau in July, and found that the planned IV/54 Casavant, Op. 3925, for the Cathedral is now apparently ‘on hold.’ No work (at least visible work) has been done in the Cathedral, in particular on the organ loft which should probably hold the antiphonal division. We will update when further information about this major installation, originally planned for 2018, become available.
While in Hong Kong earlier this month, Prof. Urrows acquired two volumes of music by Fr. Antonio Riganti, a PIME missionary who through his ministry had a major impact on music in the Roman Catholic churches of Hong Kong between 1919 and 1965. These compositions are contained in two rather misnamed folios, A Collection of Liturgical Organ Pieces, Vols. 2 and 3. These were edited by the Hong Kong Diocesan Sacred Music Commission and published in 1995 and 1996, respectively.
Most of the works in the two collections date from the mid-1930s, when Fr. Riganti was serving at St. Joseph’s Church, Central (he was Rector of St. Joseph’s between 1927 and 1948.) This church, torn down in 1966-67, was the site of HKG1919. It is possible, therefore, that at least some of Fr. Riganti’s organ compositions were written for, or even played on, this Blackett and Howden organ. The music itself was edited (rather amateurishly) from manuscripts obtained from the PIME archives, as Hong Kong itself does not appear to have any surviving collection of Fr. Riganti’s works. Riganti also composed choral pieces, masses, piano compositions, and chamber music.
The Project is, in general, not much concerned with organ repertoire; but it is certainly interesting to see what was passing for liturgical music at this time. Most of it is a kind of ‘liturgical salon music’; the works have charm, but are highly and in some ways excessively chromatic, many pieces seem more suited for the harmonium, or even the piano, than the pipe organ, and with rather sparing use of the pedal division they lack a certain impact (HKG1919 probably only had a 16ʹ Bourdon in the pedal division, and is known to have had no reed stops.) Most have, however, dates and places of composition, usually St. Joseph’s (see illustration).
Further information about Fr. Riganti and his music is available at the following webpages:
 Pontifico Istituto Missioni Estero (Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions), now based in Rome, but founded in 1850 in Milan and still sometimes known as the ‘Milan Missionaries’.
10 July 2019
Prof. Urrows writes:
At the end of Chapter 1 of Keys to the Kingdom (pp. 50-54), I wrote a few cautious paragraphs about what music might actually have been played by Jesuits (and others) on the organs of seventeenth-century China. There has been, over the past 25 years, a lot of speculation about this topic, and the question of how the office was sung, to what music, etc. Some of it remains in the realm of possibilities; a lot more of it is sheer fantasy by pseudo-scholar performers. As I wrote, “we enter into a completely speculative world of shadows and hypotheses when we try to find a prudent answer to the question of what music would have been performed on the four or five early pipe organs of China.”
Nonetheless, hypotheses have to be made in order for knowledge to advance. In remarking on the Portuguese political and cultural dominance of the China mission at this time, I mentioned a group of popular Iberian composers of the day, including the Spaniard, Francisco Correa de Arauxo (ca. 1576-1654). I also commented that “it is frustrating not to be able to say that one member of the second or third generation of China missionaries might have had a copy of de Arauxo’s influential 1626 Facultad Organica.”
This week, the Lubranos, well-known antiquarian dealers in rare music editions and manuscripts in New York, advertised for sale an original copy of de Arauxo’s Facultad. Describing it as “a rare and important early source relating to the organ, organ playing, and organ music in tablature notation”, the catalog price is a whopping 14, 500 USD. But what struck me most was the handwritten inscription of the original owner on the title page (below): “Collegii Parisiensis Societat. Jesu.”, that is, the Paris College of the Jesuit Order.
This does not offer prima facie (or really, any) evidence that a copy of this work did eventually get to China. But it is intriguing that one of the few surviving copies (only about 12 are known) was owned by a Jesuit College. This certainly is highly suggestive, and it offers a bit of support for the hypothesis that music of this kind — tientos and versos in the Iberian style — would have been just what organists such as Diego de Pantoja, Manuel Rodriguez, and Tomás Pereira would have played in China. For those interested, there is modern edition, edited (poorly) by Macario Santiago Kastner (Union Musical Española, 1948/52; reprinted 1974), and which costs a lot less than the Lubranos’ copy (see “New Acquisitions July 2019” at https://www.lubranomusic.com/catalogues.php).
30 June 2019
Update for June 2019, our first year anniversary:
A new four-manual Klais organ has been installed in the Urban Concert Hall of the Sichuan Conservatory, in Chengdu, Sichuan Province. CHD2019 is a IV/68 mechanical/electric instrument, with a very large number of super- and sub-octave couplers. The specs can accessed here: https://www.klais.de/m.php?tx=243
Information about the new hall (another futuristic, ‘xenophiliac’ building) can be found here: https://archello.com/project/urban-concert-hall-in-chengdu
Site hits to date (slightly over one year since launching the site): a very lucky 8,001!
20 June 2019
Today is the first anniversary of the opening of The Pipe Organ in China Project Website, on 20 June 2018.
When we started, we had only the pre-1949 organ installations up on the site, and during the Summer of 2018 the post-1949 instruments were added. New installations have also gone into the Census, various gremlins in the Census have been sorted out, and many new illustrations have been found and uploaded.
To date, we have had 7,827 visitors to the site, that is over 20 per day, on average.
A big Thank You to all our visitors and friends!
14 June 2019
The great music encylopedist and conductor Nicholas Slonimsky (1894-1995) once said that “it is the goal of every musicologist to become a footnote.” On page 340 of Keys to the Kingdom just such a footnote appears, and is dedicated to mentioning Alois Strassl, an Austrian organist, conductor, and editor, who worked in Nanjing between 1932 and 1938. No comments or records relating to Strassl as an organist during his China years have yet been found. This is why he is not mentioned in the main text (and there is no entry for him in the Index – one of the Project’s ‘rainy day’ desiderata is the creation of an improved Index for the book.)
In May, Project Founder Prof. David Francis Urrows travelled to Austria, where he met with his colleague and friend, Prof. Gerold Gruber of the University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna. Prof. Gruber is the director of Exil-Arte: The Center for Banned Music, a scholarly organization founded in 2016 (www.exilarte.at) In the course of discussion, Strassl’s name came up, and while he was not exactly an exiled composer (he returned to Austria from China about 1938), his presence in China in the lead-up to both the Sino-Japanese War and the Second World War makes him a person of potentially considerable interest.
Strassl was born in Linz (Ried) on 21 June 1903. After graduating from local schools, he studied Musicology and Art History at the University of Vienna (1923-30), where he teachers included Robert Lach, Rudolph von Ficker, Wilhelm Fischer, Robert Haas, Hans Gál (also a teacher of Prof. Urrows, at the University of Edinburgh), Ferdinand Habel, Egon Wellesz, Carl Fürich, Walter Tschoepe, C. Girisch, and Hermann Graedner. He completed his PhD in 1930, with a dissertation on the subject “Das Inhaltsproblem in der Meßkomposition der Wiener Klassik” (The Problem of Content in the Masses of the Viennese Classical Era.) From 1923 to 1926, he was Titular Organist of the Basilica Maria Treu, and Choirmaster there until 1930. Between 1928 and 1931, he was a presenter on Radio Vienna.
According to an obituary published in 1976, after graduating from the University of Vienna, Strassl, “owing to his musical talents and abilities…was chosen from more than 30 other European candidates in 1932 to serve as Professor and Conductor at the Central University in Nanjing, China.” He was subsequently Principal Conductor of the Nanjing Musical Association, and also conducted the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, as well as acting as Director for Western music programming for Nanjing National Radio, where he gave numerous broadcasts on Western music, and introductions to concerts of Western music works and exhibitions of Western art. In 1935 he received the Austrian Service Cross (Verdiesntkreuz) for Art and Science, and in 1936 became an Honorary Fellow (Eherenring) of the National Central University of Nanjing. Among the most important of his activities as an ‘influencer’ in China, is that he was the teacher of Ma Geshun (马革顺, 1914-2015), China’s most prominent choral conductor of the 20 Century, who studied with him at the Central University between 1933 and 1937.
“After he returned [to Austria] in 1937 [sic.] he took up and important post at the RAVAG (now the Austrian Radio) developing musical programming. After serving in the army in World War Two, he was appointed Professor at the Musikhochschule in Vienna and was later appointed Director of the [Austrian] State Library. In addition to his professional duties, he taught at the Vienna Conservatory, was organist of the Piaristenkirche, and directed various choirs.” Among these appointments were the directorship of the Vienna Oratorio Choir (1949-56), the Haydn Orchestral Society (1958-1962), Choir Director at St. Erhard’s, Vienna (1951-1967), and other academic posts and honors. As Oberstaatsbibliothekar from 1956 to his death in Vienna in 1976 (“after a long illness”), he was honored in 1968 with the title, Hofrat (State Councilor).
Strassl also published editions of music of both F.J. and Michael Haydn, and W.A. Mozart. For the POCP, his most interesting publications are the ones that deal with China. These include the following:
*“Nanking” in: Kulturgeschichte Nankings. Edited by Prof. Dr. Chu Sieh [Chu Xie?] (Shanghai: The Commercial Press, 1936). (As this was a Chinese-English text, the original English title was probably something like ‘A Cultural History of Nanking’.) December 2019 update: A copy of the Chinese version is at the Main Library at Hong Kong Baptist University. It does not contain any writing by Strassl, but Strassl contributed 56 photographs to this volume. We are still looking for the English version.
“Einführung in the chinesische Musik” (Introductory Essay), in: Fritz Kornfeld. Die tonale Struktur chinesische Musik (Mödling bei Wien: St. Gabriel-Verlag, 1955).
Journalistic writings and lectures, published at various times and in various venues:
*“Religiöse Verhältnisse in Nanking” (1937/38); *“Katholische Kulturarbeit in China” (1946); “Kulturgeschichte Chinas” (1946); *“Kung-dse [= Confucius] und der Musik” (1946); “Kult- und Profanbauten” (1946); *“Nanking” (1946); “Das Yang-tse” (1946); *“Chinesische Philosophie und Musik” (1948, guest lecture given at the University of Graz); “Die Geschichte der chinesische Musik” (1950); “Die dumpfe Trommel, der berauschende Gong” (1952); “Die chinesische Opernfarbtonfilm: Liang Shan-po” (1954); “Chinesische Musik” (1954).
Strassl also left an unpublished book manuscript: Musikgeschichte Chinas, Ursprung und Entwicklung (‘A History of Music in China: Origin and Development’), as well as a number of derived essays and lectures, on topics including ‘Confucius’, ‘Landscape and Music’, ‘The History of Chinese Theater’, ‘Chinese Grave Cults’, ‘Shandong and the sacred Taishan Mountain’, ‘Jiangxi and Jiangsu, the Provinces of Central China’, and ‘The Popular Theater in China: The ‘Flower Garden’’. He also lectured on Chinese music topics at the Vienna Volkshochschule, and for the Austrian UNESCO commission.
NONE of Strassl’s publications listed above have been located by the Project. We would be very grateful for any visitors who may be able to send us information, or even copies of any of these items, especially those marked with a (*).
 Biographisches Lexikon von Oberoesterreich, Vol. 8 (1963), “Strassl, Alois”.
 Rieder Volkszeitung, No. 34, 19 August 1976.
 Biographisches Lexikon von Oberoesterreich, Vol. 8,
 Rieder Volkszeitung, No. 34, 19 August 1976.
 Biographisches Lexikon von Oberoesterreich, Vol. 8
8 June 2019
The Project has no updates to the Census for the month of May 2019.
However, an interview with Project founder, Prof. David Francis Urrows, has just been published in the newsletter (Peninsula Pipings) of the Palo Alto/Peninsula Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. Prof. Urrows was Chapter Dean in 1996/97, and had other positions of responsibility with the Chapter prior to that.
Editor Katherine Ou discussed the Project and the website with Prof. Urrows, and the extract from the newsletter can be accessed through the pdf file below.
As of today, the website has had 7, 615 hits. 20 June will be the one-year anniversary of the launch of the site!
Happy Dragon Boat Festival to all our visitors!
28 April 2019
In China, ‘leisure’ (康樂, =sports) and ‘culture’ (文化, =art) tend to be linked together at government levels under the same administrative department. Placing a concert hall next to a sixty-year old, 66,000-seat football stadium does not appear incongruous there. The new building will be yet another futuristic (‘xenophilic’) piece of architecture having nothing to do with its surroundings, especially the Soviet-style stadium next door. Details about the design can be found here:
Casavant has not yet released further details, including specs and CAD images. The Project will update on this as information comes in.
Fr. Meinardi appears on p. 123 of Keys to the Kingdom in connection with an automatic box organ he built along with Fr. Giambattista Serafino (1692-1742) in 1741 for the Qianlong emperor. Meinardi reported that the organ’s barrels played “three Chinese sonatas”, but just what these pieces of music were is unknown today. Further information about the new book is available here (in Italian): https://www.comune.druento.to.it/it-it/appuntamenti/il-mondo-di-sigismondo-67934-1-60e934853c612b0ec865731f1eb080fe
21 April 2019
In the course of looking for material on another topic, Project founder Prof. Urrows came across a hitherto undocumented article in The North-China Herald for 9 May 1925, “The Old Tungkadoo [Dongjiadu] Cathedral”. This article provides some addition information about SHA1881 (the final incarnation of the ‘Bamboo Organ of Tungkadoo’, originally SHA1857). According to the anonymous reporter:
“The Cathedral is also remarkable for having what is probably the only bamboo organ in the world. This is an organ of bamboo pipes all of local workmanship and it was used until recently and had a very sweet tone. Unfortunately owing to some trouble with the blowing apparatus the organ has fallen into disrepair and in consequence is not used now.”
This may mean that the 1918 renovations undertaken by Monsignor Lécroart not only included replacing some of the pipes, but may also have seen an electric blower added, although this is not clear from way in which the article is phrased. By 1932, Fr. Roger Doherty SSC heard the organ play at Christmas Midnight Mass, so there were some (until now) undocumented repairs by unknown persons in the intervening seven years. It is possible some work was done in 1925 by the Jones brothers who, at precisely the same time as this article appeared, were busy at Holy Trinity Cathedral beginning the installation of the great Harrison & Harrison organ, SHA1925. Since they overhauled the earlier Walker organ (SHA1883a) in Holy Trinity at this time and reinstalled it at Zikawei, it is plausible that they might have also have been asked to make some repairs to SHA1881, but this is only a hypothesis.
The NCH article was accompanied by a handsome picture of the nave and high altar (below), taken from the organ gallery by doctor, photographer, and amateur organist R[obert] V[yvyan] Dent (1893-1963), who must surely have played the instrument that was sitting right behind him! It is a source of endless frustration that no photograph of the bamboo organ has yet come to light, not even one by Dent who would have had every reason and opportunity to take one.
4 April 2019
During the almost-30 years of The Pipe Organ in China Project’s existence, from time to time we have received reports about pipe organs which turn out either to be false, untraceable, or just too tenuous to follow up or include in the Census.
We have two photographs of organs said to be in Beijing, about which no other information has ever come to us, other than the image. If any of our visitors has any information about these instruments, please use the Contact Us page to send your report. We will gladly acknowledge all verifiable information we receive.
Mystery Organ 1:
This photograph was sent to the Project in 2010. It is described simply as “a German organ in Beijing”, and the implication at the time was that it is a privately-owned positive organ. Although it looks ‘old’, we believe it is a modern replica of an 18th C. design or inspiration.
Mystery organ 2:
This instrument is somewhat less mysterious. The photograph was sent to us in 2009, and is apparently a small pipe organ in the loft of the church at the Union (Yanjing) Seminary at Haidan in Beijing, established in 1986. We have never succeeded in getting in to the Seminary, and no other information appears to be available (no online source can be found naming a builder.) We surmise that it was built around 2005-09, possibly by a German organ builder.
We would appreciate any information our visitors have to share. (The Chinese-language captions on the photos do not help with this, and only identify Beijing as the location.) Thank you! 谢谢!
30 March 2019
This has been a quiet month at The Pipe Organ in China Project, except that page views up to today have reached 5, 462!
A new three-manual and pedal Rieger organ, FCW2018b, was dedicated in November in Fuzhou. This is located in the new, large Flower Lane (Hua xiang) Church, a ‘megachurch’ with over 20,000 members.
Further data on a photo (from 1916) has been added to FCW1915, and some old confusion over the identification of two different churches in Fuzhou has now been cleared up (including the original ‘Flower Lane Church’.)
While not in China, the Project’s founder had the opportunity to visit Singapore in March, and play on the newly-restored and enlarged 1912 Bevington two-manual organ at the Roman Catholic Cathedral. The work was carried out by Diego Cera Organ Builders, and is a model of what should urgently happen to the similarly derelict, or near-derelict organs in Hong Kong built for Roman Catholic parishes in the 1920s and 30s by William Charlton Blackett.
23 March 2019
Another amusing anecdote about the reed organ has come to the Project’s attention this past month, while we were (as usual) looking for something else. This is a letter to the editor, published in the venerable missionary journal, The Chinese Recorder, in the issue for September 1916 (p. 647). Written from Yungchow (Yongzhou) in southern Hunan province, it is yet another example of how the reed organ/harmonium played such large role in missionary life – especially in the introduction of Western music to Asia – and of the global reach of the growing U.S. music industry after the American Civil War.
The Project has not (yet) been able to identify the irritated Mr. Alfred W. Hill, but he does not seem to have been a missionary and was probably a businessman or other professional.
Estey reed organs were very popular, both in China and in ASPAC generally, at this date. From the 1880s Estey had even marketed a special ‘Acclimatized Organ’, which was supposed to stand up better to the local, humid climates.
To the Editor of “The Chinese Recorder.
Dear Sir: I wish to find a purchaser for an Estey Organ which has through an error come to be on my hands. The history of the error is this. Writing to a friend in Ireland for a friend in China for information re prices of organs, I was either so ambiguous or my friend in Ireland so stupid that he read my letter as a request to send out an organ. Almost the first thing I again heard about it was the organ’s arrival in China. An organ is about the one thing I don’t want, and I think if you publish this note in your correspondence columns, someone who may want an organ may be led to take the thing off my hands.
The organ in an Estey, Model BH, walnut, listed in England [at] £58. I am advised by my Irish friend, who made the mistake, to offer @ £30 price down.
With many thanks for space in your paper for my note.
Alfred W. Hill
25 February 2019
This month there are no updates to the Census of new instruments; but the Project has been excited to learn that a contract has been let for a three-manual and pedal, 32-stop, electric action pipe organ for the Cathedral of St. Ignatius at Zikawei (Xujiahui) in Shanghai. Further details will be forthcoming later in the year about this successor to SHA1883a.
New photos have been added for HKG1927b (taken in 2013, before the repainting of the church’s interior.)
The major activity this month has surrounded WHN1846, and the discovery (noted in the previous What’s New post) that this locally-built organ in a remote location had pipes made of bamboo. As reported, this increases the number of builders/locations of bamboo organs in China to at least 2, and pushes back the starting date of this type of organ by a decade. Through the thoughtfulness of our colleague, Prof. Francesco Maglioccola, it is possible to share some more biographical details about the builder of this instrument, culled from recondite material which Prof. Maglioccola has located in archives and libraries in China and Italy, and which he has kindly shared with the Project.
Father Giovanni Battista Torre da Omegna (嚴懷義)was born in 1808 at Cusio in the province of Novara, in the Piedmont region (some sources call this part of Liguria.) The House of Torre was an old noble family, and Giovanni showed an interest in the religious life as a boy. He was ordained a priest in 1831, and his first overseas posting was to Palestine. He spent time as priest and administrator in Bethlehem, Beirut, Tripoli, and Cyprus. He returned to Italy briefly in 1842, and then left for China, his “second homeland.”
Conditions in the vicariate of Huguang (today’s Hubei and Hunan provinces) in 1843, where he was sent shortly after the conclusion of the First Opium War, were not good for missionaries. Nonetheless, it was during his brief five years of service there that he built the bamboo pipe organ for the little church at Tianmen, near Hankow (Hankou; today, part of the megacity of Wuhan).
In 1848, the bishop, Giuseppe Novella da Carpasio (1805-72, whose letters are the source of information about the organ), and a Spanish friar, Fr. Miguel Navarro (1809-77), were expelled from Huguang and exiled to Canton (Guangzhou). Fr. Torre da Omegna was named Vicar general of Wuchang in their places. But after only a few weeks in this role, while bringing the sacraments to a sick parishioner in Wuchang, he was arrested on 30 January 1848, on the orders of the local ‘governor’, ‘Kiam-hia-hiem’. Fr. Torre was maltreated, and starved in prison for three weeks, apparently not so as to kill him but to ‘persuade’ him to leave the area.
Eventually, due to his deteriorating condition, he was sent under the guard of a minor mandarin to Canton. Here, after long negotiation, he was released into the custody of Dr. Peter Parker (1804-88), a renowned physician, Protestant missionary, and eventual diplomat. But he was past the medical help of the time, and there was nothing to be done. He died on 15 April of his injuries. Some sources say he died in Hong Kong, but the eyewitness account by Monsignor Novella says he died in Parker’s house in Hog Lane, Shamian, Canton, which doubled as his hospital. Parker arranged for a steam launch to take his body to Hong Kong, where, to the dismay of his Roman Catholic confrères, an autopsy was performed. The conclusion was that he had died of an inflammation of the brain. The Franciscans now consider him a martyr.
Father Torre da Omegna was buried in a small Catholic cemetery, “eastwards of Cantonment Hill” (today’s Hong Kong Park) and outside the British residential settlement (British Hong Kong was only founded in 1841-42, and was still quite small at this date.) The location of his original grave is lost; but it was somewhere south of Queen’s Road East in present day Wanchai, on the hill that is now is crossed by Sun, Moon, and Star Streets, appropriate enough for a Franciscan!
A 1926 publication (in Latin) by Fr. Cosma Sartori, printed at Hankow, mentions that “This Father Torre was famous in scientific and mechanical arts”, but adds nothing further about the pipe organ.
Website Hits to date: 4,143!
 As given by Msgr. Novella in his letter. Perhaps this ‘Kiam’ was actually the local daotai, as the Governor-General (or Viceroy) of Huguang at this date was one Yu Tai 裕泰 (in office 1839-51).
 Cosma Sartori OFM. Elenchus biographicis ac chronologicis notis ornatus complectens missionarios externos ac indigenas qui sacrum obierunt ministerium in vicarialibus apostolicis de Hu-Kwang, de Hu-Peh, de Hu-Peh Orientali, de Han-Kow. (Hankow: Missio Catholica, 1926), p. 54.
8 February 2019
In an exciting new discovery, we have received word from our colleague, Prof. Francesco Maglioccola in Wuhan, that a letter written in 1845 (and published in 1848) has been found relating to Fr. Giovanni Battista Torre da Omegna, and concerns the organ Fr. da Omegna built for the little church at Tianmen, WHN1846.
The letter, written by Fr. Giuseppe Novella da Carpasio, mentions that the pipes of WHN1846 were made of canne cinesi — bamboo!
This pushes back the frontier of organs with bamboo pipes in China by more than a decade before the great ‘Bamboo Organ of Tungkadoo’ in Shanghai (SHA1857). Did the Shanghai builders (Jesuits) know of Fr. da Omegna’s organ? Did Fr. da Omegna (a Franciscan) know of the organs of Fr. Diego Cera (an Augustinian Recollect), built with bamboo pipes in the Philippines in the first quarter of the 19th C.? Fr. Cera died in 1834, so it is unlikely that any of them ever met (besides belonging to different orders, and living in different administrative areas.) We will probably never know for certain, but this is a major find in history of adapting bamboo to pipe organs in Asia.
We are also grateful to our graduate student, Francesco Teopini, for helping with the translation of Fr. da Omegna’s letter:
“This church [at Tianmen], which anywhere in Italy would move [one] to compassion, is nonetheless the biggest and most beautiful, or at least the least miserable and the least dirty of the whole Vicariate; and from this, you can get an idea of all the other inconveniences. It is enough to tell you that it has no windows, and that it would not receive any light, were it not for a big hole in the middle of the roof, from where, when it rains, water pours down as in the streets. One of our priests, Father Giovanni Battista Torre da Omegna, has made a beautiful organ, taken here for a miracle of European intelligence, with [pipes of] bamboo [canne cinesi], which are not unlike the ones in India. As a matter of fact, it is so sweet and so harmonious, and it was built with such mastery, that not even an Italian church would dislike it. People came from different places to see it…”
6 February 2019
By Project Founder, Prof. David Francis Urrows.
Albert Faurot was an American missionary-musician, pianist, conductor, opera producer, and (in a small way) philanthropist. A graduate of Park College and the Oberlin Graduate School of Theology, he came to China in 1936 to teach music at Foochow College for the United Board for Christian Higher Education in China. He later taught at Hwa Nan College, Foochow Christian University, and the National Fujian Academy of Music. In October 1950, he was ejected from China along with all other foreign missionaries, and taught for one year at Kobe College in Japan. In 1952 he moved to the Philippines. As a choral conductor, arranger, and concert pianist, he gave what were probably the Chinese premieres of many important 20th C. works, from Randall Thompson’s Alleluia in Fuzhou in 1950, to George Crumb’s Makrokosmos in Beijing in 1981.
In one of his earliest published writings, he tells an amusing story which nonetheless points to the large role played by the reed organ/harmonium in missionary life in China in the second half of the 19th, and first half of the 20th centuries. He doesn’t give any source for this, but it is worth reprinting here anyway:
A missionary who arrived at the turn of the [20th] century tells of waking the first morning to hear in the girls’ dormitory the sound of a dozen little [reed] organs being played. For several mornings this continued, the scales and arpeggios and little pieces starting promptly at six. On inquiring of the Chinese Dean the reason for this, the missionary was told that it was the “six o’clock rule.” The missionary protested that it seems rather heartless to require the girls to practice at six on winter mornings, in the dark, unheated rooms. “Oh,” explained the Dean, “the rule is not that they must practice at six, but that they cannot practice before six. Otherwise they would begin in the middle of the night! But nothing,” the Dean continued, “could prevent them from practicing silently on the organ key-boards, until the clock struck six, when their little bound feet began pumping the bellows.”
In Faurot’s youth (he grew up in the American Midwest) the term, organ, usually meant reed organ/harmonium, especially in mission contexts. If this story is true, then these were probably ‘baby organs’ of the melodeon type. Such instruments were not only imported, but were already being manufactured in China at this time by both missions as well as by commercial firms, such as Moutrie in Shanghai. They were small, often built to fold up into a box, and relatively inexpensive (see 1933 advertisement from the Lazarist establishment in Beijing.) While the Project does not survey reed organs, these kinds of stories (funny or not) add to a body of literature showing how the organ and organ literature were dispersed in China before 1949.
POCP founder Prof. Urrows is currently working with Silliman University in Dumaguete in Negros Oriental, Philippines (where Faurot taught from 1952 until his death) on a research project documenting the life of this important American musician, who had a lasting influence in the three Asian countries (China, Japan, the Philippines) where he taught and concertized (he is mentioned briefly in connection with FCW1915.) A Festschrift of Faurot’s writings is planned for publication next year in connection with the thirtieth anniversary of his passing.
 Albert Faurot. “New Music for an Ancient Land: How Western Music Went to China”. The Etude, 66/2 (February 1948).
23 January 2019
Here are the POCP updates for January 2019: we report on two new Casavant installations, in Fuzhou (concert organ) and Shanghai (unit organ.)
A new photograph has also been added to SHA1857, (site of the ‘Bamboo Organ of Tungkadoo’.)
We are still waiting for news of the forthcoming large Casavant installation in the Cathedral in Macau, which should be in place by mid-year.
The Project is also excited to announce that over the past month, the number of hits on the site has spiked from just over 2,000 to 3,118 today! A 50% increase in cumulative traffic in less than 5 weeks.
We wish all our visitors and friends a Prosperous Year of the Pig. 恭喜發財!
24 December 2018
Christmas and Holiday Greetings from The Pipe Organ in China Project.
There are three updates for new installations this month, all oddly in Zhejiang Province:
Of these, the Ningbo installation of a 1908 Hinners organ is significant as the third known relocating of an existing organ to China. This is of course a trend that should be encouraged, despite a certain resistance to the concept in context. The Hinners firm was located in Pekin, IL, and it is somewhat amusing to know that the name of the town has been attributed to the (erroneous) 19th C. belief that Peking (Beijing) was on the exact opposite side of the globe from the town. The earliest known pipe organ in Korea (a I/7+Ped tracker) was also built by Hinners, in 1919 (sadly, destroyed in the Korean War.) There are also reports (unverified) of a Hinners organ in pre-WWII Manila.
The Hangzhou (Hangchow) installations at Zhejiang Conservatory are both by Freiburger Orgelbau.
We are also very pleased to tell you that, six months after launching this site, we now have over 2,000 hits.
3 December 2018
This has been a quiet month at The Pipe Organ in China Project.
There is an update to
including a CCTV video short from a couple of years ago, about the program in organ study recently introduced at the Shanghai Conservatory. The organ is heard, but only in snippets of the T & F in D minor.
If any of our visitors finds links to performances on organs in China, we would be happy to add these to the respective pages. Please use the Contact Us page for this purpose.
14 November 2018
In the past month the Project has received several communications relating to William Charlton Blackett (1859-1941), the most important organ builder ever to work in Hong Kong.
The first item, courtesy of our friend and colleague Stuart Wolfendale, is a link to a historical website devoted to Heaton, Newcastle-on-Tyne, where Blackett founded his first organ firm with Charles William Howden around 1890 (Blackett and Howden). A section on Blackett and Howden can be found here, including information about Blackett’s risky 1917 trip from London to Hong Kong onboard the S.S. Fushimi Maru: https://heatonhistorygroup.org/tag/heaton-methodist-church/?fbclid=IwAR3qGWldMYd4WlQqWeXsAy9ObPXunUaGUd-mjnsG_LCpiAm0ZF1-F8c6–Q
Thanks to the kindness of Mr. Lee Ping Yin, the Project also recently received a short video of the blowing mechanism of HKG1934, at St. Teresa’s Church, Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong. This is the ‘big wheel’ system referred to by the informant who provided information about the organ at Rosary Church, Kowloon (HKG1933a), and is certainly unique as far as we are concerned.
The Project hopes that HKG1934 will eventually be restored to playing condition.
5 November 2018
By Project Founder, Prof. David Francis Urrows
In the course of China’s ‘organ race’ (see FAQs) the issue of the size of organs has been a prominent theme. The Project has recorded comments about this one-upmanship feature of the race, and the sometimes odd or purely symbolic decisions to build (or at least label) organs with specific numbers of stops, such as the 88 stops of SHA2005, and the 56 stops of ORD2010.
The problem with defining the size of a pipe organ is a fraught business, and only gets more complicated as the size of the instrument increases. There are three basic measurements:
All three of these are not as clear as they might appear at first, and are subject to manipulation. Does the number of stops include only the number of real stops, or of all speaking stops? That is, are we counting the stops backed up by an actual rank of pipes, or ranks extended, transmitted, borrowed, or otherwise re-utilized by the builder to create a new stop out of an existing stop?
The number of pipes is even more open to deceptive practices, since certain types of stops use multiple pipes per note (as with Mixtures and Mutations.) Thus an organ builder can bulk up the pipe count, at little expense, by including many mixtures and mutations in the instrument without making it bigger in a tonal, or musically significant way.
Weight is the crudest measure of size, and only really an issue with very large organs.
Recently, an attempt to establish a metric which rationalizes all these issues was published in the online journal of the American Guild of Organists (AGO), Vox Humana. This system, devised by Polish organist Michał Szostak, uses a form of real rank count to gauge the size of a very large organ. This system privileges organs with lots of mixtures: but it also makes allowance for stops that are not full-length, and averages out mixtures with varying numbers of pipes per note. The article can be found at:
The greatest battle of the largest organs has always been between the Atlantic City (NJ) Boardwalk Hall Organ, and the Wanamaker Organ in Philadelphia. Using Szostak’s system, Atlantic City comes out ahead due to its rank count (517 vs. 470), even though Wanamaker has more stops (395 vs. 381). He provides charts for the largest organs in the United States, Europe, and the world. It is significant that the majority of the instruments in these charts are located in either the U.S., or Germany.
How this metric would apply to the question of the size of some of China’s larger organs, such as HKG1989, CAN1995b, PEK2007a, and FCW2017, is not entirely clear. It would be extremely interesting to follow up this exercise, but it is difficult to get accurate specs for some of these instruments, as has been noted in Keys to the Kingdom and elsewhere on this website. However, it also remains to be seen what criticism Szostak’s system will encounter, and how widely it may be accepted and used in the future.
30 October 2018
Updates for October 2018 on The Pipe Organ in China Project Website:
XAN2016 (new installation)
FCW1915 (updated information)
CAN1995a (stop list added)
Happy Hallowe’en from The Pipe Organ in China Project!
4 October 2018
New organs by three different builders have been added to the Census:
We are anticipating additional new instruments by the end of the year in Macau and Fuzhou, so please check back regularly. Some new pictures have also been added to MAC1831 after a trip by the project founder to Macau in late September.
Thanks to all our visitors for your continuing support. We have added a tracker to the site so that we can see how many hits we are getting, and other data. So far we are very encouraged! (And, no, we do not know why Monsignor Garnier (see previous post) has become the ‘mascot’ of our Facebook posts, when we have subsequently added new pictures.)
11 September 2018
By Project founder, Prof. David Francis Urrows
FCW1931 is the small bamboo organ reported by Hong Kong organ enthusiast, Peter Cheung, in 1975. In his book, Pipe Organs, Electronic Organs, and Organists, and also in a letter to the South China Morning Post (24 February 1975), Cheung reported that in 1931 he had seen a “bamboo organ, quite small, with all bamboo pipes, built by foreign missionaries…in a small church in Foochow, Fukien Province.”
On p. 272 of Keys to the Kingdom I questioned whether this could have been one of François Ravary and Léopold Deleuze’s bamboo organs of the early 1860s. It would be quite extraordinary to think that there were further builders in late 19th or early 20th Century China of such instruments after the death of Deleuze in 1865, and that of Ravary in 1891. One cannot rule out the remote possibility that Deleuze’s student apprentices in Shanghai might have carried on the tradition; they certainly are known to have continued building normal reed organs/harmoniums at the Tushuwan orphanage near Zikawei. But there is no evidence that new bamboo organs continued to be built after Deleuze’s death, aside from the fact that Ravary continued to tinker with those already installed until 1891.
While Cheung did not identify the ‘church’ in question, I have assumed cautiously that this was probably a Roman Catholic church or chapel, although there is actually no evidence for this assumption. Or is there?
Recently I revisited a short report, published on page 3 of the North-China Daily News on 20 January 1896, about the consecration of a Roman Catholic chapel in Fuzhou:
“In its account of the consecration of the new Roman Catholic Chapel at Foochow, the Echo mentions that Bishop Masot presented the ground and the organ; the French consul, M. Frandin, originated the idea and worked hard to get it carried through; Count P. de Barthelémy, on a visit to Foochow, gave a comparatively large sum to start subscriptions for the purpose; Mr. Fairhurst and Count de Galembert guaranteed the outlay until the subscriptions were collected; Bishop Garnier of Shanghai gave the altar-piece and the candlesticks; and Sir Robert Hart, Bart., contributed $400; besides many others.”
The Shanghai paper abstracted this from the Foochow Daily Echo, which ran from 1884 to 1911 (or later), the original of which I have not yet located. It would be very interesting to see this, as it might contain more detailed information, for example, the name and dedication of the ‘chapel.’ When I first read this around 2013, I printed out an A3 copy, marked the paragraph, and wrote at the top of the page “Fuzhou – probably a harmonium”.
Yes, it states that the organ was procured by the local bishop, Salvator Masot. No, it does not identify the church (although it was clearly not St. Dominic’s Cathedral.) But the name that jumped out at reading it again was that of Bishop Valentin Garnier from Shanghai, someone who in fact knew both Ravary and Deleuze, the masterminds of the bamboo organ workshop at Zikawei, very well.
Garnier appears once in Keys to the Kingdom, in an account by another priest written in December 1881:
“We spent the Feast of St. Francis Xavier [3 December] at Dongjiadu with Monsignor Garnier. The Cathedral was very well decorated, and Father Ravary inaugurated four stops of his organ, the only ones which were ready under the circumstances. When the other twenty are in place, it will truly be an instrument worthy of a cathedral, even in France.” (p. 172.)
The organ referred to here is SHA1881, Ravary’s final expansion, to a III/24 instrument, of the ‘Bamboo Organ of Tungkadoo’ that he and Deleuze had originally built a quarter-century earlier (SHA1857). So, Garnier was very much in the thick of the matter of the bamboo organs.
An appealing hypothesis emerges here: could Garnier have off-loaded one of the half-dozen small bamboo positives, built by Deleuze and his students in the later 1850s and early 1860s, onto Bishop Masot? He was generous enough with the altar and candlesticks, and it must have taken a good deal of ecumenical goodwill on his part to do this, considering the sorry history of relations between the Jesuits and the Dominicans in China over two tempestuous centuries.
All this is unprovable, at least at present. If we had been told more by Peter Cheung, we could rule in or out that the bamboo organ was seen in a Roman Catholic church. Failing that, what we have is a report of an ‘organ’ installed in 1896 in a Roman Catholic chapel in the right city, Fuzhou. (At this date, ‘organ’ generally meant reed organ.) The instrument, if built by Deleuze, et al., would have been about thirty years’ old at that point: but Deleuze built things to last, as his one remaining positive, now in Paris in the Musée de la Musique, shows (SHA1858). Cheung, showing up in 1931, thirty-five further years later, describes an instrument that answers well to what we know of Deleuze’s small bamboo organs. And he was evidently told that it had been “built by foreign missionaries” and thus was not an imported instrument, and probably of considerable age by that time.
A published study such as Keys to the Kingdom is not the place for flights of fancy speculation such as this. But the internet is just the place, and the Project puts forward this line of inquiry and hopes someday to improve on it when more information is available.
 Salvator Masot y Gómez OP, Vicar Apostolic of Fujian Province, 1845-1911.
 Joseph Hippolyte Frandin, 1852-1924.
 François Pierre Sauvaire de Barthélémy, 1870-1940.
 Thomas Fairhurst, tea merchant, dates unknown.
 Probably Henri de Bodin de Galembert, 1854-?
 Valentin Garnier SJ, Vicar Apostolic of Jiangnan (Kiangnan) Province, 1825-98.
 Notable inspector general of the China Imperial Maritime Customs (CIMC) Service, 1835-1911.
1 September 2018
The non-functioning link to the website of the Ferdinand Verbiest Institute’s page on Keys to the Kingdom has now been fixed.
If there is any problem with the button on that page, the correct URL is: https://www.kuleuven.be/verbiest/publications/lcs/lcs38
Thank you for your patience on this matter.
25 August 2018
Updates to the site in the last month (August 2018) include the following items:
Main illustrations (pics) have now been added to all pages for 17, 18, and 21 C. organs, and many other illustrations have been added to different pages. The text has been revised for 17th C. organs, and we are gradually standardizing the language of reporting on the site.
Additions to the Census:
3 August 2018
Pages for all organs listed in the Census (Appendix) to Keys to the Kingdom have now been uploaded! These includes several instruments which were not known to the Project at the time the final authorial edit was completed in September 2016.
The Project will now focus on instruments which have been installed in the past 24 months, and on enhancing the existing pages with more (and in some cases, better) photographs and illustrations. We are particularly interested to hear from any visitors to the site who may have material of this kind to share. Please communicate with us through firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you all for your continuing support.
27 July 2018
Pages for all organs installed in Macau, Hong Kong, and Mainland China for the first half of the present decade (2010-2014) have now been uploaded. Pages for installations up to the present date will follow in the next couple of weeks.
Thank you for your support and your patience.
24 July 2018
The Project is pleased to announce that the Contact Us link is now working.
If you experience any difficulty with sending us a message by clicking on the link, please copy the email address (email@example.com) and paste it into your usual email program and proceed from there.
Thank you all for your patience.
20 July 2018
Pages for all pipe organs installed in Hong Kong, Macau, and Mainland China in the decade 2000-2009 are now up.
Further pages for the current decade (2010- ) will be created in the coming weeks (there are a very large number of these).
16 July 2018
All pages for organs installed in Hong Kong and Mainland China between 2000 and 2004 have now been uploaded. Pages for the second half of the decade will follow in the next week or so.
The Project would like to point out that this site is mainly for research and dissemination, and only incidentally for publicity or other matters.
We are aware that the Contact Us page is not functioning correctly, and we are working this week on getting this fixed. Thank you for your patience.
12 July 2018
Pages have now been uploaded for all pipe organs in Mainland China and Hong Kong built in the 1970s and 1980s. Further pages will appear shortly.
10 July 2018
The Project has consistently eschewed dealing with pipe organ-like instruments such as the regal, the harmonium, and all kinds of electronic and digital organs, except where these occasionally shed some light on the larger topic, or are important for the association of ideas.
Recently, our colleague Prof. Patrizio Barbieri published an article in Informazione Organistica (see below, and also PEK1720) from which some very interesting information about three regals in China has emerged.
The first of these is a regal presented to the Jesuits in 1598 by Rannucio I Farnese, Duke of Parma (r. 1592-1622). This was “a regal contained in a small writing desk to be sent to the Jesuit fathers…who have been instructed to present it to the King [sic.] of China.” Rannucio’s interest in the China mission may have been influenced by his mother, Maria of Portugal, and the fact that the China mission was almost entirely both Jesuit and Portuguese until the second quarter of the seventeenth century, due to the establishment by the papacy of the padroado. It was this same Duke of Parma who later sent an extravagant claviorganum to China (MAC1620).
It seems unlikely this 1598 regal ever got to Beijing, but this raises at the same time the interesting question, that if it did, is this then the organo used in Beijing in 1611 at the funeral of Matteo Ricci? This is a question easy to pose, and virtually impossible to answer.
The second regal appears over a century later, and was presented to the Kangxi emperor by the papal legate Charles Thomas Maillard de Tournon in 1707. Information about this comes from a letter written four years later by Teodorico Pedrini, who remarked that “Musical instruments are very pleasing to him [Kangxi], the best is a small regal presented to him by the late Cardinal [de Tournon].”
The third and last regal was a small instrument, a “regoletto…decorated with inlay” brought to Kangxi in 1719 with the embassy of the papal legate, Mezzabarba. This was among the instruments that included PEK1720.
We are grateful to Prof. Barbieri for sharing his research with us.
9 July 2018
Through the kindness of our colleague, Prof. Patrizio Barbieri, many new details about PEK1720 have recently come to light. This information is contained in the article, “Musical Instruments, Gut Strings, Musicians and the Corelli Sonatas at the Chinese Imperial Court: The Gifts of Clement XI (1700-1720)”. Informazione Organistica, XXVIII/2 (December 2016), pp. 205-257.
This article also contains some additional interesting information which will be noted in future News posts. The entire volume is dedicated to the memory of the late Prof. Peter Williams, with whom Prof. Urrows studied at Edinburgh University in 1979-80.
23 June 2018
Keys to the Kingdom: A History of the Pipe Organ in China
A running list of errata, typos, and other text issues. Corrections to items listed in the Census (pp. 347-59) are dealt with on the pages for individual organs on this website.
TOC (p. 7)
Interlude I: for 137, read 139
Chapter 4: for 149, read 151
p. 43, para. 2, for “establish an anti-meridian”, read established
p. 78, fn 138, for “the diagrams…” read the trigrams
p. 132, para. 2, for “and continued to cultivated traditions”, read the cultivated
p. 143, para. 1, for “Louis de Poirot, in 1814” read 1813
p. 172, para. 2, for “Seminary of Brugelette” read pensionnat of Brugelette.
p. 172, fn 372, for “Presumably Jules Dufour d’Astafort” read Léon Dufour. The Project is working on finding out more about this figure.
p. 180, fn 400, for “Cathédale de Pékin”, read Cathédrale
p. 203, para 2, for “Fonatanier”, read Fontanier
p. 219, para. 2, for “Thomas, our la Mission de Pékin”, read ou la Mission de Pékin
p. 237, para. 2, for “SHA1888”, read SHA1883a
p. 261, para. 3, for “SHA1934”, read SHA1933
p. 263, para. 2, for “Schumann shared the duties”, read Schuhmann shared
p. 264, Chart 5.11, II. Manual, 13., vox celestis should have: 8′
p. 277, para. 3, for “from the 1884 Walker”, read from the 1887 Walker
p. 288, para. 1, for “managed to archives”, read the archives
p. 308, para. 1, for “HKG1975”, read HKG1973
p. 309, para. 2, for “made in the 1980s”, read made in 1993
p. 317, para. 2, for “in Beijing in 2011 (PEK2011)”, read 2012 (PEK2012)
p. 332, fn 759, for “an 40-minute metro ride”, read and a 40-minute metro ride
p. 358, PEK2015b, for “Casvant”, read Casavant
Last update: 14 July 2020
20 June 2018
The Pipe Organ in China Project Website is now up and online at www.organcn.org! At present pages for all the historical (i.e. pre-1949) instruments are available for viewing. More photos, pics, and enhancements will gradually be added to these pages.
The new installations (i.e. post-1949) will be also be added over the next few months. Please check back frequently as the site is enlarged.