Thursday, March 15, 2007

Big Organ in Vegas

Here's a great email from my friend Paul Hesselink:
I wanted to report to you on the four successful demonstrations of the organ in Doc Rando to four disadvantaged schools this week. At 9:45 on Monday we hosted Howard Hollingsworth Elementary school children (Doug Wilson, Principal)(about 225). At 11:00 we hosted students from Robert Lake Elementary (about 175). On Tuesday at 9:45 students fromGarside Middle School (about 250) came for the program, and at 11:00 Rose Warren elementary School students (about 280) were the audience. So, about 925 young students and teachers came to Doc Rando Hall those two mornings. NO ONE in those audiences had been there before. All costs were underwrittenby the School Community Partnership Program. There were 14 buses at a cost of about $110 per bus.
The students were VERY well-behaved, asked interesting and perceptive questions, and many took photos with their camera phones! A friend of mine in the school district had "cringed" when she heard which schools were participating and said she would "pray for me" having to face these "tough" schools.I had no problems, partially, I think, because the students were REALLY fascinated by the appearance of the organ, and, of course, the sound of the instrument is really impressive.
I suspect most of the students had never heard a pipe organ, and nobody knew of the Maurine Jackson Smith Memorial Organ at the University. Mrs. Beverly Mason, Assistant Director of the Partnership Program, will be soliciting evaluations fromthe participating schools. I hope those evaluations will help us improve subsequent presentations.
We had prepared a "fact sheet" which was distributed to teachers at the schools to do preparation for the students if they wished. I am attaching that, also for your information. [see below]
Thanks to Shireen Beaudry for her hard work in helping to set this pilot program up. Also thanks to members who helped at the demo sessions:
Doug Wilson for playing the Bach "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" for the session of the Hollingsworth students, Barbara Giles, Doris Francis, Shireen Beaudry and Steve Wright for assisting at the sessions.

Guide for a Visit to Nevada’s Largest Pipe Organ
Planning and Construction
The Maurine Jackson Smith Memorial Pipe Organ in Doc Rando Recital Hall on the UNLV campus, was a gift to the university and the community from the Edward D. Smith family in memory and in honor of Maurine Smith who was an accomplished organist here in Las Vegas. Mrs. Smith died October 1, 1999, and a family dedication celebration was held on the completion of the instrument October 1, 2004.
When the monetary gift to purchase the organ was given, the Music Department established a Search Committee for identifying a builder of the instrument. Eighteen builders from around the world---England, Italy, Denmark, Germany, Canada and the United States---were considered. The choice was made to contract for the instrument with the Rudolf von Beckerath organ building firm of Hamburg, Germany. This company has been building fine organs since 1949.
The building of this organ, from the time of signing the contract to completion, took about four and a half years. The case, pipes, wind chests, and mechanism were constructed piece by piece in the Hamburg factory by 21 artisans over a period of about 10 months (25,500 man-hours), and then securely packed into three semi-truck-sized waterproof and sealed containers. These containers were then loaded on a ship in the Hamburg harbor and made the five-week sea voyage to Los Angeles. After a customs inspection, the containers were unloaded on flat bed trucks and driven to Las Vegas. They arrived in Las Vegas mid-June of 2004. Fitting all the pieces of the organ together and then regulating each pipe so it sounds right (a process called “voicing”) took the next 3 ½ months.
Facts About the Organ
It is the largest pipe organ in Nevada.
It stands 25 feet high on the stage of Doc Rando, and is about 8 feet deep and 20 feet wide.
The organ console has three keyboards called “manuals” and a pedal keyboard which the performer plays with his feet.
The organ has 38 “stops” and 53 “ranks” (“sets” of pipes).
There are 2,810 pipes ranging in size from 16 feet long to less than 1 inch long.
The organ weighs 9,750 tons
Cost: $560,000
Physical Appearance of the Organ
As one faces the organ, one sees silver colored pipes, symmetrically arranged in “flats.” These pipes are referred to as the “façade” or “face” of the organ. The facade contains the largest pipes from the Principal 16’ of the Pedal Division (played by the pedal keyboard), pipes from the Principal 8’ of the Great Division (played from the middle keyboard) and pipes from the Principal 4’ of the Positiv Division (played from the lowest keyboard). The remaining pipes of the organ (more pipes than are visible) are behind the “façade” pipes. Some of the pipes inside the case are made from wood. The wood case of the organ is fashioned from beech wood. The accent color of red was chosen by the company and is, appropriately, one of the UNLV school colors.
The four “divisions” of the organ have differing tonal qualities. The Pedal Division contains the largest pipes which produce the lower pitches of the organ, giving the sound “foundation” and depth. The Great Division (middle keyboard) has the loudest pipes giving the sound substance and weight. The Positiv Division (bottom keyboard) has brighter and more delicate sounds than the Great Division. The Swell Division (top keyboard) has its pipes enclosed in a large box which at the front has “shutters” which can be opened and closed by the organist by use of a foot pedal, thereby making the sounds from the box to appear louder and softer. The sounds can be soft and delicate, or loud and aggressive. This division is located at the very top of the case and behind. (It is not visible from the front seats in the hall.) The organist has a huge variety of sounds from which to choose. The organist must select by use of the “stops” (knobs on the console which either turn on or turn off a set of pipes) the sounds which are appropriate for the pieces played.
Families of Sound
The sounds of the pipe organ are classified into two types: labial (referring to the “lips”) and lingual (referring to the “tongue”). These terms designate how the tone is produced.

Labial pipes are constructed as simple whistles and in the organ are of three varieties: principal, flute and string.
Lingual pipes are what organists refer to as “reeds.” Their sound is produced by a brass reed in the foot of the pipe, much like that found in and functioning as the reed in a clarinet mouthpiece.
Brief History of the Organ
The organ traces its history back to the 3rd century B.C. By 900 A.D. instruments were large and loud. During the Middle Ages the organ became identified as the instrument used in the church. It flourished in Western Europe during the Renaissance and became the fully “modern” instrument we see today around 1600-1650, especially in northern Germany. The development of the organ reflected national musical styles in different countries—Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, England and Spain. We have organ literature as from as early as 1100 A.D. Thus, the repertoire for the instrument is certainly one of the largest for any existing instrument today. Johann Sebastian Bach contributed enormously to the literature, and organists consider him “their composer.” Mozart referred to the organ as the “King of Instruments.” Today, many composers continue to write exciting pieces for the organ.
The Host and Presenter for the Introduction to the Pipe Organ
Your guide during the introduction to the organ is Dr. Paul Hesselink. He has had a 26-year teaching career in the Department of Music at Longwood University in Virginia. Since his move to Las Vegas in 1993, he was for 12 years the Dean of Nevada School of the Arts. Now retired from NSA, he continues to serve (since 1994) as an adjunct faculty of organ studies at UNLV. He holds the degrees Bachelor of Arts in Music (Hope College in Michigan), Master of Arts in Organ Pedagogy (The Ohio State University) and the Doctor of Musical Arts in Organ Performance (University of Colorado, Boulder).

You can also hear my story about the dedication of the organ here. [real audio file]

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