Hugh McAmis (1899-1942)
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Hugh McAmis Studio

Sherman Square Studios
160 West 73rd Street – Top (14th) Floor
New York, N.Y. 10023


Organ Specifications:
Sherman Square Studios – 160 West 73rd Street
III/7 M.P. Möller, Inc., Op. 6287 (1935)
Magna-Chordia Studio – location unknown
III/24 Hillgreen, Lane & Col, Op. 556 (1919)






Hugh McAmis was born on April 11, 1899 in San Antonio, Texas. After study with teachers in his native state he went to New York where he enroled in the Guilmant Organ School, graduating in 1919 and earning his postgraduate certificate in 1920. He won the associate certificate of the American Guild of Organists in 1919, and two years later was one of the youngest at the time to receive the fellowship certificate.

From 1918 to 1923 Mr. McAmis was organist and choirmaster of the Beck Memorial Church in New York City. In the summer of 1922 he studied with Widor and Libert in Paris and won a grand prix at the Fontainebleau School. In 1924 he returned to France and his study resulted in his being awarded two diplomas. From 1924 to 1926 he studied with Joseph Bonnet, gave recitals in France and England and made his Paris debut at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. While in France he was organist and choirmaster of St. Luke's Chapel, Paris. He studied theory with Clement R. Gale, Warren R. Hedden, and Nadia Boulanger.

Hugh McAmis (1899-1942) at All Saints Church, Great Neck, NY  
Hugh McAmis at All Saints Church, Great Neck  
In the summer of 1926, McAmis returned to San Antonio to preside over the new four-manual Möller organ in the San Antonio Municipal Auditorium, playing to audiences as large as 5,000 and totaling more than 100,000 in his first season. In 1928 he moved to New York, and in 1929 became organist and choirmaster for All Saints Episcopal Church in Great Neck, Long Island. Here, with two large organs for his use, and three private ones on nearby estates where he was organist, he made Great Neck an attraction for lovers of organ music.

McAmis’ well-known compositions include the organ piece, Dreams (dedicated to David McK. Williams and published by H.W. Gray in 1929), and two anthems: Benedictus es Domine (Galaxy) and O Lord Support Us (Schirmer).

Mr. McAmis died August 19, 1942, at Camp Wolters in San Antonio, three weeks after enlisting in the armed forces. He was inducted August 6th and was taken ill a week before his death with what appeared to be an acute kidney ailment that baffled the medical authorities. The official cause of death was a fatty degeneration of the liver, although some have conjectured that the severe nature of basic training had a role in his death. He was survived by his mother and sister. 
               
The McAmis Studio
Hugh McAmis Installs 3m Moller
in His Own Studio in New York City

 

  M.P. Möller Organ, Op. 6287 (1935) in the Hugh McAmis Studio - New York City

"Last fall Mr. McAmis secured a studio on the top floor of the Sherman Square Studios, at 160 West 73rd Street, overlooking much of the New York skyline. "It is quite impressive to be listening to the music of an organ and see the bustling City out of a fifteen-foot window." Dec. 5 the new Studio and its organ were presented in their formal bow, under the soft light of the candles in hand-wrought Louis XIV candelabra on either side of the carved grille, and with the benign influence of champagne-punch and antique silver trays the evening carried on beautifully till 1:30 the following morning.
     "The studio is 21' 6" x 15' 6", with a 12' ceiling; the organ is built into the adjoining room, with the console in the studio proper. The woodwork is all mahogany, to match the furnishings. The blower-room is especially insulated, the blower resting on rubber blocks. Sherman Square Studios are especially equipped for musicians; there are two walls surrounding all studios and the floors are made of special wood blocks on a felt support. The McAmis Studio has the added attraction of a corner position.

Hugh McAmis at the M.P. Möller Organ, Op. 6287 (1935) in his Organ Studio - New York City (photo: Beidlen-Viken, Manhasset, NY; courtesy American Music Research Center, University of Colorado)

      "The idea of the whole organ," says Mr. McAmis, "was to get a console with all the gadgets for the use of students and for my own practice. The present layout at a future time can all be put into the Swell and another chamber added for the Great and Choir. At present the whole organ is in one chamber, though there are two crescendo-shoes for the use of the students—when playing on the Choir, use the Choir shoe, when playing on the Swell, use the other. Although the organ is unified, each manual has a distinct tone of its own; the Swell is reedy, the Great is of Diapason quality, and the Choir is an accompanimental manual. Everyone who originally rather scoffed at the idea has been quite amazed at the actual results. As a matter of fact, I am myself."

– T. Scott Buhrman, Editor, The American Organist (March 1935)

 
The organ was opened by Virgil Fox, who played the following program:
  Shelley Fanfare d'Orgue
  Bach Good Christian men rejoice
    In Dulci Jubilo
    Fugue à la Gigue
  Marchand Fond d'Orgue
  Guilmant Finale
  McAmis Dreams
  Dupré Suite Bretonne: Fileuse
  Handel Concerto in F: Allegro
  Sowerby Pageant
               

               
M.P. Möller, Inc.
Hagerstown, Md. – Opus 6287 (1935)
Electro-pneumatic key and stop action
3 manuals, 69 registers, 28 stops, 7 ranks
               
Great Organ (Manual II) – 61 notes, enclosed (4" pressure)
8
  Diapason
85
    Harp  
8
  Chimney Flute
SW
   
Chimes
12 notes
8
  Gemshorn
SW
    Harp-Celesta  
4
  Diapason
    Tremulant  
4
  Chimney Flute
SW
       
2 2/3
  Chimney Flute
SW
       
               
Swell Organ (Manual III) – 61 notes, enclosed (4" pressure)
16
  Gemshorn [TC]
97
2
  Gemshorn
8
  Chimney Flute
85
1 1/3
  Gemshorn
8
  Gemshorn
8
  Trumpet
85
8
  Gemshorn Celeste [TC]
49
8
  Vox Humana [TC]
49
4
  Chimney Flute
4
  Trumpet
2 2/3
  Gemshorn
    Tremulant  
               
Choir Organ (Manual I) – 61 notes
8
  Chimney Flute
SW
4
  Gemshorn
SW
8
  Gemshorn
SW
1 3/5
  Gemshorn
SW
8
  Gemshorn Celeste [TC]
SW
    Tremulant
SW
               
Pedal Organ – 32 notes
16
  Bourdon [25-32 from Ch. Fl.]
24
8
  Gemshorn
SW
16
 
Gemshorn
preparation
5 1/3
  Bourdon
SW
8
  Bourdon
SW
4
  Gemshorn
SW
               
Couplers
    Great to Pedal     Choir to Great 16', 8', 4'
    Swell to Pedal 8', 4'     Great 16', 4', Unison
    Choir to Pedal     Swell 16', 4', Unison
    Swell to Great 16', 8', 4'     Choir 16', 4', Unison
               
Adjustable Combinations
    Pistons No. 1-2-3-4 affecting Great Stops, 2nd touch operating Pedal pistons
    Pistons No. 1-2-3-4 affecting Swell Stops, 2nd touch operating Pedal pistons
    Pistons No. 1-2-3-4 affecting Choir Stops, 2nd touch operating Pedal pistons
    Pistons No. 1-2-3-4 affecting Pedal Stops, duplicated by toe studs
    Pistons No. 1-2-3-4 affecting Full Organ, duplicated by toe studs
               
Mechanicals
    Swell to Pedal Reversible   Tutti  
    Swell to Great Reversible   Tutti Cancel  
               
Pedal Movements
    Balanced Expression Pedal – Swell Organ  
    Balanced Expression Pedal – Choir Organ  
    Balanced Crescendo Pedal  
               
Organ installed in the Magna-Chordia Studio:

Hillgreen, Lane and Company
Alliance, Ohio – Opus 556 (1919)
Electro-pneumatic action
3 manuals, 27 stops, 24 ranks
Automatic Player in cabinet with separate console


The Agreement, dated August 1, 1919, shows that this organ was designed by and sold to G.F. Döhring of Edgewater, N.J., for the sum of $7,250. This organ was fully enclosed and also included two enclosures for the Swell Organ, plus a separate enclosure for the Vox Humana. In addition to the detached, three-manual drawknob console, there was also a separate console with knobs for the stops and tabs for the couplers (but without manuals or pedals) that controlled the automatic Solo Player in a separate cabinet. The Harp had 49 bars, playable on 61 notes with the lowest octave repeating the tenor octave.

The Magna-Chordia Studio was a combination studio/home for organist Hugh McAmis, and was also the demo space used by Gustaf F. Döhring for the Hillgreen, Lane Company. Gustav F. Döhring (1873-1956), a native of Germany, immigrated to the United States when he was 13 years old. At the age of 18 he began to work for the Roosevelt Organ Works, and then worked in the New York City area. In 1918, he opened his own organ shop in Edgewater, N.J., and in 1924 would become a representative of Hillgreen, Lane & Company of Alliance, Ohio.
               
Great Organ (Manual II) – 61 notes, enclosed with Pedal (4½" pressure)
8
  Diapason
61
8
  Flute [open]
61
8
  Gamba
61
4
  Gambette
61
8
  Gamba Celeste [TC]
49
   
Chimes
20 tubes
8
  Dulciana
61
    Tremolo  
 
     
 
     
Swell Organ (Manual III) – 61 notes, enclosed (3½" pressure)

8
  Violin Diapason *
73
8
  Oboe **
73
8
  Viole d'Orchestre *
73
8
  Cornopean **
73
8
  Viole Celeste [TC] *
61
8
  Vox Humana ** [in sep. box]
73
8
  Aeoline *
73
   
Harp **
49 bars
8
  Stopped Flute *
73
    Tremolo  
4
  Harmonic Flute *
73
    Vox Tremolo  
   
* in Swell Box #1
   
** in Swell Box #2
               
Choir Organ (Manual I) – 61 notes, enclosed (3½" pressure)

8
  Viol
73
8
  Concert Flute
73
8
  Unda Maris [TC]
61
4
  Flute d'Amour
73
8
  Dolce
73
    Harp
SW
8
  Quintadena
73
    Tremolo  
               
Pedal Organ – 32 notes, enclosed with Great (4½" pressure)

32
  Resultant Bass [ext. Bdn. Minor]
7
8
  Violoncello
32
16
  Bourdon, Major
32
8
  Flute* [ext. Bdn. Minor]
12
16
  Bourdon, Minor
32
       
8
  Octave Bass [ext. Bdn. Minor]
5
       
               
Echo Organ – 61 notes, enclosed [console preparation]

    5 blank knobs          
               
Couplers

    Great to Pedal 8'       Pedal to Pedal 8'
    Swell to Pedal 8', 4'       Pedal Tenor
    Choir to Pedal 8'        
               
Combinations (adjustable at keyboard, moving stops)

    Pistons No. 1-2-3 affecting Great stops and couplers
    Pistons No. 1-2-3-4 affecting Swell stops and couplers
    Pistons No. 1-2-3 affecting Choir stops and couplers
    Pistons No. 1-2 affecting Pedal stops and couplers
    Pistons No. 1-2 affecting Full Organ stops and couplers
               
Pedal Movements

    Great to Pedal, Reverse    
    Coupler Cancel    
    Great and Pedal Expression    
    Swell Expression – Box #1    
    Swell Expression – Box #2    
    Choir Expression    
    Full Organ and Crescendo    
               
Sources:
     Buhrman, T. Scott. "The McAmis Studio," article in The American Organist ( March, 1935). Specifications for M.P. Möller Organ, Op. 6287 (1935). Courtesy Jeff Scofield.
     Fox, David H. A Guide to North American Organbuilders (Rev. ed.). Richmond: The Organ Historical Society, 1997.
     "Guide to the Hugh McAmis Collection," compiled by Ross Hagen and Cassandra M. Volpe. Boulder: University of Colorado at Boulder, July 2005.
     Hugh McAmis Collection at American Music Research Center, University of Colorado at Boulder; Cassandra M. Volpe, Archivist.
     "Hugh McAmis is Dead After Short Illness," obituary in The Diapason ( Sep. 1, 1942).
     Hillgreen, Lane Co. Opus List, compiled by Sand Lawn. Courtesy David Scribner.
     Nelson, George. Organs in the United States and Canada Database. Seattle, Wash.
     Trupiano, Larry. Factory Specifications of Hillgreen, Lane & Co. Organ, Op. 556 (1919).

Photos:
      The American Organist
(March 1935). Organ case of M.P. Möller Organ, Op. 6287 (1935).
     
Hugh McAmis Collection at American Music Research Center, University of Colorado at Boulder; courtesy Cassandra M. Volpe, Archivist. Hugh McAmis headshots and at studio organ.