June 1st marked the beginning of the end of a long journey at the Jacobs School of Music. Students and faculty as well as workers from organ builder C.B. Fisk all took part in unloading and carrying the many pieces of what will eventually come together as the new Auer Hall organ.
The Maidee H. and Jackson A. Seward Organ, labeled C.B. Fisk's Opus 135, is now a mass of wood, metal, levers and electronics strewn about Auer Hall but will eventually become the center of attention in the Jacobs School's preeminent recital hall. Dr. Chris Young, professor of organ at the Jacobs School of Music, and the school's liaison between the builders and the architect, was there to watch the process as the organ is meticulously assembled.
"This is always exciting just to watch it get put together," Young said. "The organ is such an interesting instrument because it's such a combination of skill, craftsmanship, musical skill... And so you get woodworkers. You get structural engineers in steel and wood. You have, obviously, the musical aspects of it. You have the aesthetics aspects of it. The sheer engineering is remarkable, trying to fit things into a space. And then to watch it all go piece by piece together is fun. I wish I could park myself here eight hours a day, but I got other things to do."
The road has been many years long in realizing the dream of a concert organ in Auer Hall. But Dr. Young conveyed the relief the School has felt since making the switch to the C.B. Fisk company.
"The process itself over the long haul has had many pitfalls and issues to deal with between the room and a number of other factors," Young remarked. "But this group of people [is] remarkable to work with. They have been so ahead of the curve. They have been prompting everyone around them to get things set so they can do their work, so that's been a fabulous aspect of it."
Patrick Pope, a second year doctoral student in organ, was part of the crew who helped carrying in the instrument on the first day. He says he's excited for the possibilities in store.
"It's really exciting." Pope said. "When I was here as a masters degree student, 6 and 7 years ago, that was nearing the end of the previous incarnation of this organ. So we were unsure what was going to happen, and so it's really great now that I'm back and might have an opportunity to play this at some point."
I asked him about the significances of having students as a part moving the instrument into the space.
"For me it's almost an automatic sense of ownership and being connected to this process." Pope added. "And not only that, but once those of us who helped move it in, once we've graduated and gone on, we'll still have a really tangible connection to the organ, which will be a lot of fun."
Dr. Young expanded on what it means to add an instrument like this to the organ program, to the school, and to the Bloomington community.
"Certainly, having a wonderful pipe organ is at the core of training students these days. There are so many nice instruments, and the school has had such a traditional of organ , but without a tradition of quality instruments." Young said. "And so this is really our crowning achievement. Not the only organ, we hope. We think it will attract not only students but interest in furthering the cause of the organ in the city because the city is also a bit week on high quality instruments."
Young went on to say, "The organ is, like so many instruments, often misrepresented in culture.But more importantly, when you live in a town such as Bloomington, and it has a number of church organs particularly, and the organist is always complaining about those instruments, it's always good to have an instrument to compare it to that is of such high artistic value. And of course everybody complains about something they've gotten used to, but I really believe that this town will have a really different concept of what an organ can be from an expressive perspective. That's something we're really looking forward to, because as I said, Bloomington is need of that, and this campus especially is in need of that."
The instrument is quite large and boasts a number of musical and technological advances while remaining versatile enough to hand a variety of music. And large may be an understatement: 3, 945 pipes, 68 ranks, and 70 stops will turn Auer Hall into a venue to which organ students and enthusiasts are sure flock. The debut concert is tentatively scheduled for the spring, but as Patrick Pope pointed out, there's still a lot that has to happen between now and then.
"The dedication is set for next April, April of 2010," he said. "But think between now there will be the construction of the organ, and then voice, and tonal finishing. So, it's a months' long process. "
And when asked who gets to premiere the instrument, Pope was quick to say, "I think the faculty are playing the dedication recital." And they're most likely waiting with itchy fingers.
View the Jacobs School of Music's Organ Department website for more photos and a slideshow.