KRWG

Organist Celebrates 25 Years Playing Wanamaker Organ

Jun 27, 2014
Originally published on June 27, 2014 5:59 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And today's last word of Business is the world's largest playable instrument. We're listening to a 104-year-old organ with more than 28,000 pipes.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The music is not coming from the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris or the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. This organ can be found at Macy's in downtown Philadelphia.

GREENE: The Macy's was once Wanamaker's - Philadelphia's first ever department store, hence the organ's name. For the past 25 years, one man has been serenading shoppers for two shows a day, six days a week - Peter Richard Conte.

PETER RICHARD CONTE: People come in to buy a pair of shoes down the grand court and they are transfixed, almost, by a moment when they hear this instrument.

GREENE: Who could pay attention to the shopping? The Wall Street Journal reports Macy's has spent the past eight years refurbishing the century-old instrument. And Conte says it's paid off.

CONTE: Probably the best it's ever sounded in its over a 100 year history. That's thanks to that company.

INSKEEP: Tomorrow, Mr. Conte will mark his 25th anniversary with Wanamaker Organ Day. He'll have a recital of composers like Rachmaninoff and George Gershwin. It's all happening just around the corner from the housewares section. And that's the Business News on MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Our theme music was written by B.J. Lederman and arranged by Jim Pugh. And suddenly I'm wondering how that might sound on a Wanamaker organ. But that's for another day. I'm Steve Inskeep.

GREENE: And I'm David Greene. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.