Stoneleigh Mansion

Fred Haas
Jim Weaver
Bill Czelusniak

The Great Room

The Dining Room

Hass Family
Coat of Arms

A Blog Excerpt from a Member

Today was the first offi­cial day of the Organ His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety con­ven­tion, its 61st con­ven­tion in this its 60th year since the found­ing in 1956. Its pur­pose is thus: The Organ His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety cel­e­brates, pre­serves, and stud­ies the pipe organ in Amer­i­ca in all its his­toric styles, through research, edu­ca­tion, advo­ca­cy, and music.

And because OHS is now a mature” orga­ni­za­tion in terms of struc­ture and mem­ber­ship, it now enters a new stage in that it now has a new home in an old home. If this is con­fus­ing, let me explain that the OHS is the recip­i­ent of an extra­or­di­nary gift which we vis­it­ed today: a 36-room estate called Stoneleigh, locat­ed on an expan­sive 40-acre prop­er­ty near the Vil­lano­va Uni­ver­si­ty cam­pus. Today was just a quick vis­it to the beau­ti­ful grounds and the intro­duc­tion of how the fam­i­ly of OHS mem­ber Fred Haas came to donate the prop­er­ty. It was amaz­ing to learn that he moved to this grand home when he was three years old, it being the home of his grand­par­ents. It remind­ed me of the grand cas­tles in Europe, except that it was built in the 1920s. It will be cared for by the Nation­al Lands Trust.

When the archives of OHS move here in a cou­ple of years after some ren­o­va­tions to make it ADA-com­pli­ant, it will be the most com­pre­hen­sive library of books, mag­a­zines, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions all devot­ed to the pipe organ. At its incep­tion, there was only one fil­ing cab­i­net of mate­ri­als, which has grown to over 15,000 items. A large pipe organ will also be moved here, which will match the age of the house.

Tonight was the open­ing con­cert of the con­ven­tion, a vir­tu­osic dis­play by Stephen Tharp on the Austin organ at the Irvine Audi­to­ri­um of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia, just four blocks from our hotel. Can you imag­ine, he opened with the Toc­ca­ta” from Suite, op. 5 of Duru­flé! He also played Poème héroïque” by Mar­cel Dupré and two won­der­ful tran­scrip­tions: Fan­ta­sia on a theme by Thomas Tallis” (Vaugh­an Williams) and La Valse” by Ravel.

My favorite piece of the pro­gram was a world pre­mière com­po­si­tion titled Danse diabolique”by George Bak­er (him­self a super­star organ­ist) which he described as 4 min­utes of Hell” — a fiendish­ly dif­fi­cult, vir­tu­osic work con­tain­ing music built upon three themes: the hymn tune How firm a foun­da­tion,” the Dies irae chant, and odd­ly enough, a very dis­so­nant and wicked-sound­ed Tea for Two” (which has the same first four notes as Dies irae!)

Stephen’s young son had fun on stage!As Stephen Tharp is a young father, before the con­cert began, we were enter­tained by his young tod­dler son who delight­ed in slid­ing across the stage on his stomach!

After the con­cert, the young boy ran up on stage to join his father and took bows along­side him! [UPDATE: I added the video of father and son below] It remind­ed me of when my son Stephen came up on stage to present me with a bou­quet of ros­es when he was just two years old.

One unique aspect of OHS con­ven­tions is that every con­cert artist plays a hymn at some point in the pro­gram, and the whole assem­bly stands and sings. I must say that hear­ing that huge bunch of organ­ists raise the roof with their hearty singing gave me absolute goose­bumps! And espe­cial­ly with Stephen impro­vis­ing a very grand accom­pa­ni­ment to the hymn Rouen.”

You sure­ly don’t hear that kind of singing in church every Sun­day, and for that rea­son, it’s one of my favorite part of OHS programs.

The OHS Mission Statement

The Organ His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety cel­ebrates, pre­serves, and stud­ies the pipe organ in Amer­i­ca in all its his­toric styles, through re­search, edu­ca­tion, ad­vocacy, and music.

The Organ Historical Society

330 North Spring Mill Road
Vil­lano­va, PA 19085 – 1737
(484) 488-PIPE (7473)