Great Big New Organ for Philly

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Ralph
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Great Big New Organ for Philly

Post by Ralph » Tue May 09, 2006 7:26 am

Posted on Sun, May. 07, 2006


Pipe dream come true
The much-anticipated Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ makes its Kimmel Center debut in a big way this week.
By David Patrick Stearns
Inquirer Music Critic

The King of Instruments finally has a proper new kingdom, though what it will be like and how long it will last is a great unknown.

Anticipated for years, the Kimmel Center's $6.4 million, 32-ton, 6,938-pipe Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ debuts Thursday with a 10-day inaugural festival - including concerts with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Philadelphia Singers, a five-hour marathon May 13 with five recitalists, and silent-film accompaniments. It's the latest in a flurry of major concert-hall organs, newly created or dramatically renovated, from Cleveland to Madison, Wis., to Seattle.

Curiosity is bound to run high. New music has been commissioned for the occasion: Swarthmore-based Gerald Levinson composed Toward Light for the organ and the Philadelphia Orchestra. The Kimmel marketing campaign includes 60 TV spots, a billboard on I-76, and about 30,000 festival brochures distributed throughout the region. That's in addition to a level of interest by the news media handily surpassing optimistic expectations on the Kimmel's administrative side.

All this, even though the Kimmel organ is like a newborn dinosaur for most people - a huge, site-specific, technologically arcane creature from the Middle Ages producing vast quantities of sound through mechanisms that often defy modernization.

"The average Joe doesn't open the paper and [decide to] go to an organ recital," said Alan Morrison, chairman of the Curtis Institute's organ department. "They associate it with funerals and Aunt Susie's wedding."

The specs alone make you want to hear what will be the largest functioning concert-hall organ in the United States. The Kimmel instrument - in contrast to the sensible but disappointing portable organ once used in the Academy of Music - is the magnum opus, eight years in the making, of the busy Dobson Pipe Organ Builders Ltd., of Lake City, Iowa.

Its 6,938 pipes range from the height of a three-story building to that of a drinking straw. It's a nest of options, starting with two consoles that organists can choose from, one in the Conductor's Circle seating area overlooking the stage, the other onstage, with curving lines designed to echo Verizon Hall's interior architecture. Each console looks like the cockpit of a Flash Gordon spaceship, with four keyboards and 111 knobs ("stops") that control timbre and amplitude.

Traditionally, an organ's musical output has been so much sound, produced with such mechanical efficiency, that composer Igor Stravinsky once exclaimed (somewhat inaccurately), "The monster never breathes."

This organ's success seems all but assured. Fresh from testing the instrument before its final tuning, Morrison pronounced himself "very happy," adding that the organ is rather less shrill than many others, fashioned as it is to blend with the Philadelphia Orchestra's lush sound.

Like most audiences, the Kimmel crowd is impressed with sonic magnitude, and this instrument delivers. One recent night, the instrument rocked the room so thoroughly with seismic bass notes that some lighting fixtures shook loose.

Already, the orchestra's portions of the organ festival - including the May 11-13 premiere of Levinson's piece - are sold out. Besides drawing local ticket buyers, the festival inspired the Music Critics Association of North America to hold a professional development workshop here coinciding with the events.

This instrument could change the local musical landscape. Though Philadelphia is home to several much-praised church organs and the famously gargantuan Wanamaker organ at the Lord & Taylor department store, concert-hall instruments like the Kimmel's have an entirely different psychological impact.

"A concert hall is devoted to music, which is not the main purpose of a church," said Olivier Latry, the "titular organist" at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris and the soloist for the Levinson premiere. "It would be great to hear the organ in a concert series, and the music for organ and orchestra numbers more than 200 concertos. There's also music for organ, piano, choir and brass. Many combinations! And all the facilities to make it possible."

Consider the precedent of Disney Hall. Though Los Angeles is hardly a hotbed of organ culture, Disney Hall is finishing its second season of organ recitals, and they're virtually sold out.

How, and whether, that interest is sustained is the crucial question. Organ recital series have faded in major U.S. cities partly because the instrument is so labor-intensive. Preparing a recital isn't simply a matter of getting used to the keyboards and acoustics, as with pianos. Because the instruments are so different, the oboe knob on one organ might produce a sound completely different from that on another.

In effect, organists have to re-orchestrate their programs, at least partially, for any given organ. "One piece in particular has taken me as much as eight hours," said the Curtis' Morrison. "When I go on a gig, it's easily a four-day venture."

Musical interpretations also must be rethought on short notice. "For example, if I play a piece by Bach at Notre-Dame, where we have an organ by Cavaillé-Coll from the 19th century, I won't do the same thing on a baroque organ," Latry wrote in an e-mail. "Using the same way of playing at both places with the same kind of articulation, registration would be treason for sure, because it would be too far from the meaning of the composer."

Those laborious hours of preparation, depending on the stagehand-union arrangements, can become prohibitively expensive. The alternative, often, is low-paying recitals in churches, often given free of charge, with the audience seated in pews that face away from the performer they've come to see.

No wonder that the organ community is a specialized, almost ghettoized, realm. Even a composer as sympathetic as Levinson, who steeped himself in organ literature before composing Toward Light, learned the truth behind the widely held belief that organ and orchestra are like an uneasy meeting of pope and emperor.

"Some organist friends of mine said not to write big sustained chords for organ and orchestra together," he said. "They aren't always tuned the same way. Put them together, and they won't be in tune."

Organists themselves tend to be a conservative lot - and would have to be, given the time they spend in churches - and anonymous as well, since their main musical purpose is to support rather than lead worship.

There's a sense that new performing talent is expected to fall in line with traditions. The late Virgil Fox is fondly remembered, despite his 1970s concert tours in superhero costumes, mainly because he stuck to Bach - and did so with imagination.

Today, Cameron Carpenter, the 24-year-old former child prodigy, is the ultimate maverick of the U.S. organ community. He'll be part of the Kimmel marathon on May 13. With his quasi-Mohawk hair (at least this week), he's bound to be regarded by colleagues with genteel skepticism.

Still a student at the Juilliard School of Music, he talks with the impatience of a revisionist who has truth to tell: "I see a general malaise... . No matter how physically large the organ is, it's still an obscure musical instrument... . People feel they have to treat it with piety, which is the farthest thing from my mind."

What was on his mind during a recent practice session at New York's Trinity Church were improvisations on the song "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)," by Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart. Organists are the only classical musicians who enjoy lingering vestiges of improvisation training from past centuries; it was once customary for keyboardists from Bach to Chopin, but now survives among organists mostly for the sake of accompanying Communion hymns on the spot.

Carpenter goes light-years forward in an improvised performance that leaves him out of breath, so physically demanding are keyboards and pedals. Novel? Yes, but well beyond that.

Should he and others do for organ what the Kronos Quartet did for string quartets, the new Kimmel instrument, like its predecessors, won't just survive. With the myriad possibilities opened up by its size, the organ might well be a laboratory of change.

"It's ripe for a new and important expression of ideas," Carpenter said. "It's one of the great frontiers."
Contact music critic David Patrick Stearns at 215-854-4907 or dstearns@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/davidpatrickstearns
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"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

Albert Einstein

jbuck919
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Post by jbuck919 » Tue May 09, 2006 10:08 am

Here's how an organist looks at it:

88 stops on four manuals and pedal, not including extensions. (In the list that follows missing number of pipes indicates that the stop was prepared for but the pipes are not in place.

Specifications
GREAT (II)

32' Prestant (extension) 12 pipes
16' Prestant 61 pipes
16' Violone 61 pipes
16' Bourdon 61 pipes
8' Open Diapason 61 pipes
8' Principal 61 pipes
8' Gambe 61 pipes
8' Harmonic Flute 61 pipes
8' Chimney Flute 61 pipes
5-1/3' Quint 61 pipes
4' Octave 61 pipes
4' Spire Flute 61 pipes
3-1/5' Tierce 61 pipes
2-2/3' Octave Quint 61 pipes
2' Super Octave 61 pipes
1-3/5' Octave Tierce 61 pipes
II Grande Fourniture 2-2/3' 122 pipes
IV-VIII Mixture 2' 342 pipes
IV Fourniture 1-1/3' 244 pipes
III Cymbal 2/3' 183 pipes
VI Cornet 8'(mounted, c13-c61) 277 pipes
16' Posaune 61 pipes
8' Trumpet 61 pipes
4' Clarion 61 pipes
8' Horizontal Trumpet * 61 pipes

Swell to Great
Positive to Great
Solo to Great


SWELL (III; enclosed)
16' Bourdon 61 pipes
8' Diapason 61 pipes
8' Flûte traversière(1-12 from Bourdon) 49 pipes
8' Bourdon 61 pipes
8' Viole de gambe 61 pipes
8' Voix céleste 61 pipes
8' Voix éolienne II(céleste from GG) 108 pipes
4' Prestant 61 pipes
4' Flûte octaviante 61 pipes
4' Viole d'amour 61 pipes
2-2/3' Nasard 61 pipes
2' Octavin 61 pipes
1-3/5' Tierce 61 pipes
III-V Plein jeu harmonique 2-2/3' 269 pipes
16' Bombarde 61 pipes
8' Trompette harmonique 61 pipes
8' Hautbois 61 pipes
8' Voix humaine 61 pipes
4' Clairon harmonique 61 pipes

Tremulant
Solo to Swell


POSITIVE (I; enclosed)
16' Quintaton 61 pipes
8' Principal 61 pipes
8' Bourdon 61 pipes
8' Salicional 61 pipes
8' Unda maris (FF) 56 pipes
4' Octave 61 pipes
4' Chimney Flute 61 pipes
2-2/3' Nasard 61 pipes
2' Doublet 61 pipes
2' Recorder 61 pipes
1-3/5' Tierce 61 pipes
1-1/3' Larigot 61 pipes
1-1/7' Sept 61 pipes
1' Piccolo 61 pipes
8/9' None 61 pipes
IV Mixture 1-1/3' 244 pipes
III Sharp Mixture 1' 178 pipes
16' Bassoon 61 pipes
16' Aeoline (free reeds) 61 pipes
8' Trumpet 61 pipes
8' Cor anglais 61 pipes
8' Cromorne 61 pipes
Tremulant
16' Trombone (Solo) - pipes
8' Tuba (Solo) - pipes
8' Ophicleide (Solo) - pipes
4' Clarion (Solo) - pipes
8' Horizontal Trumpet (Great) - pipes

Swell to Positive
Solo to Positive


SOLO (IV; enclosed)
8' Principal 61 pipes
8' Major Flute 61 pipes
8' Gamba 61 pipes
8' Gamba Celeste 61 pipes
4' Octave 61 pipes
4' Orchestral Flute 61 pipes
V Full Mixture 2-2/3' 305 pipes
8' French Horn 61 pipes
8' Clarinet 61 pipes
Tremulant
16' Trombone * 61 pipes
8' Tuba Magna * 61 pipes
8' Ophicleide * (ext. Trombone) 12 pipes
4' Tuba Clarion * (ext. Trombone) 12 pipes

Great to Solo
Positive to Solo
Swell to Solo

* high pressure


PEDAL

32' Double Open Wood 32 pipes
32' Prestant (Great) - pipes
32' Bourdon (ext. Subbass) 12 pipes
16' Open Wood (ext. Double Open Wood) 12 pipes
16' Octave 32 pipes
16' Violone (Great) - pipes
16' Subbass 32 pipes
16' Bourdon (Swell) - pipes
10-2/3' Quint (ext. Double Open Wood) - pipes
8' Octave 32 pipes
8' Bass Flute 32 pipes
8' Bourdon (ext. Subbass) - pipes
8' Violoncello (Great) - pipes
4' Choralbass 32 pipes
4' Flute (ext. Bass Flute) 12 pipes
III Cornet 6-2/5' + 5-1/3' + 4-4/7' 96 pipes
IV Mixture 2-2/3' 128 pipes
64' Contre Bombarde Ravalement AAAAA* (ext. Bombarde)
3 pipes
32' Contre Bombarde * 32 pipes
16' Bombarde * (ext. Contre Bombarde) 12 pipes
16' Posaune 32 pipes
16' Trombone (Solo) - pipes
8' Trumpet 32 pipes
8' Posaune (ext. Posaune) 12 pipes
4' Clarion 32 pipes
8' Horizontal Trumpet - pipe
8' Ophicleide (Solo) - pipes

Great to Pedal
Swell to Pedal
Positive to Pedal
Solo to Pedal

* high pressure



ACCESSORIES
Bell Star f
Bell Star p
Nightingale

DETAILS OF CONSTRUCTION

* Mechanical key action and electric stop action controlled by an attached drawknob console
* Second remote electric action stage console
* 61 note manual keyboards and 32 note concave & radiating pedalboard
* Expression shoes for Positive, Swell and Solo
* Crescendo (1 fixed, 3 programmable)
* Solid state combination action with the following features:

300 levels of memory

[enumeration of detailed combination action omitted as being of little general interest]

* MIDI In - Out - Thru
Last edited by jbuck919 on Tue May 09, 2006 10:32 am, edited 1 time in total.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

ch1525
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Post by ch1525 » Tue May 09, 2006 11:22 am

Wow, this is pretty incredible. I wonder if they are true 64' pipes?

I'd love to be able to attend those events.

I saw Cameron Carpenter perform here in New Orleans a couple years back. He is an interesting fellow to say the least, but he is insanely talented. I was amazed at what he could do on the organ.

It really is great to see the King of All Instruments gaining back some much needed recognition!!!

jbuck919
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Post by jbuck919 » Tue May 09, 2006 12:28 pm

ch1525 wrote:Wow, this is pretty incredible. I wonder if they are true 64' pipes?
Only one pipe in such a rank would actually be 64 feet long (yes, the measures are in true feet); that would be the fundament, in the pedals a very, very low C. In practice, they use a 32 foot pipe (long enough, I think you'll agree) and double the cross-sectional area of the pipe. In other words, the largest pipe in this organ is actually a wooden pipe that is a rectangular prism, not a metal cylinder or cone, 32 feet long and with a two square foot base, to give it the same volume as a 64 foot pipe with a one square foot base.
It really is great to see the King of All Instruments gaining back some much needed recognition!!!
In German it is taken for granted that a concert hall will have a fine organ. In the US it happens often enough. The great scandal of the US is that the king of cities has not a single example of the king of instruments in it concert halls, though in terms of church organs a case could be made that it is the greatest city for that instrument in the world.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

ch1525
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Post by ch1525 » Tue May 09, 2006 12:48 pm

That's right, only one would be 64'.

Is it true that there are some churches in Europe that have the 64' rank layed out underneath the floor and the seat? That would be a booming effect for sure.


The Dallas/Fort Worth area seems to have a pretty strong pipe organ culture. I attended the AGO Pipe Organ Encounter there a couple years ago. The Meyerson Symphony Center has an impressive organ that I got to play for about 1 minute!!!

jbuck919
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Post by jbuck919 » Tue May 09, 2006 12:58 pm

ch1525 wrote:That's right, only one would be 64'.

Is it true that there are some churches in Europe that have the 64' rank layed out underneath the floor and the seat? That would be a booming effect for sure.
I'm not sure because a 64' rank is still very rare. I know that I have seen 32' ranks where the lower pipes were simply curved over and yes, sometimes laid out in the floor or ceiling. Obviously, you can't curve a wooden pipe.
The Dallas/Fort Worth area seems to have a pretty strong pipe organ culture. I attended the AGO Pipe Organ Encounter there a couple years ago. The Meyerson Symphony Center has an impressive organ that I got to play for about 1 minute!!!
There is still, as someone else implied, a pipe organ culture strong enough to keep things going even with great lapses (such as that even many large US churches do not have one). It is thanks to the AGO that I got to see the full scope of the organ scene in the previously alluded to city of New York where they had their 100th convention in 2000. And I was slightly mistaken because Alice Tully Hall has a fairly important organ, but None of the great Lincoln Center halls nor Carnegie Hall does. Years ago a principled decision was made that they couldn't risk it at Carnegie because of the chance of comporomising the famous acoustics, but I don't know what excuse the others have.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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