Music Hall's Hook & Hastings Organ
When Cincinnati's Music Hall opened in 1878, excitement was heightened by the unveiling of the new Hook & Hastings organ. Called simply ''The Cincinnati Organ'', it cost $32,695 and was installed at the western-most wall of the auditorium. Reuben Springer had contributed a sizable amount of the total cost, with the rest of the funding provided by the community. ''Here was a glorious temple within which to enshrine the king of instruments,'' said George Ward Nichols, president of the Music Hall Organ Association, a group that was incorporated with the goal of getting the funding to build the organ.
The mechanical portion of the organ was built in Boston. The organ stood two stories high, fifty feet wide and thirty feet deep. At the time it was installed, the organ was the largest in the United States and one of five largest in the world. Its 6,237 pipes were enclosed in an elaborate wooden casing, the panels of which were carved in Cincinnati by School of Design students and graduates -- all women -- of Benn Pitman and father and son woodcarvers Henry and William Fry.
While a wonderful work of both fine and performing art, the organ provided great challenge to anyone who played it. The sound was so slow in coming that, during a fast tempo, the organist needed to anticipate the conductor by nearly a bar of music!
As part of the multi-year renovation begun in the late 1960s, the Hook & Hastings organ -- now just a decade shy of a century old and in quite sad shape -- was dismantled and a Baldwin Multi-Waveform (electric) organ was installed Music Hall in 1974. The Corbett Foundation financed the purchase and installation and the organ was dedicated by Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra music director Thomas Schippers.