Jan. 17 pipe organ recital highlights instrument’s needs

thumb_Gerald_HansenGerald HansenTo play the pipe organ inside Tennessee Tech University's Wattenbarger Auditorium, retired New York music professor Gerald Hansen is part musician and part acrobat.

During a recent morning practice session, he smiles broadly as he coaxes the instrument through the many crescendos and then through the exciting conclusion of the "Westminster Carillon."

Hansen collaborates with the University's 48-year-old pipe organ, and one might say that both are looking forward to an instrument restoration project during this year. The project as planned would allow the instrument to enjoy the benefits of 21st century technology while better expressing the ageless beauty of the King of Instruments and its music.

Hansen performs as successfully as any master musician would, but he also knows TTU's organ has great untapped potential.

Some of the organ's immediate needs are physical adjustments that could be expected in an instrument that is a half-century old. Other aspects will incorporate modern digital technology to allow the sound of wind-driven music to soar from the pipes both visible and hidden.

Structural updates along with other desired improvements to modernize the organ would cost nearly $100,000. For now Hansen is trying to raise $6,000 from private individuals to correct what he and others see as the most pressing maintenance needs this year: to increase the volume of the Great mixture, to rebuild the ailing Swell division expression machine, and to install additional racks to support the Pedal trumpet.

"Wattenbarger Auditorium is a glorious recital hall for a pipe organ," he said. "I would say that this organ has been hungry for improvement for a number of years. If we do the initial work, I think the Bryan Symphony Orchestra and other university and community events could start using the organ."

Hansen's guest faculty recital at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 17, free and open to the public, also publicizes an effort to raise $6,000 to complete the first phase of a larger maintenance program for the organ.

Hansen, former music department chair and professor of music at Schenectady County Community College in New York state, moved to Cookeville three years ago. He began diagnosing the Wattenbarger Auditorium organ's maintenance problems and suggesting ways to raise the necessary funds to make improvements.

Pipe organs are expensive to build and maintain. TTU's was designed by the Schantz Organ Company of Orrville, Ohio, and installed in Derryberry Hall Auditorium in 1962. When the Bryan Fine Arts Building was built, the organ was dismantled and redesigned by the Milnar Organ Company of Eagleville, Tenn., and installed in Wattenbarger Auditorium in 1981.

TTU's Schantz organ is by far the most expensive instrument in Bryan Fine Arts, said Arthur LaBar, chairman of the TTU department of music and art.

"Without a faculty member whose principal assignment is to teach organ students and perform organ music, our wonderful instrument has had to be neglected over the years in favor of more pressing needs," LaBar said. "At the concert, Dr. Hansen will talk about some of the work that needs to be done to upgrade, modernize and maintain the instrument so that it can be restored to its full potential for the enjoyment of organ music lovers for decades to come."

Hansen's recital program of organ masterworks will include Bach's C Minor Prelude S. 544, Sonata in A Major by Mendelssohn, Two Sketches from the Psalms by Percy Whitlock, and Vierne's "Westminster Carillon."

Hansen served for 21 years as chairman and professor in the Schenectady County Community College music department. He also taught for 11 years at Keuka College in central New York state and on the faculties of Luther College, Iowa, and Manchester College, Indiana.

Hansen was graduated from the Eastman School of Music with a doctorate in organ performance and literature and from Northwestern University with bachelor's and master's degrees in organ and sacred music. He studied for two years with organist Finn Viderø as a Fulbright Scholar in Copenhagen, Denmark.

To find out more about the fund-raising effort, contact Jim Brock at TTU at 931-372-3055.

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