A Comment on the Organ Studio
Fredrick Bahr – Shop Manager
(left to right) Sam Backman at Organ Studio; Alex Armstrong working in the shop.
This semester it has been my privilege to attend the weekly organ studio class on a regular basis. It is so very interesting to observe the range of student experience, beginning with some who are performing for an audience for the first time, and those at the other end of the spectrum preparing their doctoral recitals. In each case, it is a team effort: the composer who puts the notes on the page, the instructor who teaches the student to translate those ink marks into sounds, and the player whose very soul is exposed by combining those sounds into music. It is this final step that I find so enriching.
As the AOI shop manager, I interact with many of these students in a different mode as they work hard to develop technical skills in organbuilding and repair. Being able to watch and hear them play gives me a deeper understanding of who they are as musicians and technicians, and the unique balance between those two components that each of them brings to the table. That interrelationship is a critically important facet of the AOI program. Technicians who understand the music that is played on the organ are more likely to excel as they work on it. Performers who better understand the technical side of the organ will make music that is more deeply in tune with each instrument they play.
So, as we move into the final weeks of this Spring semester and the schedule fills up with recitals, let me communicate to each of our students that all of us on the AOI staff care deeply about the ongoing development of your skills. We are proud of you and your progress!
Collaboration in the Archives
Bailey Hoffner – Curator & Archivist
We are always working towards providing more and better access to the materials in our care at the AOI Archives and Library. And there is plenty of progress to highlight, whether it's the addition of new books and musical recordings to our growing library or newly processed archival collections. But nearly all of the work that we do depends on the collaborative efforts of groups and individuals inside and outside of the AOI.
There are a number of organizations that we work closely with. This is just a sampling of those organizations. We are proud to be a part of each of them and indebted to them for opportunities to enhance mutual goals.
- American Theatre Organ Society
- The Organ Historical Society
- Archival Research Collections at the University of Oklahoma
- The Society of Southwest Archivists
- Oklahoma Archivists Association
Note from the Director
Dr. John Schwandt – Director
This past Sunday marked the completion of a very special project for the AOI. The oldest extant organ original to the state of Oklahoma was dedicated in its new and forever home, Trinity Lutheran in Norman. Silviya Mateva (DMA ’16) played a wonderfully sensitive program on the instrument. The church folks could not have been more enthusiastic or appreciative. I was so proud of our staff and students. There is no greater feeling than knowing one has been a part of doing something good for someone else. In this case, a great good was done for this beautiful Hinners organ (1909 Op. 1024), the state of Oklahoma, Trinity Lutheran Church, and our regional organ community. Kudos to everyone involved. I have also been impressed by the auditioning students we have hosted. Their passion and talent bode well not only for our future, but for the future of the organ. All-in-all, a very good week at the AOI!
Paul Watkins – Shop Technician
1909 Hinners installed at Trinity Lutheran
Now that the dedication of the Hinners has come and gone, I'm reflecting on the installation process, and am once again filled with gratitude for how smooth, timely, and efficient the installation was, largely because of the experienced leadership we had guiding the process, and our students' ability to learn quickly, and adapt to new situations.
Many aspects of the installation even felt rehearsed (and a few actually were), despite it being most of the students' first mechanical action installation, and it being my first as well. It was truly a joy to be part of such a well-executed organ project, and I'm looking forward to what lies ahead for the AOI.
Current Service Jobs
Nathan Rau – Service Manager
Left to Right: Trumpet shallots and tongues waiting to be polished; Reservoir in the middle of being stripped of old leather and cloth.
The AOI shop is currently focused on two service projects.
The first project is the cleaning and repair of a trumpet and its chest. Students took on jobs such as rounding and repairing resonators, rewiring the chest, making new valve pads, and replacing armatures. Currently, the trumpet shallots and tongues are being cleaned. This trumpet is from an Estey organ that had fallen into much disrepair and is part of our ongoing work with the church to return it to playing condition. Last summer our students made repairs to many pipes from this organ which had broken tuning scrolls, had been improperly cone tuned, or had been pushed over.
Our second service project is releathering seven Möller reservoirs. We removed the reservoirs from the church last week and have just begun taking them apart. Students will be assisting in all steps of the leathering process and reinstallation.
For service work in the coming months we will have seasonal tunings, another leathering project, and some onsite repairs. The spring semester is off to a great start and I am looking forward to completing the current two projects and beginning the ones lined up for the rest of the semester.
French Voicing Seminar
Fredrick Bahr – Shop Manager
Left to Right: Bertrand Cattiaux lecturing, seminar participants, the master and students.
If you follow this blog section of the AOI website, you are well aware of the French voicing seminar we had January 9-12. Master organbuilder, Bertrand Cattiaux, who is actively involved in the restoration and maintenance of many of the treasured historical organs in France, was the instructor. AOI students and staff, along with twelve professional voicers from across the US and Canada, enjoyed four days of intensive lectures and hands-on practice of historic voicing techniques.
Pipes for the seminar were especially made in France, replicating ones in the Clicquot organ in the Cathedral in Poitiers. Bertrand provided us with detailed technical data on the original pipes: scales, alloys of the metal, wind pressures, cut-ups, nicking and other related voicing practices. Close-up photographs of many of these details, along with discussion of the development of the French Classic sound and literature, put in clear focus the context of what we were studying.
Bertrand had made recordings of the original pipes, allowing us to hear them individually and in combination with others. Seminar participants then worked on voicing their replica pipes to match the originals. Trying to reproduce Clicquot’s sounds over a 17-note range of five different stops kept the entire group diligently working for most of the first two days!
For the last two days, the emphasis shifted to the work of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, whose organs frequently incorporated a great deal of existing Clicquot pipework. Once again, Bertrand coached us on specific voicing techniques Cavaillé-Coll used to adapt the Clicquot pipes to his own desired sounds. The seminar participants then attempted to do the same to the pipes we had voiced earlier.
Gaining a clearer understanding of this historical segment of the instrument we love was a very worthwhile educational experience. Equally rewarding was seeing the camaraderie between seasoned voicers, beginners and students. With the exchange of ideas, sharing helpful hints, comparing handmade tools and their uses, and the freedom to ask any question, regardless of how basic or complex, this seminar became a shining example of the value academia can bring to the organbuilding industry.
A New Year for the AOIAL
Bailey Hoffner – Curator & Archivist
Graduate Assistants Brynn Simons (left) and Anna Taylor (right)
A fresh, new year is always a good opportunity to reflect on achievements and to move a few things from the back burner to the front. At the end of the fall 2017 semester, the AOIAL's two graduate assistants from the master's in Library and Information Studies program had each reached major goals set only a few months previous.
Brynn Simons completed the reprocessing of two of our most widely-cited collections – the Mildred Andrews Collection and the Kilgen Organ Company Photographs – to provide easier access and better adherence to national descriptive standards. The project was supported by an award from the Oklahoma Historical Records Advisory Board and the Oklahoma Department of Libraries, through funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission of the National Archives and Records Administration. She has since reprocessed a number of other collections using this project as a template to guide her work.
Anna Taylor, in her focus on providing better access to our library materials, worked with the main OU Libraries so that our books and periodicals could be listed in the main catalog (see a listing of our holdings here). Because she was able to reach this goal so quickly, the hope is that we will be able to circulate our materials through the larger OU Libraries system by the end of the spring 2018 semester.
In the spirit of renewal, other plans for the spring include a major inventory and deaccession project, which will allow us to provide greater access to those materials which most closely fit our scope and mission. Additionally, by summer of 2018 we will have completed the first phase of our project to digitize the American Theatre Organ Journal, which includes finalizing plans for digital storage and retrieval as well as making the first round of journals available online.
With everything else going on at the AOI, there could hardly be a more exciting place to work right now!
A New Year!
Jeremy Wance – Associate Director
(left to right) François-Henri Clicquot, Bertrand Cattiaux, and Aristide Cavaillé-Coll
Howdy, friends! I’m writing this in that wonderful in-between time after Christmas, but before New Year’s, and still a couple of weeks before everyone is back for the new semester.
As per custom, the first semester was ended with John Schwandt’s annual Holiday Pipes! concert – now in its 12th year. I thought it was one of the best yet, with some really wonderful guests joining him for the making of beautiful music. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can link to YouTube from our website, or just go to our YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/AOIatOU
There are several very special things happening in the year ahead, and I wanted to highlight them, in case you haven’t read the fall edition of what I call “The newsletter that went up a hill and came down a magazine.” http://ou.edu/content/aoi/resources/windlines.html
On the week of January 7, we will, for the 3rd time, host the French master organbuilder Bertrand Cattiaux for a four-day seminar on the art of French organ voicing. Our AOI family will be joined by a dozen organbuilders from across America. Each participant will be given 10 brand new pipes that form the complete harmonic series in traditional French organbuilding (8’ Bourdon, 4’ Prestant, 2 2/3’ Nazard, 2’ Doublette, 1 3/5 Tierce, Plein Jeu V). The pipes are brand new, made in France to the specifications of the great French organbuilding dynasty, Clicquot, of the 17th and 18th Century, which culminated in François-Henri Clicquot (1732-1790), who built some of the most famed organs of France in the French Baroque style. Bertrand has voiced one series exactly as Clicquot did, based on one of François-Henri’s most undisturbed instruments. He will lead participants as they use the same techniques to match Clicquot.
But that’s not the end! French organbuilding history reached what could be called its zenith with the great Aristide Cavaillé-Coll (1811-1899), who very often was called to rebuild/expand/modernize instruments that were primarily of Clicquot. Using the fine pipework of Clicquot, he revoiced and added to the instruments to create new masterpieces in what came to be called the Symphonic style. Bertrand will lead participants in revoicing their Clicquot-style pipes as Cavaillé-Coll would have done. This fascinating seminar has never, to the best of our knowledge, been done in America, and certainly never at an American university. If you’d like to learn more about the history of French organbuilding, you can watch a fascinating lecture given here a few years ago by Bertrand: https://youtu.be/Of7zE-W1bd8
This is just another of a long string of unique experiences that we at the AOI have offered over the past dozen years. It’s really the product of being open-minded, daring, and enthusiastic for the entire breadth of the history of the pipe organ. If you want to support endeavors like this, please consider a donation to the AOI! That’s how we can continue to offer these unusual and exciting experiences, as we work to keep the pipe organ alive and relevant. https://giving.oufoundation.org/OnlineGivingWeb/Giving/OnlineGiving/organinst
I’ll be back soon with more on this semester’s exciting events!
Recital Tour of the Holy Land, Germany, Italy, and CD 4
Dr. Damin Spritzer – Assistant Professor of Organ
Traveling to perform on historic or unique instruments in other countries is one of the most wonderful privileges affiliated with being able to be a professor and concert organist. 2017 afforded some spectacular opportunities for travel and time with instruments and colleagues! In October, I was one of the featured organists for the Terra Sancta Organ Festival in the Holy Land (http://www.tsorganfestival.org). I performed recitals in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Tel-Aviv-Jafo, on three stunning Rieger organs, and an historic 1847 Agati organ, the oldest playable instrument in currently present in both Israel and Palestine. The churches were nearly full for all four recitals, and in addition to the music and time with my hosts, I was able to visit sites including the Garden of Gethsemane and the olive grove, the site of the Annuciation of the Blessed Virgin, the birthplace and original home (grotto) of the Virgin Mary, and the site of the manger and the birthplace of Christ, in Palestine. In Old Jerusalem, where we stayed with the Franciscan friars, I visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which houses Golgotha and the Tomb of Christ, and I walked to the Wailing Wall, the Damascus Gate, and a number of other historic sites inside the walls of the ancient city. It was memorable and moving beyond description.
In October as well, I organized our first Halloween studio organ recital, held in Gothic Hall at Midnight on October 31st, and nearly our whole studio (in costumes!) put on a concert for almost two hours for close to 150 people. It was a marvelous outreach for the organ department and the school of music, and also a real scream for all involved!
In August, I had the opportunity to give a four-recital tour of Germany, including a recital at the Nicolaikirche in Leipzig, where J.S. Bach was formerly one of the directors of music, and where Franz Liszt used to give organ lessons to Felix Mendelssohn! The Predigerkirche where I played in Erfurt was the former musical home of Johann Bach, Johann Pachelbel, and Jakob Adlung among others, and and still houses the stunning 1648 organ case built by Compenius. I also performed on a 1722 Silbermann organ, and was able to spend two hours with the instrument in Halberstadt which Johann Sebastian Bach is known to have consulted upon and visited to give his formal approval. It's hard to stand in those places and not feel profoundly moved and grateful to have such a brief connection with the musical history and musicians we still study and revere.
July brought the opportunity to perform three recitals in Italy, the first of which was at the La Verna Festival in Tuscany, in the historic monastery that has been a monument at the top of the cliffs since before 1224, when St. Francis of Assisi is said to have received his stigmata there. The organ was beautiful and the surrounding countryside is surely some of the most beautiful land in all of Italy. After that, we traveled to Arezzo to visit the OU satellite campus (city of Guido d'Arezzo, the father of modern musical notation) and talk to our colleagues there, and then to Bologna to spend time as a guest of Luiwe Tamminga to tour the Tagliavini collection and music archive there. Following that we went to Trieste and Udine for two additional recitals in churches and cathedrals there.
In June and July, I was able to attend both the Dallas and Montreal AGO organ conventions and hear wonderful performances by organists from all over the world as well as visit with hopeful future-students for OU! I do not exaggerate when I tell you that this was one of the most memorable years of my life.
My third recording of the music of René Louis Becker was released this summer (and has received a 4-star review from Choir & Organ magazine), and my fourth CD, a collaborative disc of music for trombone and organ with my dear friend Dr. Donald Pinson of Del Mar college, is being released this November as well. Things are a bit quieter now as we wrap up the fall semester, and prepare to welcome some new students in the spring as well as host a number of really exciting events here at OU. Thank you for reading!
Great Open House
Fredrick Bahr – Shop Manager and Instructor of Organ Technology
Left to right: Detail of the casework; a full house of guests; double talent.
Open house gatherings are usually high points in the life of an organ shop, and the one held by the American Organ Institute on November 12 upheld that tradition. The 1909 Hinners organ that we have been rebuilding is now ready to be delivered to its new home at Trinity Lutheran Church here in Norman, Oklahoma. Many parishioners and friends from the local community came to tour the shop and see the inner workings of the tracker organ before they get hidden away inside the new and restored casework. Faculty and students played a wide variety of pieces, demonstrating the colorful tonal resources available from this modest size instrument, and all joined together in some enthusiastic hymn singing.
From my perspective, it is deeply rewarding to see and hear students playing an organ they have worked on, especially when their efforts have helped save the instrument from almost certain death. As this Hinners organ begins its new life, may its music reflect the joy and dedication of the team that resurrected it.
A Month of Travel!
Dr. Adam Pajan – Instructor of Organ/AOI Shop Technician
Left to right: Ryland Angel (countertenor), Joseph Arndt (Director, St. John's), and Dr. Adam Pajan; the choir, soloists, and instrumentalists for the concert “A Mighty Fortress is our God” at St. Jonh’s; Dr. Adam Pajan at Augustana Lutheran in Denver.
The end of October and the month of November are filed with travel and opportunities to perform. As Artist in Residence at St. John's Episcopal Church in Tulsa, I spent the weekend of October 28-29 working with Joseph Arndt, St. John's Director of Music, and a group of wonderful musicians from across the country on a program of music inspired by the Reformation. Four sackbut (baroque trombone) players came from Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago to team with the St. John's Choir and internationally acclaimed countertenor Ryland Angel. The first of what we hope will be an annual Halloween concert by OU students and faculty followed on October 31 in Gothic Hall. An enthusiastic audience of over 150 people came and went through the evening as we let the instrument sing its "scary" songs. I returned to St. John's in Tulsa on All Saints Day, November 1, for a performance in the Music at Midday series. An early flight on November 2 took me to my beloved city of Denver to play a recital for the Augustana Arts series at Augustana Lutheran Church. The 1940/1985 Reuter organ has some lovely voices that helped make my program "The Romantic Muse" come to life. I was privileged to present to the Denver Rocky Mountain Chapter of the AGO on transcribing movements of the Brahms Requiem for organ. The all-too-quick trip was followed by my fourth excursion to Tulsa in eight days to present an evensong recital at Trinity Episcopal Church on the lovely Moller organ of 1962. It brought Hindemith's Sonata 1 to life! On November 12, I will accompany the choir of St. Paul's Cathedral in Oklahoma City under the direction of Canon Musician Scott Raab in their presentation of Evensong shortly before hopping a flight back to my home of Greenville, South Carolina, where I will present a concert of organ and choir music with Concordiae and my wonderful friend and colleage Arlen Clarke. It will be a very special joy to make music again with old friends at St. Mary's Catholic Church, which holds a special place in my heart. I spent four years serving the parish as an undergraduate, the third of fourth of which I was Organist-Choirmaster. What a formative time in my musical and spiritual life! I will return to Norman for Thanksgiving week before flying to Canton, Ohio to make my first recording. Thanks to my colleague Damin Spritzer, I was able to secure recording engineer Christoph Frommen from Germany, who will capture the sounds of the stunning Kegg organ at the Basilica of St. John the Baptist. At the end of that week, I will stay and collaborate with my dear friend and Basilica music director Bobby Sullivan as I conduct their Messiah Sing-In with orchestra and soloists. Hold on - it's going to be a wild ride!
Outreach at the Oklahoma Archives Bazaar
Bailey Hoffner – Curator & Archivist
This October, the AOIAL participated in the first Oklahoma Archives Bazaar put on by the Oklahoma Archivists Association at the Oklahoma History Center. The event featured displays from archives, libraries, and museums from across the state and was open to the public. Members of the AOIAL staff met with a number of interested individuals, many of which had not yet heard of the AOI. The miniature tracker organ display was a crowd favorite, providing the opportunity to engage with and educate interested members of the public about pipe organ construction and historical preservation.
It was a fun and successful outreach opportunity that we look forward to participating in again next year.
John Riester – Shop Director
Recently, six of us at the AOI made a trek down to the Innovation Hub on south campus (3 Partners Place for those of you familiar with OU). The Hub has been open for just over a year and is a remarkable place for all sorts of learning and playing. We were particularly interested in the FabLab where they have all sorts of power tools available for anyone from the Norman community to use, including a CNC machine!
Performing at OHS
Dr. John Schwandt – Director
A highlight of my summer was performing at Mount Olive in Minneapolis for the OHS convention. Paul Manz was Cantor there for 37 years and playing his music on the organ he designed and which served as the inspiration for his many chorale improvisations was a privilege and especially meaningful for me personally. Paul & Ruth were an inspiration to me ever since I was but a wee lad. Later, Kristin and I were fortunate enough to call them friends. The Schlicker organ is distinctive in sound and character and still makes folks raise the rafters with their song! A major project forthcoming is my newest CD. I’m pleased to announce that it will be released under the Raven label and will feature the amazing organ I have been heavily involved with (voicing and tonal finishing) over the past seven years—the four manual, 126-rank organ at East Lake United Methodist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.
Resident Organist - Ohio Theatre
Clark Wilson – Professor of Organ - Theatre
A highlight of this summer was at my usual position as Resident Organist at the Ohio Theatre in Columbus, Ohio, for the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts. We were able to organize, in conjunction with our annual silent film presentation, a live appearance by Suzanne Lloyd, granddaughter of the famous comedian, Harold Lloyd. In addition to showing his feature "The Freshman", we interviewed Suzanne on stage, saw some of Lloyd's private home movies, and had a wonderful time hosting a lady who is very much a part of historic Hollywood. A fantastic experience!
Voicing in Queens, NY
Fredrick Bahr – Shop Manager
During the week of August 6th, it was my privilege to work on the tonal finishing of a new Patrick J. Murphy organ built for Grace Lutheran Church in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens in New York City. The 14 ranks are spread across two manuals and pedal, offering a wide variety of colorful registrations. Megan Farrell, whom I was assisting, is a young voicer whose developing skills make her a bright star for the future. The organist for the church is Henry Lee, and the Consultant is Walter Hilse.
We frequently forget how closely knit the organ world is. While working at Grace I learned that the 6 rank Schlicker organ currently in AOI’s storage, slated for renovation and installation in a practice room, was donated to us by Augustana Lutheran Church in nearby Elmhurst. That congregation has now merged with Grace and sold their building, a transaction which made possible the purchase of the new organ. It brought me a great deal of joy to be a part of creating an instrument of beauty to enhance their worship.
"A Reexamination of the Aging of Organ Leather"
Jeremy Wance – Associate Director
Jeremy recently co-authored a paper titled “A Reexamination of the Aging of Organ Leather,” which was published in the June 2017 edition of the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Leather Chemists Association. The abstract is found here: http://alcajournal.com/index.php/abstracts/2017/june-2017/
"Based on two papers that appeared almost 30 years ago, chrome tanning became more commonly used to tan leathers used for pipe organs because accelerated aging tests indicated that chrome tanning was more effective at retaining tensile strength. Anecdotal evidence over the last 30 years has indicated that the chrome tanned leathers have not lasted as long as hoped. Further, the atmosphere used in the accelerated testing used sulfur dioxide; and with the improvements in air quality in many parts of the world and the removal of many coal-burning ovens in American churches and their buildings, the reason for using sulfur dioxide enriched air is less justified. The work described in this paper reproduced the results of the tests done ~30 years ago, but we have also shown that using an atmosphere that is not enriched with sulfur dioxide yields very different results, namely that vegetable tanning performs superior to chrome tanning in terms of tensile strength retention."
Collaborative Database, Successful Fundraiser, and Grant Award
Bailey Hoffner – Curator & Archivist
This month, we celebrate the successful launch of ARC: OU's Collaborative Archival Discovery Portal. The AOIAL has teamed up with other special collections repositories on campus to provide access to our inventories in one unified database - the discovery possiblities for researchers are very exciting!
We also succeeded in raising over $9,000 in our monthlong campaign to Help OU Students Preserve the History of American Organs - nearly twice our initial goal!
Finally, we have been awarded a grant to support a re-processing project this fall to help make the finding aids for the Mildred Andrews and Kilgen Organ Photograph collections more easily accessible online.
Lots of progress in the Archives and Library!
Dr. Adam Pajan - Instructor of Organ/Shop Technician
It’s hard to believe that the summer has come and gone yet again, but here we stand on the cusp of the new academic year. While the organ shop has had slightly less traffic, no less work has been done! The 1909 Hinners organ being restored for Trinity Lutheran Church in Norman has been our primary focus in these summer months, and I have been working on the repair and restoration of wooden pipes. Some of the 16' Pedal Bourdon pipes encountered water damage while in the church before being removed by the AOI, so I am consulting with John Riester, Fred Bahr, and our master woodworker Bryan Slocomb to repair them. In the case of minor splits or cracks, wood glue and a good clamp can solve the problem. Other pipes that have sustained more damage are requiring inserts into the block for stability or the replacement of cracked caps. All parts are being kept as original as possible and are only being replaced so as to provide for the best long-term use and stability of the instrument. All stoppers are being covered with new leather, treated with tallow for tuning ease, and fitted with shims when necessary for a proper fit. Here, you can see before and after images. What a pleasure to be able to give this lovely instrument a voice again!
Organ Music of René Louis Becker, Vol. 3 – Now Available
Dr. Damin Spritzer – Assistant Professor of Organ
"Damin Spritzer records her third volume of organ works of René Louis Becker (1882-1956), the prolific Alsatian-American composer, teacher, and organist who worked 52 years in St. Louis, Illinois, and Michigan. The CD is the first recording of the beloved and now completed 1938 Kimball organ at St. John‘s Cathedral, Denver, its original 96 ranks intact and restored, with the antiphonal added as planned in 1938 but not installed until 2016, with 17 ranks. The organ is featured on the cover of the July 2017 TAO. Damin Spritzer's previous two volumes of Becker's works received stellar reviews."