Jacobs School of Music installs world-class organ


Workers from C. B. Fisk install the new Maidee H. and Jackson A. Seward Organ Wednesday afternoon in Auer Hall. The organ is built so that each pipe appears in a symetrical pattern, but not necessarily in in line with each individual key on the organ. Chris Pickrell Buy Photos

Even after 17 years of planning, anticipating and assembling, Chris Young still has to wait for another 10 months.

Though the 3,963-pipe Maidee H. and Jackson A. Seward Organ is mostly assembled in Auer Hall, organ department faculty members like Young must wait until late April or early May for each pipe of the nearly $2 million dollar instrument to be individually tuned and made ready to play.

But watching the organ come to life makes the wait worthwile.

“I love this stage,” Young said. “I love driving the builders nuts asking questions. It involves so many different skills and arts. It’s a very interactive relationship.”

Three weeks ago, the organ building crew from C.B. Fisk Inc., from Gloucester, Mass., arrived to assemble the organ with the help of organ students, faculty members and members of the community.

“Every available seating surface in the hall was filled with parts,” organ builder David Kazimir said. “It was like a warehouse of organ parts.”

Both organ department chairwoman Janette Fishell and Young said the organ, beyond being an “installation of international stature,” is an educational asset for students.

“You learn to interact with specific sounds,” Young said. “Students learn from listening to feedback from a concert instrument.”

Fishell also said the new instrument is suited for more than just solo performances.
“This particular organ has been designed to play the widest possible array of music,” she said. “It’s been designed to be a superb accompaniment to help students become consummate organists.”

A previous attempt at building an organ in the same space with a different company in 1992 fell through, according to The Associated Press, so the school approached Fisk.

“An organ is not only a work of art but a big piece of machinery,” Fishell said. “They’re really connected to their instruments, and once you work with them, you’re a part of the Fisk family. They feel that their instruments are like their children.”

The organ is about 75 percent assembled, Kazimir said. But Young said the organ appears complete to the untrained eye.

“If you go in there right now, you’d see it looks essentially complete, but the bulk of the organ is not seen,” Young said. “It’s like looking at a car that looks complete but has no engine.”

After assembly, each one of the nearly 4,000 pipes must be “voiced,” or tuned, to an exact pitch and dynamic level based on the acoustics of the room.

“Not only do the pipes have to agree with the sound they’re supposed to make, they have to agree with each other,” Young said.

The organ assembly process is painstaking, but waiting patiently until the spring is worth it to ensure a perfect instrument, Young said.

“This organ will hopefully be around for 100-plus years,” he said. “It’s not an ephemeral thing, like a DVD player that wears out in eight to 10 years. It’s a major installation.
“I hope it’s here as long as the Jacobs School of Music.”

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