With the season of giving approaching, it seems almost impossible not to think about gifts. Whether they are in the form of end-of-year donations to the causes you believe in, or the carefully chosen items that mark special occasions with family and friends, they seem to be everywhere this time of year. The best gifts, though, are often those which show up completely unexpectedly, as two such items did at the FOKO office over the summer.

The first such gift was a diary from 1912 belonging to a family in the Augusta area. It is a general recounting of daily events, with one of particular note: on December 17, 1912, upon visiting Portland for a grange meeting, the diarist paid a visit to “the Grand Organ”, only a few short months after the organ was installed. Think about a trip from Augusta to Portland in 1912: it was probably made by horse and buggy (or perhaps in a one-horse open sleigh). It is some 50+ miles from Augusta to Portland, easily made by a modern car in an hour or so, but this trip would have taken much longer. Several hours, at least. It was December, so it would have been cold, and since the Maine Turnpike wasn’t built until the 1940’s, it was probably on some pretty rough back roads. But, once the diarist arrived in Portland, he or shewould have seen the same beautiful organ façade that we see today. They would have heard some of the same powerful sounds, and since it was December when they visited, perhaps they heard or sang some of the same carols that will be featured in our upcoming Christmas with Kennerley concert.

The second surprise donation was a small booklet that had been created in honor of Maine’s Centennial year in 1920. With Maine’s Bicentennial looming on the near horizon, it was fascinating to get a glimpse into “A Trip Through the Portland Concert Organ” and what was going on nearly 100 years ago with the Kotzschmar. In addition to a history of the instrument, a then-current stop list and an impressive resume and poem by Portland’s second Municipal Organist Irvin John Morgan, there was a very interesting statistic. According to the booklet, “Portland now holds the record ‘for all America’ in Municipal Concert seat sales”. It makes me wonder what concert attendance looked like in 1920, and whether we can still claim to hold that record nearly 100 years later?

With warm wishes,

—Brooke Hubner

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