ORGANS AND ORGAN POSITIONS
In 1905 Lang faced eviction from his studio at 153 Tremont Street as the building was to be torn down in 10 days. He listed his studio instrument for sale: “New splendid church organ, built by Hastings for B. J. Lang’s studio. Is for sale at $950; unprecedented opportunity for a church; 2 banks of keys, 2 1/2 octave pedals, 18 registers; warranted in perfect condition.” (1) This instrument would seem to be the one shown in the following color photo-this was the second of three instruments that Lang bought from Hook and Hastings for his own use.
The three are:
1. Hook and Hastings, Opus 1173, 1883. Music Room, B. J. Lang, Boston, MA. Two manuals, 12 registers.
2. Hook and Hastings, Opus 1623, 1894. Music Room, B. J. Lang, Boston, MA. Two manuals, 17 registers, 9 ranks. This was relocated to Blessed Sacrament R. C. Church in Fall River, MA in 1906 and then restored by Welte-Whalon of Portsmouth N. H. in the 1960s. It was moved to Epiphany R. C. Church, Washington, D. C. c. 2004 by David M. Storey.
Opus 1623, now in Washington, D. C.
3. Hook and Hastings, Opus 2087, 1905. Studio, B. J. Lang, Boston, MA. Two manuals, 14 registers. (2) This instrument was probably bought for Lang’s new studio in the first block of Newbury Street. Lang bought the whole building, and then let some of the teaching studios to his former students.
The organ in Lang’s studio. Photo from Amy Dubois. Probably Opus 2087.
OLD SOUTH CHURCH. Lang began as organist at Old South Church [Old South Meeting House at the corner of Milk and Washington streets] in 1859. The organ there was a three-manual instrument of 22 stops by the English builder Thomas Eliot and installed in 1822. Lang was not pleased with the instrument. “Benjamin Johnson Lang, a strong-minded individual with a penchant for enlarging or replacing organs, had become organist, and in 1859 the noted Boston firm of E. & G. G. Hook was engaged to rebuild the organ at a cost of about $2,000. The rebuilt organ [of three manuals and 45 stops] was ‘opened’ on April 30 with a concert of organ and vocal music, and the event duly reported in Boston’s leading musical journal.” (3) This instrument was the company’s Opus 246. At each of the three churches Lang served from 1859 until his death in 1909, he designed a new organ. Unfortunately the area where the Old South Church was located was becoming increasingly commercial, and the church members were moving away, many of them settling in the newly-developed Back Bay area.” (4) In fact Old South bought land in this new area in 1869. Then, in 1872 was the Great Boston Fire which created “sufficient smoke and water damage during the fire as to make it unfit for occupancy, but used for troops to guard the burnt district.” (5) However, before this had happened, Lang moved to South Congregational Church and it’s new Hook instrument which he was able to design from scratch.
SOUTH CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH. Lang served a 20-year tenure at Rev. Edward Everett Hale’s D. D. (Unitarian) South Congregational Church, Union Park Street.” Dwight’s Journal of July 23, 1864 reported: “The Rev. Edward Hale’s church at the south end, is to have a new organ, built by Messrs. Hook at a cost of $12,000, and Mr. B. J. Lang is to be the organist. This will probably surpass any church organ in the city. The organ of the Music Hall is creating a demand for really noble organs all around us.” (6) This instrument was Opus 349 of Hook and Hastings. Therefore Lang was part of two major organ projects for Boston churches within five years.
This photo was taken around 1975 by Bob Cornell when a group from Fisk’s [including Barbara Owen] crawled all through the organ. They found it still completely intact, except for the amateur electrification job that thankfully even preserved the console. It had been unplayable for many years due to the failed action and the decayed bellows leather. (7) “The South Church organ is so jammed in that it’s hard to get around inside, and the bellows is outside, above the stairway to its left.” (8) Barbara also noted that Lang had a “perchant for [designing] organs bigger than the space available for them…This was [also] followed by his Kings Chapel Skinner, that had Pedal pipes sticking up into a hole in the ceiling and needed to have the casework widened.” (9)
Photo “apparently taken around the 1880s. Note the ‘hosanna horns’ on the top of the case, now missing (although I think some may be inside).” (10)
In July 1864 the Boston Musical Times gave further details of the church and Lang: “Mr. B. J. Lang has been engaged to become the organist of the South Congregational Church, (Rev. E. E. Hale’s). The necessary money has been subscribed to build a new organ, under Mr. Lang’s special direction, and he also has carte blanche to secure the best quartette choir that he can find. The society is certainly to be congratulated upon these negotiations for their advantage, which go into operation on the first of August.” (11) In December 1864, after four months in his new position, it was reported that ”Mr. Lang’s new organ at Rev. E. E. Hale’s church is a fine instrument, and gives great satisfaction to those whose subscriptions secured its purchase. Mr. Lang gives masterly performances each week. His quartette choir is a good one.” (12) This new instrument was built in 1864 by E. & G. G. Hook and Hastings “according to specifications of the organist B. J. Lang. It was the largest in any Protestant Church [in the United States], and had Great, Swell, and Choir manuals and Pedale, 38 speaking stops, 7 pedal stops, one a Bourdon with 32 foot tone, and 2260 pipes.” (13) Dwight gave further information about this “thirty-two feet [sic] Bourdon Stop, giving tones low and deep, beyond the power of the ear to discriminate — which are felt rather than heard. It forms a foundation for the grand harmony of the whole, wonderfully pervading and sublime. The case, built by J. F. Paul, esq., is of Black Walnut, beautiful and elaborate, with emblematical decorations, elegantly carved, and enriched with gold. The front pipes are of a new composition, surpassing in richness and color anything before used. They are highly polished, giving a brilliant silvery appearance, in beautiful contrast with the dark woodwork.. many improvements in scales, voicing, and ”action” appliances are here used for the first time. This installation is located in the gallery and fills a space twenty-three feet high, eighteen and a half feet deep, with a total breadth of over thirty feet.” (14) In 1857 the location of this new church on Union Park Street was described as being at “the centre of Boston bourgeois society.” (15)
There is a currently functioning Hook organ much like the South Congregational instrument. The E. & G. G. Hook instrument, Opus 171, of 1854/60 still in use at the Unitarian Church in Jamaica Plain shares a similar stop list to Lang’s design for South Congregational Church, Opus 349. Both have three manuals; First Unitarian has 32 stops, but four of them are divided into treble and bass giving a total of 37, while South Congregational has 40 stops. Both instruments have 16′ reeds on the pedal, but South Congregational has the Grand Bourdon 32′ mentioned above. Thomas Murray recorded the complete Mendelssohn Organ Sonatas at First Unitarian (Raven OAR-390) which gives a good representation of what South Congregational’s now unplayable instrument would sound like. (16)
A year later it was noted: ”A prominent feature in the religious services at the South Congregational Church, both morning and afternoon, is the organ concert by Mr. B. J. Lang, in which he takes pleasure in exhibiting the capacity of the new instrument. The choir at this church is now well selected, so that all the musical exercises there are worth listening to.” (17) It was reported that “the best audience which attend any place of amusement, fill Rev. E. E. Hale’s church twice a month, on the occasions of [the] Vesper service.” (18) During the summer of 1866, while Lang was in Europe, Mr. W. Eugene Thayer presided at the organ, and conducted the Vesper services. Thayer had just returned from a period of European study. (19)
Rev. Edward Everett Hale had begun at South Congregational Church in 1856, and as he was one of the most untiring workers among the clergymen of Boston, and his literary work had made his name familiar all over the country, within four years a larger church was needed. The original church had been built in 1827. The new church was begun on June 8, 1861 “in the midst of war and rumors of war,” and “with remarkable promptness this beautiful church was finished in seven months and dedicated Jan. 8, 1862.” (20) B. J. Lang began as organist in mid-1864.
The second South Congregational Church as seen in Lang’s time.
A typical selection of church music of the time is reflected in the music list which Dwight published as being performed at the morning and afternoon services at South Congregational on Easter 1873:
Organ Voluntary – Hallelujah Chorus – Handel
Anthem – Easter Morning, Canon trio – Schumann
Anthem – The World Itself Keeps Easter Day – Lang
Gloria – Lang
Hymn – Lang
Easter Carol – Lang
Mrs. Julia Houston West – Selection from the Messiah – Handel
Te Deum in E-flat – Lang [the same key that MRL would use for her Te Deum setting] (21)
Lang is listed as organist and conductor, while the vocalists were: Mrs. Julia Houston West, soprano; Mrs. John F. Winch, alto; Mr. William J. Winch, tenor; and Mr. John F. Winch, bass. (22) This same quartet had also been noted in 1871 and was still intact in 1876. William and John Winch were often soloists with the Handel and Haydn Society. The same quartet performed St. Saens’s short Christmas oratorio Noel [Christmas Oratorio] with “Mr. Lang playing the accompaniment, the pastoral prelude, etc., on the organ. The music proved both edifying and artistically pleasing.” (23) Arthur Foote speaks of taking organ lessons in 1874 at Dr. Hale’s church on Union Park Street.
Rev. Hale’s son spoke to the attitude of his father toward worship as practiced at South Congregational Church, Union Park Street: “He liked to read the psalms alternately with the people, or sometimes alternately with the choir. He liked to feel that the choir were not merely strangers who had their Sunday work at his church, but were as much a part of the church as himself. It was partly this that made Mr. Lang, and Mr. and Mrs. Winch, Mr. John Winch, and Mrs. West so admirably representative of the spirit of the church.” (24)
In 1887 the building was sold to a Jewish community for their use as a Synagogue. Early in the 20th. Century it was again sold, this time to St. John the Baptist Hellenic Orthodox Church. (25) At the present time the basement is used for worship; the Sanctuary has been deemed unsafe.
King’s Chapel c. 1906. Collection of James W. Johnston. Note the three horse-drawn carriages to the right side of the church.
King’s Chapel. Photo taken between 1910 and 1920. Therefore, this is the new Skinner organ that B. J. had designed and which Malcolm played during his ten-year tenure at the Chapel. Johnston Collection.
The front of King’s Chapel as seen from the choir loft. Johnston Collection.
KING’S CHAPEL. In the fall of 1888 Lang became organist of King’s Chapel, and remained there until his death in 1909 (26) During his tenure the choral music for the morning service was provided by a mixed quartet composed of some of the best professional singers in Boston. At King’s Chapel during the 1898-99 season Lang initiated a well-received series of afternoon musical services in which a mixed choir made up of singers from other city churches presented choral music of a high caliber. Although Lang also occasionally gave evening organ recitals, his best-remembered organ performances seem to have been the improvised postludes to the afternoon services that he always based on the final hymn.” (27)
For the time that Lang was at King’s Chapel he played a Hook and Hastings, Opus 1205 of 41 stops on three manuals that has been installed in 1884. It had been installed in the old 1756 Richard Bridge case. Almost immediately he requested changes, and this situatuion went on for years. Just before his death, Lang had been able to design a new, larger, four manual organ for King’s Chapel. It was developed with Ernest M. Skinner, “a friend of B. J. Lang,” and “the two had several consultations about the new instrument, and Mr. Skinner will carry out the wishes and suggestiions by the former organist as faithfully as if Mr. Lang had been spared to supervise the work.” Skinner said that this instrument would be the only one in Boston to have an “orchestral oboe and English horn.” (28) Barbara Owen noted that in order to get all the pipes in, Shinner had to have “pedal pipes sticking up into a hole in the ceiling and needed to have the casework widened.” (29) The Hook organ was electrified and relocated to the Baptist Church in Brockton by Skinner. It no longer exists. (30)
Thus the main appointments of his career as an organist would seem to be:
1859-1864 Old South Church
1864-1885 South Congregational Church-Dr. E. E. Hale
1885-1909 King’s Chapel
(1) Herald (April 15, 1905): 14.
(2) OHS Pipe Organ Database, accessed February 10, 2016.
(3) Owen, “An Eliot Organ in Boston,” Fanfare For An Organ Builder: 126)
(4) Owen, 0p. cit., 127.
(5) Owen, op. cit., 128.
(6) Dwight, Journal of Music (July 23, 1864): 279.
(7) Owen, E-mail (August 17, 2015). Barbara Owen worked for the organ builder Fisk for many years. She was one of the founders of the Organ Historical Society, and served as it’s first President.
(8) Owen, E-mail (August 19, 2015).
(10) Owen, E-mail (August 17, 2015).
(11) Boston Musical Times (July 2, 1864): 101.
(12) Boston Musical Times (December 3, 1864): 182.
(13) Ayars, Contributions to the Art of Music in America , 169 quoting from Dwights Journal of Music (Nov. 12, 1864 Vol. 24): 339-40 and (November 26, Vol. 24): 351-2.
(14) Dwight, Journal of Music (Nov. 12, 1864): 348.
(15) Chamberlin, The Boston Transcript-A History, 119.
(16) OHS Pipe Organ Database, accessed February 10, 2016.
(17) Boston Musical Times (December 2, 1865): 177.
(18) Boston Musical Times (December 1, 1866): 3.
(19) Boston Musical Times (June 2, 1866): 83.
(20) King’s, Hand-book of Boston, 177.
(21) NEEDS CITATION
(22) Dwight, Journal of Music (April 19, 1873): 7 and 8.
(23) NEEDS CITATION
(24) Hale, The Life and Letters of Edward Everett Hale, 216 and 217.
(25) OHS Pipe Organ Database, accessed August 24, 2015.
(26) Owen, The Organs and Music of King’s Chapel Boston 1713-1991, 17 and 58.
(27) Op. cit., 58.
(28) Herald, (July 24, 1909): 2.
(29) Owen, E-mail (August 19, 2015)
(30) OHS Pipe Organ Database, accessed August 24, 2015.