Duke organ crawl

Flentrop organ

After Friday’s carillon recital, Joey Fala booked time on the four major pipe organs so that I could have a chance to play. We went on an “organ crawl,” which is what organists call it when they visit organs in other churches. According to one source, “It’s called a crawl, because participants literally can get down on their hands and knees and crawl around the organ chamber to check out all the nooks and crannies and see how the mechanisms and pipes work. …”

We didn’t actually enter any of the pipe chambers on this visit, but in order to go to most instruments required climbing narrow steps, and on the way to the Flentrop organ, you pass by this sign:

We started off by playing the beautiful Flentrop organ in the back. I had brought along the Great Eighteen Chorales of Bach and played through “Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele,” which I plan to play for an upcoming funeral. I found the action a little stiffer than what I was used to, but the tone of the organ was lovely. Of course, I made Joey take a picture of me on the bench.

In case you’re wondering, my T-shirt reads “Organists Gone Wild”

What is rather unique is the organist’s view of the en chamade (horizontal) pipes, which is what you see when you look up from the bench.

We then walked through a large underground maze of offices, lounges and even a kitchen to reach the stairs leading to the chancel area.

A Brombaugh organ in a small chapel is built in an Italian style, which was very similar to ones I saw on last year’s organ tour to Italy. By that I mean that the keyboard had short (incomplete) octaves, a similar stop list and meantone tuning.

And then it was time to play the large 4-manual Aeolian organ in the nave. Joey had brought his copy of Dupré ‘s Fifteen Antiphons, and I played several selections. It was a scenario in which teacher-student roles were reversed: I played while he pulled the stops. What a dream of an organ! I could have easily spent much more time here, exploring the many tonal colors of this instrument. Listening to these Dupré antiphons with the type of sounds for which they were intended was truly thrilling.

In the Divinity school chapel, there is a Richards-Fowkes organ which is similar to their organ at First Lutheran in Boston—very colorful stops with lots of overtones.

Okay—true confession time. My favorite instrument of all the Duke organs was … (drum roll, please), the Aeolian! Oh, it did not play Bach very well—I played Komm heiliger Geist on it, not really achieving the brilliance of the Beckerath sound to which I am accustomed, but by far it was the easiest organ to play, with more or less “standard” manuals and pedalboard.

I took a picture of an unusual label on the Aeolian console (a light indicator for telephone? I guess this was designed before ubiquitous cell phones)

One more instrument: the little positiv organ which Joey had played for the anthem at Vespers. It has all wooden pipes and has 8′, 4′, and 2′ registers.

A detailed explanation of the four major organs can be found here.

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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One Response to Duke organ crawl

  1. john bicknell says:

    i love that aeolian organ. they post the daily vespers and i have watched quite a few and have enjoyed them very much!

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