Another disturbing ripple in the force...............
I got a forwarded note which Mark Wick sent to his sales associates. It appears that Wicks has built it last honest to goodness Wicks organ. The company is downsizing to 10 people, they are moving out of their big organ shop building, across the street to much smaller premises, and any future sales will be done using outsourced help. They will stay (or hope to) in business, mostly as a service company. After all they estimate that there are still 5,000 Wicks organs out in the field. They built more than 6,400 instruments over a 100 year period.
Sad sign of the times.
You can read more here, http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/i...253eb69eb.html
Last edited by arie v; 01-14-2011 at 03:09 PM.
Another disturbing ripple in the force...............
Hammond Colonnade, Aurora Custom, Mathushek Square piano from 1934
Retired: Hammond L-102, M-3, S-6, H-112, B-2+21H+PR-40, B-3+21H.
I suspect Wicks in particular is struggling for all the mentioned reasons, but also because they traditionally have competed in the lower end ("lower end" being a relative term) of the pipe organ market, a market segment which is small to begin with, but also now very much in play for builders of higher-end electronic organs and pipe/electronic combination organs because of the advances in digital technology- indeed Wicks themselves has done a bunch of this sort of work in the past decade. The Wicks organs I have come in contact with seem well-built, but are not remarkable-sounding as pipe organs, very run-of-the-mill. With the improvement in digital stops from folks like Walker Technical, this makes the electronic side of the equation very tempting.
I played the reasonably large 2002 Wicks/Walker combination organ at Calvary Baptist Church in NYC a couple years back, (specification at http://www.nycago.org/Organs/NYC/htm...ryBaptist.html) and honestly, the Walker electronic work was just about as good as the Wicks pipe work. This makes for an uphill battle if you're trying to stay in the pipe organ business on the lower end of that market. The average buyer of this sort of thing is not a purist to begin with, or they'd be shopping elsewhere, and if they can get several good electronic stops for the price of a single average-sounding rank of pipes, the temptation to do so will be strong.
People who are seriously interested in fine pipe organs and have the requisite resources are shopping Dobson or Fisk or another of the high-end boutique firms, or even Schantz or Casavant or Reuter; not Wicks. The folks without the requisite resources are rebuilding their existing organs or buying electronics. There are a lot of firms, pipe, electronic, or both, who are competing for the small segment in the middle.
Last edited by michaelhoddy; 01-15-2011 at 06:42 PM.
Very sad to see this of course. A reflection of the economy, and I think most importantly of the constant erosion of classical music in religious services. What bodes ill for Wicks, in my humble opinion equally bodes very ill for Rodgers, Allen & Phoenix....and the remaining pipe organ builders as well.
I don't see anything changing in my lifetime either.....to my observations, I think a deadly sign for all organ builders (whether pipe or electronic) is that there are just so few organists out there that can play the instruments. Lots of churches have instruments, but are seldom played.
At my church we have too many organists who want to play our excellent III/72. Some of them, while they may play it okay; are not fully "with it" in the stewardship department. We had a New Year's Eve Mass at which neither I nor our music director wanted to play. I allowed a nun to play the order because she was clearly very respectful of the instrument. I was told later that she did okay but did not sound like she really knew what she was doing. I responded that I was fine with that because my main concern was that she did no harm.
The church building our congregation left behind when we built a new facility had a Wicks organ in it. It was highly unified and did not have enough power for the room (which seated 860). I had heard that when that instrument was purchased that the committee had recommended a larger organ by a better known company, but the bean counters didn't think the congregation would pay for it, so they opted for the cheaper Wicks. It was a 3-manual instrument and I think the church paid only $100,000 for it in the 1950s. When the decision was made to build a larger facility, it was also decided not to take the Wicks with us (it was inadequate for an 860-seat space and certainly would not have been adequate for a 1300-seat space); we ultimately obtained a Klais, which has been described in earlier posts.
I was stationed at Scott AFB, IL for 2 years (1975-1977) but never toured the Highland, IL Wicks plant only 20 miles away. I always intended to do so but just didn't get around to it.
It is sad to learn that they are closing down.
Wicks actually could build good organs. There is one here in the county seat that was built by them a few years ago, and it is a very nice neoBaroque instrument. I played a recital on it two years ago, and the only negative I noticed was the Pedal Trombone, which I understand was retained from the previous instrument. It should have been scrapped, or donated to someone building a theatre organ. There were several in the Washington DC area that were also good instruments.
With so many churches closing, and few new churches being built, where is the market for new organs? A church might have to replace an old organ occasionally, but there is not much call for organs for new buildings. England experienced the same problem in the early 1900's-There just simply was not much need for new organs and many organ builders were forced out of business.
Actually, a relatively new church in my area, Christ Church of Plano (now Anglican, ACNA) bought a Wicks organ when it was built. I believe it has some digital pedal stops, but all the rest of the instrument is pipes. I confess that I have not heard it played.
I was going to mention Christ Church's instrument after I read michaelhoddy's post. I'm thoroughly convinced that the Christ Church organ is one of the best organs they ever built (at least recently). They did a performance of the Duruflé Requiem with organ and orchestra, and I thought I was going to wet myself on first chord-- the sound was so rich and warm, and the 32's rumbled without overbearing. I will never forget that big minor 7th chord!!Actually, a relatively new church in my area, Christ Church of Plano (now Anglican, ACNA) bought a Wicks organ when it was built. I believe it has some digital pedal stops, but all the rest of the instrument is pipes. I confess that I have not heard it played.
Just to clarify, MOST of the Christ Church instrument is digital. The stoplist is here. The only stops that aren't digital are a few chunks of stops on the Great and a few stops here and there on the Sw, Ch, and Ped. The rest is digital (and pretty good digital, too). There are matching 3 manual consoles, but the one downstairs is hardly ever used.
Before this instrument, they had another Wicks, which was actually really nice as well. When they built their current sanctuary, the former organ was sold to some Asian church. If I remember, it had a lovely oak facade, but it's been a long time and I can't find any pictures online. When they built the sanctuary, they also built a chapel, which also has a Wicks combination organ (it's OK, but not nearly as nice as the sanctuary organ). I have a picture of it somewhere, but can't seem to find it now.
There are a few videos online of services at Christ Church if anyone is just dying to hear the organ: (Bradley Welch is playing in both, and for whatever it's worth, I was in attendance at this service)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hn0wYkXRj9Y (procession... organ only at 8:25 on)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wr-SIl0-VJU (clip of Vierne... gives a pretty good idea of the bass, even though the quality is pretty bad)
I'm sad to hear about Wicks, all things considered. And with an industry as small as organ building, when one suffers, they all do (in a way). And even though they were on the... err... cheaper end of things, some of their recent instruments were really quite nice. I'd much rather have a new Wicks than a Rodgers! I'm curious to see how this situation plays out in the next few years. It will be hard for them to come back as a builder, I think, but we'll see whether or not it's impossible.