Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pipe Organ Stamps

"Pipe organ" is a recognized topic of the American Topical Association, a resource for stamp collectors. The organization provides for collectors who accumulate stamps according to the image portrayed, not necessarily by country of origin. New topics are continually be added to the list developed by ATA. One of the primary ways this occurs is by an interested collector developing a list of the stamps he or she believes should be included.

The pipe organ check list produced by the American Topical Association was developed in 1995 by Walter Felton. When I got back into collecting, I joined ATA, got a copy of the list and went to work. I was collecting US and other countries in addition to my topics (organs, ballet, musical instruments, fire and rescue apparatus {for my kids}). I eventually met (via letter and email) another collector, Judy Stewart, who shared my interest and together we set about updating the check list and adding to it. We completed that in February 2004. Our revision is the one still in use by the ATA. Since we completed the list, there have been several additions; at some point I suppose we'll try to update again, but my ATA membership has lapsed.

Finding stamps on the pipe organ topic is not easy. It's a fairly small niche and stamp dealers are not always overtly interested in the narrow needs of topical collectors. One has to scour a lots of bins to find what one is after. On the other hand I work with a new issue dealer in Maryland who keeps new issues from around the world. They keep me apprised of new issues in the "music" area in general and organs (and my other topics) also. I have found a couple of European dealers who can help with stamp-related material: first-day covers, and stamps on piece (still on the original envelop). Also a little word of mouth goes along way: I heard of the newest organ set from Great Britain via an organist colleague there who was researching an article for an organ journal. With Mark Jameson's help I scored a copy of the journal his article appeared in and a set of the stamps!

Pipe organs on stamps was the topic of an article in the ATA Journal in 1965, written by A.G.K. Leonard. I had an article published there in the Sept-Oct 2004 issue. I also had a short article published in The Baton, the journal of the Philatelic Music Circle in the Summer 2004 issue. More recently Mark Jameson has published the first of what will likely be a series of articles in the Journal of the Organ Club in Great Britain. An article on British cathedral organs appeared in late 2009, and an article for early 2010 will deal with the multi-year, multi-set series of stamps from Luxembourg.

The list of organ stamps developed in 1995 ran to about 100 items. Additions made by me and Judy Stewart make the total about 120 and I personally have added another few stamps (still need to collaborate with Judy to make these official) that brings the total a little higher.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

France: "Music"

France issued this stamp (Scott #1625) in 1979 as a simple homage to "Music." The stamp shows a woman playing a stringed instrument across her lamp, with a lyre at her right side and a portativ organ at her left. There are other (male) instrumentalists and singers in the background. Interestingly there are two geese also to the left and right of the woman. The miniature is from the 15th century; that's the only identification given.

Czechoslovakia: Music Year

Czechoslovakia issued this stamp (Scott #2513) 5/11/1984 for "music year." It was part of a small set of two, the other featuring a keyboard, horn and violin,

Interestingly, 1985 was celebrated as a "music year" by the European Union, with many stamps issued by many different countries. 1985 was an anniversary year for the deaths of both Bach and Handel; several of the 1985 music year stamps feature those two composers. So perhaps this stamp was intended to be part of that series, though Czechoslovakia was not then part of the Union, just a few months early.

I cannot find information on the faced pipes in the stamp image. The words make reference to a "Czech museum," but I don't know which one.

New Link

I recently found a page of Bach Stamps at the Bach Cantata site. I have had this site bookmarked for sometime for use in studying the Bach cantatas. It was not until recently, though, that I found the stamp page. It will prove quite helpful, I'm sure. The stamps do not necessarily feature organs, so it's not a duplication of this site.

Congo (Poeple's Republic): Bach

Congo issued this stamp (Scott #511) in 1979, not seemingly related to any anniversary year. The stamp features a Bach portrait as well as an organ and several other instruments. Sometimes foreign countries will include the St. Thomas Church, Leipzig in Bach homage images, but that does not seem to be the case here. A second stamp issued at the same time features Albert Einstein and astronauts on the moon.

Bulgaria: Bach

Bulgaria issued this stamp in 2000. I have it only on a maximum card, meaning the postcard features the same image as the stamp itself. (If you look closely at the image, especially on the left you can make out part of the image of the card.) This stamp was issued for the 250th anniversary of Bach's death. Bach had earlier appeared on a Bulgarian stamp as part of a set of composer stamps in 1985. There is an image of an organ in the background, but I cannot tell what instrument it might be.

Canada: Healy Willan

Canada issued this stamp in 1980 in honor of Healy Willan. It was part of a set of two; the other (same denomination 17c) featured singer Emma Albani (1847-1930). Willan was one of the most important Canadian composers of his generation. He was for years (1921-1968) organist at St. Mary Magdalene, Toronto. Without information on the stamp, one might assume that the console shown is that of the organ at St. Mary's from Willan's era. I've played many of Willan's chorale preludes and one or two of the larger works. I have had choirs work on a couple of his anthems. A nice article about the organ can be found here.

I found this humorous tidbit at Wikipedia: People who remember Willan from his time at St Mary Magdalene's like to moderate his somewhat dourly pious public image by quoting him—it was a mainstay of concert talks by Robert Hunter Bell—as to his provenance: "English by birth; Canadian by adoption; Irish by extraction; Scotch by absorption."

Bhutan: Titian Painting

Bhutan issued this stamp which features detail from a painting by Titian. Venus and the Organ player is one of an apparent series of paintings done for various patrons. The patron got the privilege of being the model for the instrumentalist. There is at least one painting that uses a lutenist and two the feature an organist seated before a positiv. In all, the musician gazes adoringly at Cupid, reclined to the right, and apparently sometimes accompanied by a cherub (Cupid). Since this is a freely composed painting, one cannot expect that the organ pictured is a copy of a specific instrument, but merely a representation of the general nature of table-top instruments. The stamp above demonstrates that there were at least two paintings in similar vein. The organist in the stamp is not the same as the one shown in the painting below. Also the title of the painting used for the stamp above is "Venus and the Organ Player;" that of the painting below is "Venus and Cupid with an Organ Player."

Estonia: Organ Festival

This stamp was issued in 2006 to mark the 20th Tallinn organ festival in Estonia. I cannot place the facade featured on the stamp. Below is information from the Estonian Post Office about the stamp. I remember making contact with Andres Uibo many years ago; I think it was in relation to trying to learn more about a composer from that region of the world.

The Tallinn international organ music festival, the oldest Estonian music festival, has arrived at an important waymark, with its 20th edition opening on 28 July, 2006. The popularity of the festival has been growing from year to year, largely thanks to the unique historical Estonian organs, and ti now occupies a place at the summit of the world's organ music festivals with numerous guests from all around the world arriving in Tallinn to see and hear the local organs and participate in the well-organized event. The founder and artistic director of the festival is Andres Uibo.

Note: In 2012 I found this site with information about the St. John's Church in Tallinn. It includes a B&W image of the organ. I think it's safe to say that the organ depicted int he stamp is the same in this photo.


Friday, February 6, 2009

Luxembourg: Grund

This is the high-value stamp in the 2006 tourism series featuring pipe organs. This organ was restored in 1979 by the Westenfelder firm. It would seem that the original instrument is 18th century, but I haven't found details yet. I would welcome any help!

Luxembourg: Mondercange

This is the third stamp in the 2006 series of tourism stamps featuring pipe organs. This instrument is in Mondercange. Built in 2004 by the Oberlinger firm one can view details about the instrument here. I would like to have the Scott catalogue number for this stamp, if anyone can share it.

Luxembourg: Bridel

This is the second stamp in the 2006 series of tourism stamps featuring pipe organs. It is another semi-postal, and features an organ from Bridel. I haven't found any other information on the instrument. Please let me know if you can provide a Scott catalogue number and/or details about the instrument.

Luxembourg: Conservatoire

This stamp is from the first set of tourism stamps featuring pipe organs issued by Luxembourg. This is also the low value in the set. All of the sets to date have been semi-postals, meaning part of the cost was used for special projects designated by the postal administration. (In the US the one and only semi-postal stamp issued by the USPS has been the breast cancer awareness stamp of 1998, the proceeds from which went toward breast cancer research.) I have not been able to find any details on this instrument. My friends at the Luxembourg Friends of the Organ site have two studio organs available, but not this instrument which is obviously larger and situated in a concert hall of some type. Please share any information, and a Scott catalogue number if you have such information.

Mark Jameson's 2010 article provdes the stoplist and the catalogue number (Scott B 451), which I have not been able to find anywhere else:

I. Positif
Quintaton 8
Holzgedackt 8
Prinzipal 4
Rohr Flute 4
Doublette 2
Sesquialter 1
Larigot 1 1/3
Cymbal IV
Rankett 16
Comorne 8

II. Grand Orgue
Gemshorn 16
Prinzipal 8
Gamba 8
Rohr Flote 8
Flute Harmonique 8
Prestant 4
Tierce 3 1/5
Quinte 2 2/3
Oktav 2
Cornet III-V
Mixture V-VII
Scharff IV
Fagott 16
Trompete 8
Chamade 8
Clarion 4

III. Expressive
Pommer 16
Geigenprincipal 8
Vox Coelestis II 8
Viola 4
Traversflote 4
Nazard 2 2/3
Octavin 1
Tierce 1 3/5
Octave 1
Fourniture VI
Trompette Harmonique 8
Hautbois 8
Vox humana 8
Clarion Harmonique 4

Untersatz 32
Prinzipal 15
Subbass 16
Oktavbass 8
Gedackt 8
Choralbass 4
Hintersatz VI
Bombarder 16
Trompete 8
Clarion 4
Cornet 2


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Belgium: Geraardsbergen, St. Batholomew

Belgium issued this stamp (Scott #1299) on September 24, 1988. It is part of a set of four stamps celebrating Belgian cultural heritage. The stamp features one of the twin cases of the organ in the Geraardsbergen St. Bartholomew Church. The organ is significant because it was built by Charles Anneessens, in 1890. Anneessens was a very famous builder. I do not have an example of the stamp itself. I have only this First Day Cover. The postmark mentions the organ builder and has a silhouette of the church. You can get some information about the church here, but details about the organ are lacking.

Pierre Courtiade, a stamp collector in Paris, found this infirmation that seems to be froma Dutch stamp catelogue. I had posted a query about the stamp and the organ on a collecting chat room in 2004 and had completely forgotten about the information there. This provides a bit more information on the organ.

Orgel Bartholomeuskerk te Geraardsbergen.
Het in 1890 ingewijde orgel bezit 1422 pijpen, verdeeld over twee
manualen en pedaal, die 29 registers bedienen. De bouwer was Charles
Anneessens ; de neogotische kast werd door Louis Bert ontworpen. In 1970
werd het orgel door de firma Duffel gerestaureerd en uitgebreid ; Ch.
Anneessens werd in 1835 te Ninove als zoon van de kerkorgelbouwer Pieter
Hubertus geboren en overleed in 1903. Het atelier ontstond reeds in 1832
en in 1864 begon zoon Charles orgels te bouwen te Geraardsbergen. Een
brochure van de firma Anneessens vermeldt niet minder dan 227, tussen
1865 en 1893 in opdracht van binnen- en buitenland, gebouwde orgels. Er
staan Anneessensorgels in Engeland, Schotland, Ierland, Nederland,
Spanje en Portugal.

Finland: Temppeliaukio Church

Finland issued this stamp in 1983 as part of its Europa observance. The Europa theme in 1983 was "inventions." The stamp (Scott #680) features the interior of the Temppeliaukio Cchurch, including the organ. The unique architecture of the church makes it a worthy representative of Finnish inventiveness. The church is built in the ground. The interior walls are unfinished exposed rock. The roof is a glass dome which allows in natural light. The church opened in 1969 after two design competitions and the intervening second world war. The organ was built by Veikko Virtanen. I haven't been able to find more information about the builder or the organ (other than the fact that it has 43 stops {from Wikipedia}); if you can share more, I would love to add details about the instrument.

Finland: Oskar Merikanto

Finland issued this stamp (Scott #477) on 5 August 1968 to honor the 10oth anniversary of the birth of Oskar Merikanto. Merikanto was born to Swedish parents who changed their surname after moving to Finland, to blend more easily into their adopted homeland. Merikanto was a very famous concertizer on both piano and organ, and composed numerous works for use in churches. The stamp features a portrait of the composer and an array of organ pipes. I haven't found any music in print for organ by Merikanto. Does anyone have any?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Latvia: Riga Dom

Latvia issued this stamp in 2000 as part of a set of four celebrating the 800th anniversary of the founding of the city of Riga. The organ was built in 1883-1884 by the Walcker firm of Germany. It was rebuilt in 1981-1984 by the Flentrop firm of the Netherlands. (Interesting note: I was on a semester abroad experience in Munich in 1981 and travelled to the Flentrop shops with the father of a friend, as he delivered final payment on their church's new Flentrop organ. Of course, while at the shops, I saw work being done on the Riga Dom organ. "Incredible" barely begins to describe the sensation!) My able to read Latvian is limited in the extreme but it would seem there are 124 ranks over four manuals and pedal, and over 6700 pipes in the instrument.

Luxembourg: St. Michel

Luxembourg issued this stamp (Scott #772) in 1987 to celebrate the millennium of the Church of St. Michael. It is part of a set of 2 stamps issued for that event. The other stamp features stained glass from the church. The organ was built in the French classical style by G. Westenfelder in 1971. Details in the Scott catalogue call this a "Baroque organ chest, 17th century." There are no details on the Luxenbourg Friends of the Organ site to help us know if the organ is contained in a very old case containing new works by Westenfelder, or if the whole instrument is new, built built in a 17th century style. If the latter then Scott errs slightly.

Organ terms

Here in no particular order are some key terms related to the organ. I am not going into much detail here, because a lot of terms related to the organ don't really come up when related to organs depicted on stamps. There are plenty of other sites that can give more information about the organ itself. Check the links at the bottom of the page.

Console: the place where the organist sits, the keyboards and other control devices. Most organs will have 2, 3, or 4 keyboards on the console, plus a pedalboard played by the feet. In general each knob represents a rank of pipes.

Facade: Very often the only part of the organ one sees. It's the front of the case which holds all of the pipework and other mechanical portions of the instrument.

Pipes make the sound. Wind is blown through the pipes to generate tone. There are reed organs in which air is blown over reeds to make the sound, and electronic organs which have no pipes. I am not addressing those in this blog at all.

Rank: a set of pipes making a particular sound. There are 61 notes on most modern organ keyboards which means one pipe for each, of every variety of sound the instrument makes. There are compound ranks (mixtures) in which each key has 2, 3, 4 or more pipes associated with it.

Stop: in general the same as a rank, though in the case of compound ranks, a single stop will control the sounding of several ranks which compose the particular sound. Sometimes one counts stops to describe the size of an organ, other times one states the number of ranks (which can be considerably higher if there are several mixture stops on the organ). Organists will state both when they want to be precise: "34 stops which include 41 ranks" for example which in this case would mean that nine ranks of pipes are part of mixture stops. More details would be needed to know how exactly the ranks are distributed.

Manuals: the keyboards. These are played by the hands. The pedalboard is played by the feet. Most organs will have 2, 3, or 4 manuals on the console. Very small instruments and positivs and portativs will have just 1. The console of the organ at Atlantic City Music Hall in the USA has 7 manuals!

I use three terms frighteningly indiscriminately. Renovation, rebuild and restoration each mean very particular things to the people engaged in such work. They all have to do with executing repairs on the instrument, or making additions to the number of ranks included, or reworking the mechanical systems in part or in their entirety. Renovation often refers to work that will modernize or otherwise enhance the mechanical systems. Restoration usually refers to turning back the clock as it were on additions or changes that have failed or have outlived their usefulness or are out of character with the overall make-up of the instrument. Rebuild can refer to either of the first two terms or to work done after an accident has harmed the instrument in some way.

Positiv: a small organ of 1, 2 or perhaps as many as 6 ranks. These are movable, if not quite portable.

Portativ: an even smaller instrument that can be set upon a table, or even carried about.

Got a terminology question not answered here? Leave it in a comment and I'll reply back there.

My Collection

I started collecting stamps as a kid. I held onto my first stamp album for the longest time, but finally let it go when we moved in 2006. I was a pretty indiscriminate collector, and remain so to a degree.

When I got back into collecting in 2001, I tried to focus more on a few areas of interest: organs, music in general, trains and ballet (my wife worked at Richmond Ballet in VA for some years). As the children have gotten older and have developed a keen interest in fire fighting, rescue and police, we have together dabbled in collecting stamps related to that topic.

Topical collecting gets a bum rap sometimes from purists who think one should collect stamps by country or region. I understand and appreciate that opinion, I just don't follow it too closely. I do have a pretty substantial US collection, but nothing near completeness, and with none of the costlier rare varieties that distinguish a really fine collection. I also have stamps from many, many foreign countries, but nothing near completeness there either.

I house the collections on Vario stock pages in el-cheapo binders from the office store. I get stamps from anywhere I can, including my wife's office and my own, and a new issue dealer, County Stamp Center, in Maryland. You can also check out what dealer Alex Birman has on his mind about stamps here. The phrase "Scott #" refers to the cataloguing and stamp numbering system created by Scott Publishing Company and used in their print catalogues. I use a set from 2002. I keep my collections catalogued using Microsoft Excel spreadsheets.

If you have a question, leave it as a comment and I'll answer it likewise.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Belgium: Bruges Music

This stamp was issued in 2002 to celebrate the artistic heritage of the city of Bruges in Belgium. There is a xylophone in the foreground and the background includes an organ case. It appears that this is the organ at St Salvator in Bruges. I was able to find this site about the church, with an image of the organ, but no details about the instrument.

Austria: Hofhaymer

This stamp was issued 11 September 1987 to commemorate the 450th anniversary of the death of Paul Hofhaymer (Hofhaimer) and Austrian composer. The stamp calls Hofhaymer a composer and organist. The image features the composer playing a positiv organ (a table top instrument of relatively few notes and pipes). Several sources remark on his remarkable improvisational skills at the organ.

Austria: Vienna Philharmonic

This stamp was issued 28 March 1967 to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Scott 789 includes an organ facade, a violin and laurel leaves. The facade is not clear. The Phil plays usually in the Golden Hall of the Music Academy, but that is not the facade include on this stamp. This could be the organ at the Schlosskapelle in Schoenbrunn. Here is information on that organ. I don't know if the Phil ever plays at Schoenbrunn, and if not why this facade might be on the stamp. If you can help identify this facade for certain, please contact me, so I can have the correct information here.

Liechtenstein: Rheinberger

The first organ stamp was issued by Liechtenstein in 1938. It featured a portrait Joseph Gabriel Rheinberger and a row of pipes. Rheinberger of course was a native of Liechtenstein born in 1839. The Rheinberger stamp was issued in a mini-sheet of four in 1938 for a philatelic exhibition; the same image was used in 1939 for a stamp issued in a pane of 20 format. This stamp is the first to include images of any part of an organ in the image.

France: Poitiers Cathedral

The organ in Poitiers Cathedral underwent major renovation completed in 1994. This stamp was issued to mark the completion. The original organ was built by Francois-Henri Clicquot beginning in 1787. The organ has a long and rich history. Here is a detailed history. At the bottom of the page is a nifty shot of the pipework from above.

Germany: Schnitger Organ

Scott 1590 was issued in 1989 to mark the restoration of the Schnitger organ at St. James Church in Hamburg Germany. The instrument was constructed by Arp Schnitger 1689-1693 using pipes from two earlier instruments of the church. The restoration work was done by Jurgen Ahrend. In 1917 parts of the organ were removed for the first world war. However the building and much of the instrument were destroyed in the second world war. Here is a very helpful web page devoted to the instrument and it's history.

Germany: Buxtehude Anniversary

This stamp was issued in 1987 to mark the 350th anniversary of the birth of Dietrich Buxtehude. Buxtehude is a well-recognized name amongst organists, if not too many other musicians. His work is a prelude to the organ compositions of Bach. Scott 1507 features an abstract organ facade and the composer's signature.