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November 15th, 2017

Great Open House

Fredrick Bahr – Shop Manager and Instructor of Organ Technology

Hinners Open House 2017
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. 

November 6, 2017

A Month of Travel!

Dr. Adam Pajan – Instructor of Organ/AOI Shop Technician

Highlights from Dr. Adam Pajan's travels to Tulsa and Denver.
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!

November 3, 2017

Outreach at the Oklahoma Archives Bazaar

Bailey Hoffner – Curator & Archivist

AOIAL at the Oklahoma Archives Bazaar 2017

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.            

October 20, 2017

Innovation Hub

John Riester – Shop Director

Innovation Hub Logo

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!

August 30, 2017

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.

August 29

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!

August 28, 2017

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.

Murphy organ pipes
Fred Bahr at Grace Lutheran Church
Murphy organ close-up
Murphy organ in Grace Lutheran Church
August 11, 2017

"A Reexamination of the Aging of Organ Leather"

Jeremy Wance – Associate Director

Jeremy Wance with Journal of the American Leather Chemists Association

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:

"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."

August 8, 2017

Collaborative Database, Successful Fundraiser, and Grant Award

Bailey Hoffner – Curator & Archivist

American Theatre Organ Journal

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!

August 1, 2017

Hinners Restoration

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!

Hinners pipes before restoration work.
Hinners pipes, before.
Hinners pipes after restoration work
Hinners pipes, after.
July 27, 2017

Organ Music of René Louis Becker, Vol. 3 – Now Available

Dr. Damin Spritzer – Assistant Professor of Organ

Volume 3 Organ Music of René Louis Becker

"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."

Read More and Purchase Your Copy