Massive Pipe Organ Is Music To Macy's Ears

Up the escalator on the 2nd floor of Macy's in Philadelphia you'll find Women's Casual wear, outerwear and the biggest playable pipe organ in the world, played masterfully by virtuoso organist, Peter Conte.

CBS News correspondent Richard Schlesinger asked him: "Have you always played in women's clothes, so to speak?"

"Women's shoes at one point," Conte said. "Never had my size!"

The organ was built into the store in 1911 and has been part of Christmas in Philadelphia ever since.

"As a child my father would always bring us here at Christmastime," said shopper Barbara Clancy. "It's a family tradition."

The organ occupies a peculiar place in music history and a prominent place in retail history.

"You get folks coming in just to buy a pair of shoes, and then they look up and they hear this instrument and they're transformed and transfixed for a moment in their lives," Conte said.

The huge organ became a huge attraction. So just how big is it?

"It's got 28,000-plus pipes. Twenty-eight thousand, four-hundred-and-something pipes. Something. We're not quite sure," Conte said.

The innards of the organ are scattered through the store, built into spaces on seven different floors. In one area alone, there are 6,300 pipes - give or take a few.

And countless shoppers have heard the music. It's impossible not to hear the music, especially at this time of year.

The bigger the audience the better for business, which is all about generating foot traffic.

But does it make shoppers want to shop more?

"Oh, definitely," Clancy said.

And at a time like this when retail sales are nothing to sing about - that is music to Macy's ears.

  • Richard Schlesinger

    Correspondent, "48 Hours," "CBS Evening News"