KNOXVILLE — Music from the University of Tennessee’s handcrafted, one-of-a-kind concert organ will fill the Alumni Memorial Building during its inaugural concert set for 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 21.
John Brock, UT professor of music, will play the first song selections on the new, $1 million instrument, in the Cox Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public, but ticket reservations are required. The concert will include selections by Nicolaus Bruhns, Johann Sebastian Bach and Maurice Duruflé.
The event marks 10 years of planning and more than three years of construction, installation and testing of the instrument.
Longtime UT friend James R. Cox, for whom the Alumni Memorial Building auditorium is named, left a bequest in his estate for the organ. It cost more than $1 million, with $750,000 of that being covered by Cox’s gift. The remaining funds were paid by UT.
Crabtree said the debut of the organ will help the University of Tennessee provide a wonderful cultural asset for the Knoxville community and for the entire region.
“This is more than a gift to UT, it is a gift to all of East Tennessee and is a magnificent resource for the community and the state,” Crabtree said. “A musical instrument of this quality will not only greatly enhance the abilities of our faculty to teach and our students to learn, but this type of resource will also draw well-known organists to Knoxville and East Tennessee. That benefits everyone. We’re excited about the new chapter in music education and community outreach that this gift makes possible.”
Cox’s sister, Charlotte Musgraves, has been closely involved on the project, and has visited the organ maker to view the construction.
“Since the auditorium was named for my brother, my family thought the gift of an organ would be a great asset to the university,” said Musgraves. “It will be something wonderful for UT and future students.”
Musgraves also said that she did not know about organs before the process began.
“I’ve always loved the music, but didn’t know how much work went into building an organ,” she said. “It was very interesting to see the organ makers at work and knowing that all the pieces were handcrafted. It was a real education.”
Custom-designed and hand-built by Richards Fowkes & Co. in Ooltewah, Tenn., the organ is an awe-inspiring instrument. It stands at more than 20 feet tall, with nearly 2,500 pipes and three keyboards. Installation began last June. Before it was delivered to Knoxville, the organ was assembled in its entirety in Ooltewah to ensure everything worked as it should before being deconstructed and moved.
“Organs of the quality that Richards Fowkes builds are rarely found in universities, especially in state universities,” said Roger Stephens, director of the School of Music. “Having a first-class concert organ like this will put us on equal footing, in terms of organ facilities, with almost any school in the U.S.”
Plans to renovate the Cox Auditorium from the old Alumni Memorial Gymnasium began in the mid-1990s, and discussions have always included the installation of a grand-scale instrument.
The auditorium’s renovations were completed in 2003, transforming the school’s historical basketball gymnasium into a state-of-the-art auditorium that includes a theatrical lighting system, a Wenger sound shell and a digital multi-track sound console with audio/video recording and editing capabilities. Five separate panels or acoustical drapes were installed on the side walls that can be raised or lowered independently to enhance the acoustical properties of the type of music being played. A nine-foot Steinway grand piano also was added.
An acoustical engineer was recently employed to test the auditorium and offer suggestions to enhance the tonal spectrum and frequency range of the organ, said Stephens. More sound panels will be installed in the auditorium, and much of sound batting material in the ceiling has been removed to allow for greater warmth of tone and longer reverberation time in the auditorium, he said.
Additional dedication festivities will take place throughout 2007, including a conference sponsored jointly by UT and the American Guild of Organists set for Feb. 14-17, featuring lectures and roundtable discussions. The conference also will feature leading organists performing for the general public, including Bill Snyder, UT Chancellor Emeritus and Tennessee Theatre house organist, set for 8 p.m. Feb. 17.
Parking for the concert will be available in the S-9 parking lot across Phillip Fulmer Way from Neyland Stadium and the Alumni Memorial Building.
For free tickets, please call (865) 974-3241 or visit http://www.music.utk.edu/organ.html.
Beth Gladden, media relations (firstname.lastname@example.org