The Schlicker Organ Company was founded in 1930 by Herman L. Schlicker,
a third generation builder, who apprenticed with firms in Germany, France
and Denmark before emigrating to America in the late 1920's. It was
at this time that organbuilding in America was in the infancy of a reform
movement which would shift tonal philosophy away from orchestral stoplists
which were based upon 8' pitches of a solo/accompaniment idiom and performance
literature that drew heavily upon transcriptions. There was growing
consensus among musicologists that the listening experience could be
enhanced by performing music of a given period on instruments authentic
to that period.
Riding the wave
of this organ reform movement, which became a pendulum swing reaction
to the excesses of early twentieth century organ building, Herman built
literally hundreds of organs during the ensuing decades. He was at the
forefront of the neo-baroque revival building organs after the "Werk-Prinzip"
in good German tradition. His organs are characterized by attention
to detail in the upperwork and possess a brightness and clarity of tone
along with a slightly thin edginess in the plenum. This was in keeping
with the narrow scaling and no-nicking style of voicing in vogue at
the time. His reeds are quite German in nature.
have proved to be very reliable and Herman's console design was a unique
contribution. Trim and chaste in appearance, a Schlicker console gives
the organist a clear, straightforward view of the stops as well as a
very positive "toggle-action" to the feel. Many were graced with luxuriously
thick and beveled ivory keys as well.
It is this trim
and attractive console along with a pleasing tonal scheme that contributed
to the companies leadership in the practice organ genre. Capitalizing
on the townhouse subbass octave, the Schlicker practice organs were
compact and by far the most popular. There is hardly an organ student,
even today that has not spent many hours at the console of one. They
possess an unusual degree of dependability and are still highly sought
after even in today's pro-tracker environment.
untimely death in 1974, the Schlicker Organ Company was directed by
his son-in-law, Ralph Dinwiddie. Not being an organ builder, he sold
the company in the early 1980's. The company again changed hands in
1992 and was acquired by Matters, Inc., an innovative supplier to pipe
organ builders in September, 2002.
next generation of Schlicker tonal philosophy will be Justin Matters.
After studying organ at Concordia College, St. Paul with Paul Manz who
was the most noteworthy church organist of his generation in this country
and a major proponent of Schlicker organs, he transferred to the University
of Minnesota to complete a degree in organ performance under Heinrich
Fleischer. Schlicker organs made no small impression during the countless
Sundays at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church to hear Paul Manz and the 55 rank
Schlicker. There were also many trips to St. Olaf College in Northfield,
MN to play the 86 rank Schlicker in Boe Chapel. However, this tonal
impression was balanced by many hours practicing the 108 rank Aeolian-Skinner
organ of G. Donald Harrison in Northrup Auditorium on the U of M campus
for weekly lessons and two recitals. It was there that a full appreciation
for 32' Open Wood Diapasons, full-length 32' Bombardes, romantic strings
and orchestral voices was gained.
It is anecdotal
to note that Justin and Mark Matters received their introduction to
the pipe organ and church architecture while stopping with their parents
enroute to a funeral to view the stunning Resurrection Chapel of Valparaiso
University with its Schlicker Organ literally plastered all over the
back wall. It was there they learned of Paul Manz and after returning
home were at Mt. Olive the following Sunday. Following High School graduation
Justin wrote a letter to Schlicker Organ Company inquiring about summer
employment opportunities and apprentice programs. The company responded
by sending a copy of their portfolio along with a letter stating that
it was not their policy to hire organ students because they tended to
be too concerned about their hands while operating power saws and the
Schlicker organs will be characterized by a complete Principal chorus
on the Great as well as a secondary one based on 8' pitch on the Positiv.
16' chorus reeds on these divisions will receive greater emphasis and
the reeds in general will be of a more refined quality. The tonal philosophy
will be guided by the fact that organ repertoire is overshadowed by
two giants, namely J. S. Bach and Cesar Franck. It stands to reason,
therefore, that the pipe organ as a musical instrument must seek to
do a musicologically faithful and artistically convincing performance
of both. In the only example we have of Bach making stoplist recommendations,
he wanted the 8' chorus reed on the Hauptwerk replaced with a 16'. He
also specified a 32' Untersatz in the Pedal. Why is this unlike the
Cavaille-Coll of Cesar Franck? In reality the "Werk-Prinzip", which
requires the Positiv to be based on an 8' Principal if the Hauptwerk
is based on a 16' is in accord with the French tradition. In the organs
of both Bach and Franck, the Positiv is the second most important division
and should not, therefore, be based on a 2' Prinzipal with a Krummhorn
as its only reed. One does not add an English Swell division to an incomplete
two-manual specification to create a "romantic" organ. Some try to lend
respectibility to this uninformed approach with the term "eclectic",
but such will not be the practice of Schlicker Organ Co.
The merging of Schlicker
with Matters, Inc., a builder of aluminum bass and fašade pipes, electro-mechanical
action and the premier microprocessor-based pipe organ controller utilizing
a fiber-optic communication link gives Schlicker Organ Company the best
chance to regain status in the organ-building community.