Organ to be Unveiled this Weekend
by MacKenzie Moore
at 8 p.m. the new Opus 116, a 4,104 pipe organ, will be unveiled
to the public in its first ever concert. The organ, which is named
in honor of the late Kay Africa, was built by C.B. Fisk, Inc. of
Gloucester, Mass., and its first solo concert will be the centerpiece
of this weekends concerts and events.
organs journey to Oberlin began in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
with philanthropist Kay Africa. Her original 1991 bequest provided
the initial impetus for this project. Her bequest stipulated that
the instrument be a monumental organ of impeccable workmanship
and tonal magnificence...worthy of [Oberlins] unique, international
reputation as a center for the education and training of excellent
young organists, said Kay Africa at the time of her original
gift. Her donation of $500,000 was supplemented by donations by
the Kulas Foundation, the Phoebe Haas Foundation, and the William
Penn Foundation, as well as by gifts from Oberlin alumni Richard
Connelly, Richard and Mary Oertel, and Karen Flint. In addition
to these gifts, many individuals have contributed to the project
by endowing one or more of the organs handcrafted pipes. The
total cost was $1,185, 000.
The organ is C.B. Fisks seventy-first hand-made organ, many
of which now grace the music halls of Americas finest universities,
including Harvard, Stanford, Mount Holyoke and churches such as
Bostons Old West and Rochesters Downtown United Presbyterian.
In fact, Fisk instruments are in such high demand that there is
currently a five-year waiting period for the companys handiwork.
It is well worth the wait, however, because the repertory
for the organ is the largest of any musical instrument and covers
a vast array of styles, more than can be accommodated by any single
instrument. Oberlin students will benefit enormously from their
experience with these contrasting instruments, said David
Boe, professor of organ and former dean of the Conservatory.
Opus 116 is a symphonic organ, which is characterized, according
to Professor of Organ and Keyboard Studies Haskell Thomson, by
a virtual rainbow of tone colors, with a dynamic range extending
from the softest flutes and strings, to the most powerful foundations
and reeds; an instrument capable of making a crescendo from the
most ethereal pianissimo to a thundering fortissimo. As a result
of this range of sonorities, it is possible for the performer to
communicate music to listeners with dramatic impact. Such an organ
partakes of both the sonic and the aesthetic worlds of the symphony
orchestra and the opera.
and David Boe, Professor of Organ and Harpsichord and former Dean
of the Conservatory of Music have been involved with the project
since its conception, and will be the first solo performers tonight
on the new organ. They will perform In the Fullness of Time
by Robert Sirota, Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Op. 78, Organ
by Camille Saint-Saëns and Symphonie concertante, Op.
81 by Joseph Jungen.
The new organ with its immense weight 45,000 pounds
60 voices and breathtaking sound completes Oberlins triad
of beautifully constructed concert organs, which are from different
periods and are suited for music from distinct periods of history.
The Fisk organ is the third in a remarkable collection of
period concert instruments that was envisioned many years back by
Fenner Douglass, a former Oberlin faculty member says David
Daniels, Director of Conservatory Public Relations. Modeled after
the 19th century French Symphonic instruments in the manner of the
great French organbuilder, Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, the Kay
Memorial contributes to Oberlins Tradition of being
one of the premiere American institutions for the training of organ
students. Now students will have three uniquely styled instruments
upon which to learn and perform, Daniels said.
Warner Concert Hall has an instrument built in the north European
style of the early 18th century by Dutch organ builder Dirk Flentrop.
Fairchild Chapel is graced with the beauty of the Brombaugh organ
(built by Brombaugh and Associates of Eugene, Oregon) modeled on
the late Renaissance/early Baroque style of northern Europe. This
organ was called the most outstanding organ yet built in the
20th century by well-known organ scholar Arthur Wills.
Those involved with the project hope that the Kay Africa Memorial
organ will be regarded with similar admiration in the chronicles
of 21st century organ construction. That much is yet to be seen,
but what is clear is that the new organ will be invaluable to the
Oberlin community for years to come.
weekends celebration marks a new chapter in the history of
organ at Oberlin. In the words of C.B. Fisks president, Steven
Dieck Will allow the Conservatorys distinguished organ
faculty to maintain Oberlins status as the premiere undergraduate
school in organ study, as well as be a source of pleasure to the
entire Oberlin community for many years to come.
In a dedication ceremony to be held tomorrow at 11:15 a.m. the Conservatory
will award an honorary degree, Doctor of Music, to Dr. Fenner Douglas,
OC 42, Emeritus Professor of Music at Duke University. To
continue the celebration, a Saturday evening of solo organ literature,
performed again by David Boe and Haskell Thomson, will commence
at 8 p.m. in Finney Chapel.