The greater Pittsburgh area boasts a vibrant musical community with a plethora of concerts and recitals by professional and amateur ensembles. Attendees at the upcoming regional AGO convention will experience some of the city’s outstanding organs and concert venues as part of the official proceedings, but may also wish to take in some of the region’s little-known musical attractions including the rich musical heritage of Old Economy Village.
Now a state-run historic site, Old Economy is just north of Pittsburgh in Ambridge, PA, making it a worthwhile day trip for convention attendees with a musicological bent. In addition to seventeen original buildings constructed in the early nineteenth century and stunning formal gardens, the museum houses an extensive music archive with thousands of scores including early German Pietist hymnals, early American printings of choral masterworks, and handwritten manuscripts of hymns, festival odes, and orchestral music by the members of the Harmony Society, who founded the village and lived there communally from 1824-1904.
Seven nineteenth century pianos are also on display, including four with added reed attachments and bellows mechanisms; these “reed pianos” were briefly popular in the middle of the nineteenth century and were favored by the Harmonists. Orchestral instruments from the 1830s and a metronome believed to have been built by Johann Nepomuk Maelzel himself are also on display.