The Ferris Tracker Organ
An organ concert at Round Lake Auditorium is more than a concert. It is a chance to visit the past in sight and sound. On your short stroll from the parking lot (1/4 mile east of the Northway), you will experience the rich Victorian architecture of this village, which is listed on the register of National Historic Districts.
The Auditorium, which is one of 53 sites to receive “Save America’s Treasures” grant, is a building of unusual architecture. It can best be appreciated when viewed from all angles. Walls of louvered windows create natural air-conditioning and gives a sense of an open pavilion. Comfortable seats provide a clear view of the performing area.
The centerpiece of the Auditorium is a 1900–pipe Ferris Tracker organ. Some of the pipes are large enough for a small child to crawl through and some small enough to be a child’s whistle. Built in 1847, what was the second largest organ in New York City is now the oldest, largest and unaltered of its kind in the United States. Thin ribbon-like wooden trackers connect the parts, while an electric blower provides the wind power to make the sound. The “tracker” system has been in existence for over 600 years and is one of the earliest “All American” built organs. Its beautiful sound is produced by the use of zinc and wooden pipes which cannot be reproduced electronically. The pipes are designed to duplicate other musical instruments and to substitute for a symphony orchestra.
The sounds are enhanced by the artistry of the player, bringing the audience a variety of styles, including folk, classical, popular, and symphonic music, normally not associated with organ music. You will enjoy watching the organists as they literally dance on the pedal board. Organists from near and far-both nationally and internationally –have been anxious to experience performing on this very special instrument.
For Organ Afficianados
excerpted from from the Organ Historical Society's 50th Anniversary Convention booklet.
The oldest large, nearly intact three-manual organ in the United States, this instrument was built in 1847 by a New York organ-building partnership known as Davis & Ferris (William H. Davis, 1816–88, and Richard M. Ferris, 1818–58). Ordered by the music committee of Calvary Episcopal Church in New York City, it was relocated in 1888 to the Round Lake Auditorium by Giles Beach (1826–1906), an organbuilder from Gloversville, New York. While the instrument has had mechanical changes, virtually all of the sounding portions of the instrument (i.e., the wind system, chests, and pipework) are intact, providing us a “living” record of what a large urban organ of the time sounded like to its original listeners.
The Davis & Ferris organ has many firsts in American organ history: the liberal use of zinc in its pipework; two enormous triple-rise reservoirs with inverted ribs; a Great chorus of doubled diapasons with two opens, two principals, and two mixtures; and a Swell box (with a hitch-down pedal!) with double-thick walls and four sets of shades. The firm was so proud of their use of zinc, that one stopknob is actually engraved “2nd Op. Diapason Zinc.”