Frederic Archer

Virtuoso Organist and Founding Conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony

Frederich Archer was a British born composer, conductor, organist, lecturer, and author.  He studied music in London and Leipzig.  Before immigrating to America he held musical posts in England and Scotland.  In 1880 he moved to Brooklyn to become a church organist.  Moving to Boston he was appointed conductor of the Boston Oratorio Society.  

In 1985 Archer was hired to be the director of newly built Carnegie Music Hall in Pittsburgh and organist of the Church of the Ascension.  The monthly publication "Music" in 1985  scoffed at Archer's hiring as organist for the Carnegie Music Hall as a great experiment.  The author of the article had great doubts that the public would acquire a taste of appreciation for serious organ music.  He wrote:

"A very interesting experiment is about to be tried in Pittsburgh.....This city has called the eminent virtuoso, Mr. Frederic Archer as town organist.  It will be his duty to play recitals twice a week, and probably to perform other musical duties.  The experiment of the organ recitals will be watched with interest....Mr Frederic Archer is one of the first organ virtuosos of the world and his repretoire is very large....I do not believe that a taste for serious organ music or an appreciation of the place or organ music in art.will ever be formed."  Music 1985

The Carnegie Music Hall opened on Nov 5, 1895 and Archer gave the first organ recitals on Nov 6th and 7th. Archer gave his bi-weekly recitals for five years.  From November 6, 1895 to June 30, 1901, Archer gave 451 organ recitals or lectures.  His successor Edwin Lemare gave 170 (1902 to 1905), followed by 164 more by Charles Heinroth (1907 to 1909) including the 1000th recitial given on November 13, 1909. The series continued for years with thousand of recitals by guest organists.  Based the success of on Archer's recitals in 1890 the Northside Carnegie Library began offering organ recitals. On May 14th 1967 the 3000th organ recital was held on the Northside.  The great experiment succeeded.   The bellowing skeptical writer from "Music" magazine was full of hot air. 

In 1896 Archer became the first conductor of the newly formed Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, recruiting musicians from the Boston Symphony Orchestra.  The fifty man PSO made its first performance in February 1896.  They performed two concerts a week for 40 weeks in Pittsburgh.  Following the Pittsburgh appearances Archer led the PSO on its first American concert tour in 1896. Archer left the PSO in 1898 and died of cancer in June of 1901.  He was a noted lecturer and author of several books and the publication “Keynote" He published the "Method for American reed-organ" in 1889. 

Archer with the Carnegie Music Hall Organ