The Schlicker Organ Company was founded in 1930 by Herman L. Schlicker, a third generation builder, who apprenticed with firms in Germany, France and Denmark before emigrating to America in the late 1920's. It was at this time that organbuilding in America was in the infancy of a reform movement which would shift tonal philosophy away from orchestral stoplists which were based upon 8' pitches of a solo/accompaniment idiom and performance literature that drew heavily upon transcriptions. There was growing consensus among musicologists that the listening experience could be enhanced by performing music of a given period on instruments authentic to that period.

Riding the wave of this organ reform movement, which became a pendulum swing reaction to the excesses of early twentieth century organ building, Herman built literally hundreds of organs during the ensuing decades. He was at the forefront of the neo-baroque revival building organs after the "Werk-Prinzip" in good German tradition. His organs are characterized by attention to detail in the upperwork and possess a brightness and clarity of tone along with a slightly thin edginess in the plenum. This was in keeping with the narrow scaling and no-nicking style of voicing in vogue at the time. His reeds are quite German in nature.

Schlicker organs have proved to be very reliable and Herman's console design was a unique contribution. Trim and chaste in appearance, a Schlicker console gives the organist a clear, straightforward view of the stops as well as a very positive "toggle-action" to the feel. Many were graced with luxuriously thick and beveled ivory keys as well.

It is this trim and attractive console along with a pleasing tonal scheme that contributed to the companies leadership in the practice organ genre. Capitalizing on the townhouse subbass octave, the Schlicker practice organs were compact and by far the most popular. There is hardly an organ student, even today that has not spent many hours at the console of one. They possess an unusual degree of dependability and are still highly sought after even in today's pro-tracker environment.

Following Herman's untimely death in 1974, the Schlicker Organ Company was directed by his son-in-law, Ralph Dinwiddie. Not being an organ builder, he sold the company in the early 1980's. The company again changed hands in 1992 and was acquired by Matters, Inc., an innovative supplier to pipe organ builders in September, 2002.

Guiding the next generation of Schlicker tonal philosophy will be Justin Matters. After studying organ at Concordia College, St. Paul with Paul Manz who was the most noteworthy church organist of his generation in this country and a major proponent of Schlicker organs, he transferred to the University of Minnesota to complete a degree in organ performance under Heinrich Fleischer. Schlicker organs made no small impression during the countless Sundays at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church to hear Paul Manz and the 55 rank Schlicker. There were also many trips to St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN to play the 86 rank Schlicker in Boe Chapel. However, this tonal impression was balanced by many hours practicing the 108 rank Aeolian-Skinner organ of G. Donald Harrison in Northrup Auditorium on the U of M campus for weekly lessons and two recitals. It was there that a full appreciation for 32' Open Wood Diapasons, full-length 32' Bombardes, romantic strings and orchestral voices was gained.

It is anecdotal to note that Justin and Mark Matters received their introduction to the pipe organ and church architecture while stopping with their parents enroute to a funeral to view the stunning Resurrection Chapel of Valparaiso University with its Schlicker Organ literally plastered all over the back wall. It was there they learned of Paul Manz and after returning home were at Mt. Olive the following Sunday. Following High School graduation Justin wrote a letter to Schlicker Organ Company inquiring about summer employment opportunities and apprentice programs. The company responded by sending a copy of their portfolio along with a letter stating that it was not their policy to hire organ students because they tended to be too concerned about their hands while operating power saws and the like.

Tonal Philosophy
Schlicker organs will be characterized by a complete Principal chorus on the Great as well as a secondary one based on 8' pitch on the Positiv. 16' chorus reeds on these divisions will receive greater emphasis and the reeds in general will be of a more refined quality. The tonal philosophy will be guided by the fact that organ repertoire is overshadowed by two giants, namely J. S. Bach and Cesar Franck. It stands to reason, therefore, that the pipe organ as a musical instrument must seek to do a musicologically faithful and artistically convincing performance of both. In the only example we have of Bach making stoplist recommendations, he wanted the 8' chorus reed on the Hauptwerk replaced with a 16'. He also specified a 32' Untersatz in the Pedal. Why is this unlike the Cavaille-Coll of Cesar Franck? In reality the "Werk-Prinzip", which requires the Positiv to be based on an 8' Principal if the Hauptwerk is based on a 16' is in accord with the French tradition. In the organs of both Bach and Franck, the Positiv is the second most important division and should not, therefore, be based on a 2' Prinzipal with a Krummhorn as its only reed. One does not add an English Swell division to an incomplete two-manual specification to create a "romantic" organ. Some try to lend respectibility to this uninformed approach with the term "eclectic", but such will not be the practice of Schlicker Organ Co.

The merging of Schlicker with Matters, Inc., a builder of aluminum bass and fašade pipes, electro-mechanical action and the premier microprocessor-based pipe organ controller utilizing a fiber-optic communication link gives Schlicker Organ Company the best chance to regain status in the organ-building community.

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