See and Hear the Organ
Conservation of a masterpiece, Preservation of an aesthetic
Each time a recording of Yale organists Thomas Murray or Martin Jean playing on the Newberry Memorial Organ is released, critical acclaim follows – directed not only at the performers but also at this rare and beautiful instrument, itself a masterpiece and a landmark.
The organ is named for John Stoughton Newberry, whose family had given Yale $50,000 for the building of the original Hutchings organ in 1903, and similar amounts for its renovation by Steere in 1915 and its rebuilding in 1928 by the firm of E.M. Skinner of Boston, considered the “Rolls-Royce of organbuilders.” Some 5,000 of the pipes and other components were recycled from the earlier organs to create an instrument of heroic proportions.In the decades that followed, the late nineteenth-century Romantic organ music and the once-popular orchestral transcriptions for the organ fell out of favor with the concertgoing public. Other Skinner organs from that era were allowed to fall into disrepair or were replaced. The Newberry Memorial Organ remains in original condition to this day.
The instrument is a monument to the craft of organbuilding and the technology of that time, with its
- 12,617 pipes
- 142 stops
- 197 ranks
- 30,000 pneumatic valves
- 1,000 pneumatic motors
- 160 miles of electrical wire
- Nine pipe chambers
- Two relay rooms
- Two 20-horsepower Spencer turbines
The ”live” acoustic of Woolsey Hall is ideal for choral and organ music and is an integral component of the organ’s unique sound. Yale’s first University Organist, Harry Benjamin Jepson, who had been appointed in 1896 and remained in his post for more than forty years, was the instrument’s first proponent. Jepson’s successors have added to the luster of the organ’s reputation: Charles Krigbaum’s acclaimed interpretation of Messiaen’s works and Widor symphonies, Robert Baker’s rendering of American music, Thomas Murray’s magnificent transcriptions, and Martin Jean’s stunning recording of the complete symphonies of Vierne. A list of the guest artists who have thrilled local audiences is a who’s-who of luminaries in the field: Daniel Roth, Marie-Claire Alain, Catharine Crozier, Peter Planyavsky, Martin Haselböck, Thomas Trotter, Naji Hakim, David Craighead, Olivier Latry, Susan Landale, Ludger Lohmann, Jon Gillock, Michael Gailit, Karel Paukert, Hans-Ola Ericcson, Jon Laukvik, and Dame Gillian Weir. Generations of players and audiences have thrilled to the sound of this celebrated instrument.
The Newberry Memorial Organ was built in an era of grandeur, when “the King of Instruments” thrilled audiences as would a full orchestra, with orchestral pieces transcribed for organ and orchestral accompaniments to the great choral masterpieces played from the console. That aesthetic gave way in the middle years of the twentieth century to one of reclaiming authentic performance practice on authentic period instruments. Today, the Newberry Memorial Organ stands as one of the few surviving examples of a true period instrument, able to render large-scale works from many periods while bearing unique witness to a noble and nearly-lost musical heritage.
The Newberry Organ Tomorrow
The Newberry Memorial Organ in Woolsey Hall is carefully and lovingly tended by Yale’s organ curators. Every summer, the organ goes offline for six weeks of maintenance, as whole sections of the instrument are disassembled, repaired and cleaned, and put back together.
To ensure the continuation of one of its greatest and most vibrant treasures, Yale University has created opportunities for giving to establish an endowment for the Newberry Memorial Organ.
Now you are invited to help secure the future of this musical and historical treasure and preserve the integrity of its aesthetic heritage. For more information on giving opportunities to benefit the Newberry Memorial Organ, contact Andrea Hart at 203-432-5188 or email@example.com.
“It is a genuine creation of the Romantic aesthetic, equaliing the expressiveness of the orchestra with its kaleidoscopic play of color and captivating nuance.” –Thomas Murray, University Organist
“I fell in love with this organ……. It is utterly amazing: superb Romantic voicing in a scheme of the utmost grandeur.” –Organists’ Review, December 1991
“One of the most glorious instruments around [is] the Skinner organ in Woolsey Hall at Yale University.” –American Record Guide, January/February 1993
“There is really no doubt at all that it is the finest, most complete, most musical, most in tune and most perfectly working symphonic organ in the USA.” – Organists’ Review, February 1993
“The Newberry Organ is … a meticulously preserved living museum of the pinnacle of 1920s-era electropneumatic technology.” – Stephen Budiansky, Invention & Technology, Spring 2004