Staying in touch with the Kotzschmar Organ

Facebook Join My List Logo


April 24, 2020
These items appear each week in our social media accounts. Links below.


James Kennerley and
the Mighty Kotzschmar!
This selection is making us look even more forward to when Merrill Auditorium is open once again. Enjoy as James Kennerley, Municipal Organist for the City of Portland, Maine, performs Louis James Alfred Lefébure-Wély’s Sortie in E-Flat Major. Recorded on the mighty Kotzschmar Memorial Organ (Austin Organ Company, 1912 & 1927) in Merrill Auditorium.
Around 4 minutes

What is an Organ Curator and what do they do?
Meet David Wallace, the Kotzschmar Organ’s current curator.
When the Kotzschmar Organ was first installed, the job description for the municipal organist required the organist to have knowledge of electricity and tuning, and to be able to do the maintenance of the great instrument, as well as play it. This practice lasted until the late 1930’s when municipal organist Alfred Brinkler hired Burton B. Witham to take up the maintenance of the organ.
Mr. Witham took care of the organ for 42 years. David Wallace, of Gorham, Maine, took up the rehabilitation and care of the organ when Burt retired in 1981. For a short time, Robert Leslie cared for the organ while Wallace was recalled to military service in 1990. David Wallace continued until his retirement as curator in 1998, at which time Robert Faucher took over.
Mr. Faucher cared for the organ and oversaw the continued resuscitation of the organ until 2008. Robert Waters was curator from 2008 until the Kotzschmar renovation project in 2012. David Wallace and his team returned to do all of the prep and tunings for the restoration kick-off Festival. In 2014, with the organ newly restored/installed, they came back to be the on-site eyes and ears for Foley-Baker, Inc. (the company that completed the restoration work), and to work with Foley-Baker as the organ settled in and went through its initial couple of years of adjustment. The Wallace team has been our go-to ever since for maintenance and tuning of the instrument. David and his son, Nick, are in Merrill Auditorium every concert day – TWICE. First to tune it and generally prep it for the performance, and then, again, for a final fine-tuning moments before the doors to the auditorium open to the public. They sit in strategic seats in the Grand Tier during all of our concerts to be close to the backstage door in case any adjustments are needed during a performance (ask us someday about Christmas With Kennerley 2019 for a story about their fast response). They are also on-hand when any issue is discovered in between concerts, and for the general “care and feeding” of the Mighty Kotzschmar. We’d be lost without them!
David Wallace was elected to The Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ Board of Directors in 2019.
What fun it was to ‘sit down’ with Municipal Organist James Kennerley for the inaugural installment of ASK HIM ANYTHING. It’s amazing how easy a conversation can be on two computer screens. We experienced a couple of glitches (Note to self: always turn off calendar notifications before recording), but the end product is good fun — even with those couple of blips.
What have you always wanted to ask James about his life as an organist? Email us at! We’ll add your questions to the list for our next chat!
Around 18 minutes