With a career spanning over sixty years, Ernest Martin Skinner (1866-1960) quickly became regarded as the "Cadillac of Organ Builders", and became the one organ designer that was most sought after by music enthusiasts, as well as audiences of the romantic influence - a core highlight in the overall persuasion of the Victorian and Edwardian eras.
His early career Edit
At the age of twenty-seven, Ernest was credited with devising a windchest with a singular pocket for each note of each stop. This particular invention made its debut at Saint Bartholomew's Church in New York City in 1893, but wasn't patented until 1895. Following his successes in New York City, Skinner followed through in a tour de force that included multiple trips to England. Within these trips, Ernest perfected his designs for the American versions of tone and pitch, by carefully studying the work of lifelong mentor and short-lived business partner, Robert Hope-Jones. This fascination with the English design would prove both fruitful and eventful in Skinner's later life as the premiere master builder. Finally, in 1905 Ernest M. Skinner & Company was founded in Dorchester, Massachusetts - setting the stage for arguably the finest organ design and construction in the Edwardian era.
By 1906, Skinner had successfully launched into his defining role. By capturing a contract with the cathedral campus of St. John the Divine in New York City, his most recent conquests of four manual organs for other notable parties and diocese, were viewed in contrast as David approaching the mounting Goliath. In comparison to the Spreckels organ of 1923, affectionately referred to as his Bolton period - in which cast iron reeds and darker schemes emerged, provides an excellent timeline in the crescendo of Skinner's work.
Skinner's work Edit
Skinner almost certainly regarded his masterpieces to be more organic in nature, not necessarily lending to the whims of what later reforms might be placed on strategic organ construction. Mr. Skinner was often quoted as being a staunch proponent of the orchestral desires that many classical musicians and organists required in a custom organ. However, as a near romanticist, Skinner was certain to keep his designs very much up to date, finally ending his career with patents including the freestanding American drawknob console, the electro-pneumatic swell engine, and adjustable combination actions. Perhaps Skinner's most enduring legacy to the pipe organ industry is his "Pitman" windchest. Skinner also claimed several "tonal inventions" such as the "Kleine Erzähler" the 32 foot Violone and a fine development of the English Horn stop. For each criticism, there always remains a truth: much like his own nature, Ernest Skinner constructed his instruments to be viewed as an individual, but also to provide the voice of a thousand.
Skinner created a number of notable organs including Spreckels Organ, a particulary well-constructed organ. The only other organs of such construction can be matched by the Chateau de Candé- of which later played an important role in the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. This organ features an additional base drum, typhani, chimes, and an automatic roll box (to perform functions as provided by a piano roll for automatic player purposes). Other famous clients included the widower of Mary Frances Sherwood Hopkins Searles, of San Francisco's Big Four fame; almost certainly a reference for the Spreckels organ commission, of which many of the Spreckels were of close kin to the Hopkins family and their interests that lay in art acquisition and collecting . The only main difference in relation to the Spreckels organ and the Hopkins-Searles organ is that its inauguration was based off of construction provided by E.F. Walcker and Company Ludwigsburg, Wurttember, Germany, in 1863. In addition to several complete ranks installed, including Great chorus reeds, as well as metal pass pipes of several ranks removed by The Ernest M. Skinner and Son Company, Methuen, Massachusetts, 1931 - 1943. All in all, such organs either installed or modified by Skinner (and associates) were organs of multiple ranks, and the highest of craftsmanship. Throughout Skinner's career, all serviceable organs were attended with such detail that even today; it is difficult to match the skill and master of his hand. Additionally, Skinner's construction of St. John the Divine's Great Organ is thought of in regards to supreme craftsmanship. Contract signed in 1906 and completed in 1911, this commission was certainly one that provided the stepping stone in Skinner's later career.
The oldest Skinner pipe organ still in use today was installed in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace, motherchurch of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Honolulu.
As Skinner approached his 57th year, he decided to retire, but he came out of retimement to build more organs.