David Tannenberg, Organ Builder

Welcome Message

Welcome to this web site on the Early American organ builder, David Tannenberg. It is the product of two years of work to design and create a site in order to make accessible on the Internet, some of the scholarly research that has been accomplished within the last 30 plus years on David Tannenberg. His work is extremely important for several reasons. To begin with, he was the first full-time organ builder in the colonies and during the first decades of the United States. He constructed the largest and most splendid organs in all of the thirteen original states at that time. Second, his instruments were very beautifully made and represent a high development of the art of organ building. Another significance of his work lies in the fact that the style of organ building in which his instruments were constructed is unique not only in the United States, but in the entire world, as much of the organ culture which once existed in the area in and around Dresden, Germany in the late seventeenth century has all but completely disappeared.

Due to the restoration that was performed on the 1800 Tannenberg organ for Old Salem, NC, interest in Tannenberg's work has grown in the last few years. It is the intention of this web site to make available some detailed information about the nine surviving organs of Tannenberg as well as provide information about other organs he built that have not survived. This, of course, includes not only all the available stop lists, the history of these organs with many photographs, but also a general description and notable characteristics of his instruments. Much of the information contained on this site is taken from three sources: 1) The initial book and extrordinary study on Tannenberg, William Armstrong's Organs for America: The Life and Work of David Tannenberg (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1967), 2) Ray Brunner's fantastic book, That Ingenious Business: Pennsylvania-German Organ Builders (The Pennsylvania-German Society, 1990) and 3) my own experience with the organs themselves. For the last 25 years, I have have had the privilage and pleasure to play these wonderful organs for recitals and recordings as well as for many hours alone in an empty church or museum. Mention must also be made of the tremendously important technical study done in the early 1980's by James R. McFarland & Co. of all the surviving organs as well as all the miscellaneous cases, parts and pipes that have survived. This study was part of the preliminary work of that shop's restoration of the 1787 Tannenberg organ for Lititz Moravian Church. Much of the body of technical information that has been collected has been the result of the research performed by that shop as well as additional research performed by R. J. Brunner & Co., as part of that shop's restoration of the Tannenberg organs in York and Nazareth. I had the good fortune to be present during much of that research. Currently, I am engaged in on-going research to better document those organs of Tannenberg that have not survived. It is hoped that this web site can be a repository of new information as it becomes available.

While this web site does concentrate fairly heavily on the history of the organs (the rebuildings, alterations, restorations, etc..), it does not deal with the technical aspect of the organs (pipe scales, details of chest construction and so on...) in too much detail. For this type of information as well as a wealth of additional information, please consider purchasing Ray Brunner's book, That Ingenious Business. It is available from the Organ Historical Society as well as from the Pennsylvania-German Society (see the links page in Chapter 10).

This site will, of course, be updated with new information as it becomes available. More photographs and MP3 files will also be added. You can come back often to check on the News and Upcoming Recitals page (see Chapter 8) to see what's new and where the next recital on a Pennsylvania-German organ will be located. Also, news on the progress of the compact disc series, Old Pennsylvania-German Organs will be posted there.

Phil Cooper
July, 2003
Updated, July, 2005
Updated March, 2011

For a list of updates to this site, go to the List of Updates page by clicking here.


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This page was created & is maintained by
Philip T. D. Cooper
Organist & Organ Historian