The legendary Woolsey Hall organ

The legendary Woolsey Hall organ.

The legendary Woolsey Hall organ.


The console of the Woolsey Hall organ.

The console of the Woolsey Hall organ.

On Thursday at 3 pm, I left my Honolulu condo for the airport, and it wasn’t until Friday afternoon about 3:15 pm that I walked into my New Haven hotel. Luckily I got upgraded to first class on the long first leg to Chicago, and watched four movies. The extra legroom with the lie-down seat (except I didn’t sleep a wink!) plus the nice dinner and breakfast, was certainly a pleasant surprise!

I’m in Connecticut at Yale University to hear my former student, Joey Fala, play the first of four recitals in fulfillment of the Master of Music degree in organ performance. I had booked a shuttle from Bradley International Airport in Hartford, CT with Connecticut Limousines, but to my surprise, a large 55-passenger bus pulled up to the curb. It turned out I was the only passenger on the bus to New Haven, about an hour and ten minutes away!

George Fergus (on the right)

George Fergus (on the right)

After checking into my hotel, I got a bite to eat, took a short nap, and set off for Woolsey Hall, about six blocks away where I heard George Fergus, a second-year graduate student play William Bolcom’s Free Fantasia on ‘O Zion haste’ and ‘How firm a foundation,’ Sigfrid Karg-Elert’s Hymn to the Stars from the Seven Pastels on the Lake of Constance, Charles-Marie Widor’s March of the Night Watchmen and Louis Vierne’s Fifth Symphony for Organ. With every note, the audience was enveloped with a warm ambiance, and the loud portions of the program were powerful but not overpowering. Fergus showed off the organ well, bringing out many subtle colors with his choice of stops (registration).

Joe Dzeda has been the organ's curator since 1968.

Joe Dzeda has been the organ’s curator since 1968.

After the concert, a few of us were treated to a private tour of the large E. M. Skinner organ (1928) by Joe Dzeda, one of two full-time caretakers of the instrument. He has been maintaining the organ since 1968 and his affection and meticulous work on the instrument was obvious.

The first stop on the mini-tour was to see the special seat built for President William Howard Taft, whose son graduated from Yale. The seats in the hall are uncomfortable and small, and the huge, 350+ lb. man would not have fit in any of the regular wooden seats.

The seat built for William Howard Taft. The hooks underneath are for hanging hats.

The extra-wide seat built for William Howard Taft. The hooks underneath are for hanging hats.

Hence the extra-wide seat, as shown to the right. The hooks underneath the seat were designed to hang a hat, part of every man’s wardrobe in those days.

We entered the organ chambers in the back and I took so many pictures that I created a small slideshow for you. Now, I’ve been inside quite a few organ chambers and what I was most impressed with was how spotlessly clean it was, and there was absolutely no dust anywhere! Even the floor was so clean you could have eaten off it.

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Here I am in the echo division.

Here I am in the echo division.

About Katherine Crosier

In addition to playing the organ I am interested in documenting life's special moments through journaling, scrapbooking, photography and slideshow production. My family just groans.
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2 Responses to The legendary Woolsey Hall organ

  1. john f bicknell says:

    enjoy! thanks for the tour. jb

  2. Thom Thomas says:

    The Woolsey hall organ has a unique and beautiful sound, however, to describe it as E.M. Skinner is wrong. It is a rebuild of a previous organ and does not sound exactly like other large Skinners.

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