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Cornell Baroque Organ

News

Burning the rack to seal pipe from moisture

This musical masterpiece represents all of our questions...this is very rare, that you can find an object that allows you to ask historical, sociological, literary, theological and scientific questions.

Anette Schwarz
Chair, Department of
German Studies

Organ News and Updates

9/17 The first Westfield Center International Organ Competition comes to Cornell

Out of thirty-two applicants from all over the world, twelve young organists have been chosen to compete in the first Westfield International Organ Competition, to be held at Cornell and at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester on September 22-29, 2013. The twelve young artists represent seven countries including Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Poland and the US. “It was very difficult to select just twelve to invite here in September,” said Cornell professor Annette Richards, Executive Director of the Westfield Center. “This is a very exciting pool of young musicians, who submitted recordings of an exceptionally high standard. We can look forward to hearing some outstanding performances on the three wonderful competition instruments.”

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3/25 Humid Organs

 Professor David Yearsley reflects on the effects of climate on Cornell's historic organs:

Arbor eram vilis quondam sed viva tacebam / Nunc bene si tangor mortua dulce son” counts as one of the most lovely and lengthy of the Latin mottos used to decorate the inside of the lids of seventeenth-century Flemish harpsichords. It translates: “I was once an ordinary tree, although living I was silent; now, though dead, if I am well played, I sound sweetly.” The same defense of the human improvement on nature could well adorn the largest and oldest of the keyboard instruments—the organ...  

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1/28 Spring 2013 Organ Recital Series Begins

 The Spring 2013 organ concert series begins this week with the first Midday Music for Organ recital on Wednesday January 30th at 12:30pm. University Organist Annette Richards presents a program of music that might have been heard at the court of Frederick the Great in Berlin, c. 1755, with works by Dieterich Buxtehude, C. P. E. Bach, J. S. Bach and the King’s sister, avid organ enthusiast and music collector Princess Anna Amalia of Prussia. 

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11/6 "Echoes of Italy" Features Works by Baroque Superstars

 Professor of organ at the Hochschule für Kunste in Bremen (Germany), Edoardo Bellotti is in the U.S. this fall as a visiting professor at the Eastman School of Music. He will present a recital at Cornell on the new baroque organ in Anabel Taylor Chapel on Friday, November 16, at 8:00 PM. "Echoes of Italy" will feature works by superstars of the 17th and early 18th centuries--written both by Italian composers and Germans inspired by Italy--with fantasies, concertos, and toccatas, closing with J. S. Bach's Toccata, Adagio and Fugue, BWV 564.

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9/30 Cornell's is First Organ with Multiple Historic Wind Systems

Cornell's new baroque organ has become the world's first organ with multiple historic wind systems, using a technique organ designer Munetaka Yokota perfected on a research instrument at the Göteborg Organ Art Center (GOArt) at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

With simple manual adjustments, organists can authentically re-create the wind systems of organs from the 15th to the beginning of the 19th century from north and central Germany on the instrument.

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9/4 American Baroque in the 21st Century: Old Meets New at the King of Instruments

 

An exciting concert festival and symposium exploring music for the baroque organ in America comprise this year’s Atkinson Forum in American Studies. The Forum will be held Friday and Saturday, September 21 and 22, in Anabel Taylor Chapel, Sage Chapel, and Barnes Hall, and will include four concerts and two panel sessions.

The Forum will also feature Michael Barone, host of American Public Media’s Pipedreams.

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3/21 Organ + Dance: It’s All in the Family

 On April 3, Anabel Taylor Chapel will be the site of a unique performance event: renowned organist Hans Davidsson will perform on Cornell’s new baroque organ while three professional dancers—two of them his sons--interpret the music.

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2/10 Cornell's Baroque Organ Featured on 'Pipedreams'

If you missed last March's festival to inaugurate Cornell's new baroque organ in Anabel Taylor Hall, you have another chance to hear some of the fabulous performances, on the radio. American Public Media's program "Pipedreams" is featuring Cornell’s baroque organ on this coming Sunday’s “Old Is New” program.

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1/12 Measuring the Organ, Part II: The Good, the Bad, and the Fingerprinted

Traditionally, organs have only been documented through mechanical measurements such as size and overall wind pressure. But this static data can’t communicate the dynamic behavior of the wind system and how an organ actually sounds.

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1/5 Measuring the Organ, Part I: Nervous Breathing and Sensitive Pipes

Carl Johan Bergsten, a research engineer with the Gothenburg Organ Art Center (GOArt) at the University of GÖTEBORG, Sweden, spent the 2011 Thanksgiving holiday studying the wind system and acoustics of Cornell’s baroque organ. The measurements are part of a larger GOArt study exploring the interactions between bellows, wind chest, and pedals to determine an organ’s sound.

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12/22 The True Value of Noise

Throughout history, organ builders have striven for a steadier sound and to silence the noise of the key action. Modern organs have achieved this goal—to a fault, according to designer Munetaka Yokota. "Modern organs are easy to play and consistent," he says. "No matter what you do it sounds good. But they're missing the expressiveness old organs have."

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12/15 Has Someone Been Shooting at Europe’s Organs?

No, those aren’t bullet holes, though the round black dots found on some tin organ pipes look like Al Capone’s been using them for target practice. The holes are signs of a far greater danger to organs than a gangster’s gun: corrosion.

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10/23 Jean Ferrard: "Teachers and Pupils of the North German Baroque, from Sweelinck to Bach"

Belgian organist Jean Ferrard visited Cornell University last March as one of the featured soloists for “Keyboard Culture in Eighteenth-Century Berlin,” the conference and festival inaugurating the new baroque organ in Anabel Taylor Chapel. He will return to Ithaca to perform a solo organ recital on Tuesday, November 8, at 8:00 PM.

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9/5 Cornell's Fall 2011 Organ Recital Series Spotlights Baroque Organ

 The Cornell Baroque Organ will be featured in six concerts this Fall, with performances by guest artists from around the US, Germany and Belgium, in addition to Cornell's Acting University Organist Randall Harlow.

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6/14 Benefit Concert for Japanese Relief Features Organ

 Three months after the tsunami and earthquake hit Japan, tens of thousands of people still live in temporary shelters. A benefit concert for Japanese relief efforts, featuring Cornell’s new baroque organ, will be held on Saturday, July 2nd, 7:30–9:30 pm at Cornell’s Anabel Taylor Chapel.

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5/24 Video: Organ Designer Explains Size of Cornell's Organ

Munetaka Yokata, organ designer, explains why Cornell's organ is the size it is.

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4/27 The Story Behind the Colors on Cornell’s Baroque Organ

Choosing paint colors for Cornell’s baroque organ required detective work, a keen eye, and a willingness to experiment.
 
Researchers knew from the documentation that the Charlottenburg organ had blue labels for all of the names of the stops, but they didn’t know which blue, or why they were blue in the first place. It was an unusual choice.

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4/12 Video: Demonstrating the Stops on Cornell's New Organ

Munetaka Yokata, organ designer, and David Yearsley, Cornell University organist and professor of music, demonstrate the stops on Cornell's majestic new organ at the inaugural conference in March.

 

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4/8 Giving to the Organ Project

Cornell’s baroque pipe organ is a masterpiece of successful research and craftsmanship, but despite its stunning beauty the project is not quite complete. Some components that remain unfinished include:

Sculptures - All the great baroque organs had figural sculptures on them. Todd McGrain, an artist and professor here at Cornell, has already imagined some beautiful sculptural designs for Cornell’s baroque organ.

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3/29 Video: Small Design Choices Have Big Results

Organ designer Munetaka Yokota reveals how a small design choice made a huge impact on the voice of Cornell's new pipe organ.

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3/18 Organ Conference & Festival Showcases Music of Berlin, Research and a Rich Sound

The sounds of 18th-century Berlin came alive during the inaugural conference and concert festival celebrating Cornell's new $2 million baroque organ, March 8-13.

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3/15 Inaugural Conference Opens With Words of Welcome

Leslie Adelson, director of Cornell’s Institute for German Cultural Studies, offered words of welcome at the beginning of “Keyboard Culture in 18th-Century Berlin and the German Sense of History,” a conference and concert festival held March 10-13 to inaugurate Cornell’s new baroque organ.

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3/8 Baroque Organ Enters 21st Century With Electronic Music

 Award-winning electronic music composer Kevin Ernste, professor of music and director of the Cornell Electroacoustic Music Center, will open the organ dedication’s keynote concert on Saturday, March 12 at 5:30 p.m. with a special inaugural composition. “It’s an exciting opportunity to showcase the organ as a vehicle for new music,” says Annette Richards, professor of music and conference organizer.

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3/7 Jean Ferrard and the Roaring Twenties of the 1600s

Jean Ferrard is one of “the most energetic, expert, and wide-ranging musicians of our time…an indefatigable teacher and performer,” wrote David Yearsley, professor of music, in a 2009 article in CounterPunch. Ferrard will perform music by Bull, Titelouze, Scheidt and Luython during the festival to inaugurate Cornell’s new baroque organ on Saturday, March 12, at 12:30 pm, in a concert he’s calling “The Roaring Twenties of the 1600s.”

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3/4 Video: Student Opportunities Abound With Organ

Annette Richards, university organist and professor of music, talks about the numerous opportunities for students to play, study, and enjoy Cornell's new baroque organ.

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3/3 Yearsley Plays Bach Sonatas as Prelude to Inaugural Celebration

Professor of music David Yearsley has been testing the new baroque pipe organ in Anabel Taylor Chapel with Midday Music performances of J.S. Bach's Trio Sonatas.

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3/1 Composer of New Music for Concert Festival Calls Organ ‘Magical’

Cornell doctoral candidate Zachary Wadsworth has composed music for other organs, but he says Cornell’s organ, “is an extraordinary instrument and it’s going to be around for a very long time, and that’s something really magical, to be there right when it’s being created.”

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2/25 Video: Cornell Baroque Organ Raises Scientific Questions

Shefford Baker, associate professor of materials science and engineering, discusses scientific questions raised by Cornell's new baroque organ.

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2/22 Pioneering Figure to Play Keynote Concert

Harald Vogel is a name instantly familiar to those conversant with baroque organ music: he is a leading authority on the interpretation of German organ music from the eighteenth century and earlier. No surprise, then that he will be the keynote performer at the concert festival and conference inaugurating Cornell’s new baroque organ, to be held March 8 – 13 on Cornell’s campus (see Events for details). 

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2/22 Concert Schedule Changes for March Festival

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2/18 Video: Organ as Cultural Mission

Peter Lepage, Harold Tanner Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Cornell University, discusses the cultural significance of the new baroque organ in Cornell's Anabel Taylor Chapel. 

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2/14 Rare Organ Wows NYS Baroque Artistic Director

“An organ like Cornell’s is so rare, it’s almost unbelievable in a place like Ithaca,” says Heather Lardin ‘06, artistic director of NYS Baroque. “I would expect to have to go to Germany to hear something like this.” 

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2/9 Sculpture: The Finishing Touch for Cornell’s Organ

“One of the things that’s always left out with new organs is the sculpture,” says Todd McGrain, Cornell associate professor of art.  But McGrain has been considering sculpture designs for Cornell’s baroque organ since early in the project, with the encouragement of organ designer Munetaka Yokota. One of McGrain’s ideas, to use cherubs as a unifying element, was presented at the 2006 Conference on the organ held at Cornell.

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2/7 Video: A Great Organ for a Great University

Project manager Annette Richards, professor of music, shares her inspiration for building a baroque pipe organ at Cornell.

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2/3 Conference: Keyboard Culture in 18th-Century Berlin and the German Sense of History

 The March 10-13 celebration of Cornell's new baroque pipe organ includes an academic conference, entitled "Keyboard Culture in 18th-Century Berlin and the German Sense of History." The conference will explore music and culture in 18th-century Berlin, as well as the background and history associated with the Arp Schnitger organ on which Cornell's new instrument is modeled.

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1/31 A Corrosive Enemy

Historic and modern organs share a common enemy: corrosion. In a surprise turnaround, scientists have discovered that the primary source of pipe corrosion is not industrial pollution, as was long thought, but the organs themselves.

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1/28 Video: Organ Case Hides Symbols in Plain Sight

How many towers does a baroque organ have, and why? Designer Munetaka Yokota reveals the symbolism behind Cornell's baroque organ case.

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1/25 Concert Schedule Announced

The schedule of concerts for the March Concert Festival and Conference to inaugurate Cornell’s new baroque organ has just been released!  

The keynote concert will feature Harald Vogel, professor of organ at the University of the Arts Bremen and founder of the North German Organ Academy, performing music by Sweelinck, Buxtehude, Bruhns, and the Bachs on Saturday, March 12 at 5:30 p.m., at Anabel Taylor Chapel. The concert will be repeated Sunday, March 13 at 8 p.m.

 

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1/17 Purer Is Not Always Better

In the 1970’s, efforts were made to reproduce the baroque organ sound by making pipes that were pure lead, just the way it was done in the early baroque period ― or so it was thought.

Turns out 18th-century “pure” lead was a lot less pure than 1970 pure lead, so the modern pipes came out too soft.

 

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1/14 Specifications for the Organ

Hauptwerk (Manual I)

Principal 8’, Quintadena 16’, Floite dues 8′, Gedact 8′, Octav 4′, Violdegamb 4′, Nassat 3′, SuperOctav 2′, Mixtur IV, Trompete 8′, Vox humana 8′

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1/10 An Old Model for a New Organ

Building Cornell’s baroque organ has been a huge international project, made possible by email, scanners, cell phones and fax machines. Yet at the same time the project has followed a 17th -century organizational style.

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1/3 A Different Way of Listening

Until the middle of the eighteenth century, many organs were designed with the console and organist hidden away. “One of the reasons for the very elaborate beauty of many organ cases is that what the listener is looking at is not the performer but the case,” explains Annette Richards, professor of music and university organist.

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12/20 A Research Experiment that Worked

“Cornell is known not to be afraid to engage in research experiments,” says Anette Schwartz, chair of German Studies, “and this organ is a great success. This experiment has worked."

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12/14 The Charlottenburg Organ Reborn

Part 2 of University Organist David Yearsley's profile of Munetaka Yokota and the Cornell organ.

The shining apogee of technological advance in the pre-industrial world, the organ, was more often likened to the human form than to a “Wondrous Machine,” as it is styled in Henry Purcell’s Ode for St. Cecila’s Day. In such anthropomorphized descriptions, the organ’s keys were teeth and the openings in the pipes where the sound was generated were mouths. Continuing the analogy, the bellows were lungs to be filled by the bellows treader, and made to sing by the movements of the organist’s body. The trackers, and rollers (the mechanisms connecting the console to the wind chests on which the pipes were arrayed) were like nerves, tendons and muscles of the organ’s body. The basic organ sound—the Principal stop—strove to match the quality of the human voice, a sonority mimicked more explicitly by the reedy Vox humana. 

 

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12/10 New Video Gives Unique Look at Organ Project

A new video produced by the College of Arts and Sciences and Cornell's Video Production Group gives a unique, behind-the-scenes look at the organ project, from conception to completion.

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12/9 Video: Debut Organ Concert

The November 21 debut concert of Cornell's new baroque organ opened with university organists Annette Richards and David Yearsley playing works by Buxtehude, Handel, and Bach. In the second half of the concert, internationally renowned organist Jacques van Oortmerssen played works by Bach, Mendelssohn, Krebs, and Kellner.

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12/6 The Organ-Building of Munetaka Yokota

University Organist David Yearsley looks back on the history of the organ and on Munetaka Yokota's organ-building career:

The history of the organ in broadest outline has it that the instrument, in a form much smaller than that of so many of the massive models found in churches, was invented in the Mediterranean world of the 3rd century BCE. After the fall of Rome it was cultivated only in the Byzantine Empire, but was re-introduced into the West by means of a gift brought by a diplomatic mission from Constantinople to the Frankish court of Pippin the Great in 757.  In this sense the organ’s survival can be attributed to the East, however contested or illusory the divide between Occident and Orient may be.

 

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11/29 Focus on Volunteers

"I'm a pipe organ nut," says Maureen Chapman, a semi-retired technician in Cornell's Food Science Lab. Working on the organ has fulfilled a lifelong dream. "My experience has been nothing short of fantastic," she said.

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11/23 Organ Debuts to Lavish Praise

Audience members heaped lavish praise on Cornell’s new baroque organ at its debut public performances on November 21, using words like “phenomenal” and “fantastic” to describe the experience. Hedvig Lockwood, a local resident, called the concert “thrilling,” adding, “I found things happening in my spine.”

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11/10 CU Music Unveils Organ

Cornell's new baroque organ will be unveiled on Sunday, November 21, with its first public performances, at 3 PM and 5:30 PM in Anabel Taylor Chapel. (Note that all tickets for both concerts have been given out; no more tickets are available.)

The concerts open with university organists Annette Richards and David Yearsley playing works by Buxtehude, Handel, and Bach. Jacques van Oortmerssen, internationally renowned for his versatility and for his performances of the music of J. S. Bach,  will then present his portion of the program.

 

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11/8 Why Cornell?

“A great university deserves to have a really great organ,” says Annette Richards, university organist and project manager. Although Cornell had a number of organs already, it lacked an instrument of the style and scope appropriate to the music of the noted German organist composers of the 17th and 18th centuries. “There was no great vehicle for playing the music especially of Johann Sebastian Bach and his North German predecessors. So I felt it was important for us to get a new really first class—world class—instrument at Cornell,” says Richards.

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11/4 How the Pieces Came Together

Around the same time in 2001 that Annette Richards, university organist, began thinking about a baroque organ for Cornell, the Göteborg Organ Art Center (GOArt) at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, celebrated the first results of their recently-founded organ research workshop with the completion of a large 17th-century north German-style organ. “We began to hatch a plan for a big collaborative research project that would result in a great musical instrument for Cornell,” says Richards.

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11/1 Story Behind the Tonal Design

The Cornell organists wanted to build an instrument appropriate to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, but also to the great repertoire of older music that he had encountered during his youth. A difficult request, says designer Munetaka Yokota, because Bach had a strong connection to organs for most of his life. “So you could easily find at least ten or fifteen styles of the organ that Bach was very familiar with.”

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10/28 Voicing the Organ

Voicing the organ—giving each pipe the correct volume and timbre and ensuring that it responds correctly to the pressure and speed of the performer’s touch—will take about half a year, says Munetaka Yokota, organ designer, builder, and pipe voicer. Although Yokota took into account the acoustics of Anabel Taylor Chapel when he designed the organ, it was impossible to predict exactly how the pipes would sound once the organ was assembled.

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10/25 Lost Pipe-Making Technique Re-Discovered

"Munetaka Yokota is a meticulous craftsman and a brilliant organ builder who has done groundbreaking research on how old instruments were built," says Annette Richards, university organist and project manager.

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10/20 Building a Case

The organ case was created by local cabinet maker Christopher Lowe, who’d never before created anything of this magnitude. “It was a challenge just to get my mind around the scale of it at first,” says Lowe. “But I realized there was nothing that I didn’t know how to do, I just had to be ready to do a lot of it. The tolerances are really tight. We worked to about a thirty-second of an inch for all of our work, but that’s on a scale of 25 feet.”

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