The Music Department is pleased to celebrate a major addition to its resources with the new concert organ soaring above the stage in Hertz Hall. The instrument has three manuals and pedals, with 35 speaking stops. It was built by the Noack Organ Co, (Georgetown, Mass.). Until 2012 the instrument enriched the musical and liturgical life of the Episcopal Cathedral Church of Saint John, Wilmington, Delaware. It was dedicated to the memory of Irene Sophie du Pont (1877–1961) by her daughters Irene Sophie du Pont May (1900–2001) and Lucile Evelina du Pont Flint (1915-1996). During 2013 it was fully revised in the Noack Organ Company’s workshop, with some changes and additions.
This organ was designed with a deep respect for the tradition of the great North German organ builders whose instruments were admired by Johann Sebastian Bach, but it is also excellent for more modern music The vast organ repertoire from Sweelinck, Froberger and Scheidemann to Buxtehude and Bach sounds particularly fine on it. However, such organs never went out of fashion in the nineteenth century. They were greatly admired by composers such as Mendelssohn and Brahms, and with certain little additions and modifications can serve well most later repertoires and even earlier ones, from the sixteenth century.
In preparation for the arrival of this immensely complex piece of engineering, the walls around it in Hertz Hall were redecorated in golden “Dutch metal”, which not only looks beautiful but also helps the acoustic. With the darker oak of the organ case, the silver color of the metal pipes, and the gold of the walls, this new organ is a magnificent addition to the hall, providing a striking point of focus. For its installation in Hertz Hall, the organ had to be raised three feet and various parts of the design adjusted to fit the space (and to be properly braced for earthquakes). Fritz Noack was the mastermind behind the instrument’s original conception in 1982, and he supervised its redesign for Hertz Hall. The organ was installed by Didier Grassin, Eric Kenney, Dean Smith, and Aaron Tellers, along with Brandon Burns, a summer intern at the Noack workshop. The voicing and tuning were done by David Rooney and Mary Beth DiGenova.
Since this is a tracker-action organ, there is a strictly mechanical connection between the keyboards (and pedalboard) and the mechanism that allows the air to enter into individual pipes. Organs built in the late nineteenth century and the first part of the twentieth century tended to have different kinds of mechanism, based on pneumatic or electropneumatic action, and during the twentieth century entirely electrical actions became common. However, in the last fifty years there has been a revival of interest in the traditional tracker mechanism because it can give the player’s fingers greater control over the precise sound of each note. The refinements of organ touch are more audible on a tracker-action organ. Tracker action allows players who have acquired an appropriately expressive touch to make such organs sing better. —Davitt Moroney