Hurricane Mama and friends: the new popularity of pipe organs at orchestras

Posted on: December 16, 2014

“The other day, I sat at the console of the organ at Walt Disney Concert Hall, in Los Angeles, and when I played a darkly screaming C-sharp-minor chord I was overcome by a childish glee,” writes Alex Ross in an article about of the resurgence of organ music in concert halls in the December 15 issue of The New Yorker. Composer Terry Riley referred to the Los Angeles organ as Hurricane Mama shortly after its 2004 inauguration, and the soubriquet has remained. “In the latter half of the twentieth century the concert organ seemed to be in decline: many new venues elected to omit them, and instruments at several venerable halls had fallen into disuse. In the past fifteen years, though, new organs have been installed in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Orange County, California, and older ones in Boston and Cleveland have been refurbished. Furthermore, a wave of younger organists have captured media attention: for freewheeling glamour, one can turn to Cameron Carpenter … and for interpretive rigor there is Paul Jacobs.… I heard both musicians perform with American orchestras this fall, as I followed a mini-trend in organ-and-orchestra programming.” Ross describes orchestra-with-organ works at the Pacific Symphony in Orange County, California; the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.; and the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Walt Disney Concert Hall.


To read Symphony’s Spring 2012 coverage of the newfound popularity of organs at orchestras, click here.

Posted December 16, 2014