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Alain Barker

Last modified: Friday, May 4, 2007

Transformation of the Maidee H. and Jackson A. Seward Organ in Auer Hall to begin

C. B. Fisk, Inc., to build one of Midwest’s finest musical instruments

May 4, 2007

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Indiana University Jacobs School of Music announced today (May 4) that it is in the final stages of negotiations with C. B. Fisk, Inc., of Gloucester, Mass., to build its pipe organ in Auer Concert Hall. With almost 4,000 pipes, the instrument -- originally conceived by organ builder Manuel Rosales -- will be transformed into a Fisk organ, Opus 135, and is expected to debut in the fall of 2010, the year the school turns 100.

Auer Hall organ

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The Jacobs School selected Fisk after substantial research and consultation with organists, organ builders and technical consultants. The school considered it essential to find a builder who was familiar with the work of Rosales and who would approach the concept of the instrument sympathetically.

"We have found a partner in C. B. Fisk," stated Jacobs School of Music Dean Gwyn Richards, "an entity of the highest regard with an ability to match our aspirations by building an instrument that will be cherished for generations to come. Their values in craftsmanship, wealth of knowledge, proven track record and impeccable musical taste will provide us with an instrument worthy of the finest faculty, guests and student performers."

Jacobs School of Music Dean Emeritus Charles Webb has been a constant force behind the emergence of a world-class organ in Auer Hall.

"The completion of a magnificent organ for Auer Hall will bring to fruition a long-awaited dream of faculty and students," he said. "We are confident that the artistry and skill of C. B. Fisk will produce an instrument worthy of the finest players everywhere. Hallelujah!"

John Seward, son of benefactors Maidee H. and the late Jackson A. Seward, also was happy to hear of the imminent contract with C. B. Fisk.

"We're delighted that a solution has been found and to know that generations of Jacobs School faculty, students and guest artists, with their audiences, will benefit from this world-class instrument."

Fisk has built a number of the country's most important instruments, including the largest four-manual, mechanical-action organs built during the twentieth century, first at Harvard University in 1967, then at House of Hope Church in St. Paul, Minn., in 1979.

The firm also has built a number of instruments based on historical organs. Among them are one at Wellesley College, patterned after North German organs of the early seventeenth century; one at the University of Michigan designed in the manner of the Saxon builder, Gottfried Silbermann; and a three-manual instrument at Rice University modeled on the work of the nineteenth-century French master builder Aristide Cavaillé Coll.

Steven Dieck, president of C. B. Fisk, Inc., stated that the Auer Hall project will produce a first-rate instrument.

"We've worked with Rosales a number of times in the past," he said, "and feel satisfied that a transformation can take place to both preserve as much of the first instrument as possible, while at the same time completing an authentically new Fisk instrument. Many of the pipes used in the Rosales will be refurbished and revoiced, but the result will look remarkably similar to the existing case. Our organ will take on a new form internally, and we will build a new console."

Auer Hall stage with the organ in the background

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Commenting on its use, Dieck said "nothing pleases us more than to build instruments in locations where they will be used extensively and have the opportunity to challenge and inspire organists now and well into the future.

"C. B. Fisk, Inc. is honored and excited to have been chosen to build a new pipe organ in Auer Hall," he said. "The Jacobs School of Music and its organ department are world renowned, and we look forward to working with its distinguished faculty in the designing and building of a world-class instrument."

Jacobs organ department faculty member and Chancellor's Professor of Music Marilyn Keiser is pleased with the partnership.

"I am really thrilled that the Fisk Organ Company has been chosen to transform the Auer Hall organ," she recently said. "Steven Dieck and his colleagues build superb instruments. Over the years, I have played many of them, including the large organs at Stanford University and the House of Hope in St. Paul, Minn., as well as smaller instruments, such as a recent installation in Macon, Ga.

"All are instruments of the greatest integrity, capable of playing a wide range of repertoire," she said. "They are inspiring to play and thrilling to hear. I am truly delighted that the Bloomington community and the Jacobs School of Music will have an instrument of this caliber."

Organist and Jacobs School of Music professor Chris Young has been central to the deliberations regarding the Auer Hall organ. He, too, believes that the decision to go with the Fisk Organ Company is sound.

"The Fisk organ company has earned its reputation with carefully selected master craftsmen and artists of the highest caliber," Young said. "For the last 50 years, Fisk has led American organ building by its devotion to teamwork, a keen interest in historic instruments and building practices, meticulous hand-crafted construction, finely regulated voicing, and the most impeccable artistic sensibilities."

"Fisk's realization of the Auer Hall organ will enable Jacobs School performers to experience a responsive, mechanical-action organ with a tonal design and voicing capable of rendering virtually any musical style," Young continued. "Audiences will be riveted by the instrument's central tonal focus, which will be geared to late nineteenth- and twentieth-century music written by composers such as Widor, Reger, Messiaen and Albright."

The organ will have a somewhat "symphonic" design and will be well suited to accompany instrumental and choral ensembles.

"I have no doubt," Young said, "that choral ensembles will be enthralled by the instrument's ability to promote and support a beautiful vocal tone with the wide range of color and dynamic expression one would expect to hear in an English cathedral.

"Whether performing solo organ repertoire or accompanying vocalists and instrumentalists, our students -- as well as the faculty -- will have their cake and eat it too, while the school and the Bloomington community will be able to experience a world-class organ," Young concluded.

About C. B. Fisk, Inc.

C. B. Fisk, Inc. was founded in 1961 by the late Charles Brenton Fisk. The workshop attracted bright, young co-workers who combined their talents in music, art, engineering and cabinet making to build organs that redefined modern, American organ building. Always experimenting, C. B. Fisk was the first modern, American organ builder to abandon the electro-pneumatic action of the early twentieth century and return to the mechanical (tracker) key and stop action of historical European and early American instruments.

Recent organs at the Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, the Minato Mirai Concert Hall in Yokohama, and Benaroya Hall in Seattle, were designed for maximum impact with orchestra as well as for solo repertoire. In 2003, C. B. Fisk built an organ for the Cathedral in Lausanne, Switzerland, the first American organ to be made for a European cathedral.

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