The Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ Experience
The Philadelphia Orchestra has received a $5 million gift from the Wyncote Foundation to increase and expand programming for the Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ in Verizon Hall, the world’s largest mechanical action concert hall pipe organ. The partnership is supported by longtime friend of the Orchestra and former Board member Frederick R. Haas. The five-year initiative, entitled “The Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ Experience,” will focus on artistic plans by Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, in consultation with Artistic Advisor Frederick R. Haas, to feature the organ more extensively in season programming, help to build audience interest in the instrument, and educate audiences about the organ’s musical capabilities.
The Orchestra is featuring the Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ to showcase the majestic instrument paired with the “Philadelphia Sound.” We are elated to be enhancing our season programming to allow for works that highlight this magnificent instrument.
Soloist James McVinnie cut his teeth in the great British cathedrals (he played for William and Kate's wedding at Westminster Abbey) and consistently wows the critics (“musically and technically immaculate”—Los Angeles Times). He joins the Orchestra in the East Coast premiere of Nico Muhly's Organ Concerto, a co-commission with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In McVinnie's hands, hear the Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ in all its glory.
Hannibal completes his tenure as composer-in-residence with the world premiere of Healing Tones, a hymn for the City of Brotherly Love. He's spent the past two years immersing himself in Philadelphia, collecting inspiration, texts, and music from all walks of life. Given his past triumphs here (including One Land, One River, One People), Hannibal's new piece is sure to enthrall. Yannick continues his complete cycle of the Sibelius symphonies with the Second.
Mozart's haunting Requiem is accompanied by glimpses of the composer at different stages of his all-too-brief life. He was only 17 when he wrote his Symphony No. 25. (You may know it from the opening of the film Amadeus.) The Masonic Funeral Music is a product of his late 20s, composed in memory of two of his fellow Masons, both Viennese aristocrats. And of course, the Requiem came at the very end of Mozart's life: He died before he could finish it. The version heard on these concerts was completed by the brilliant Mozart scholar Robert Levin.
Add these to your subscription today!
Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 marked the composer's triumphant recovery from the disastrous premiere of his First Symphony. While some elements are familiar thanks to movie soundtracks and pop songs, the Concerto as a whole is a testament to Rachmaninoff's brilliance as a composer and pianist. Haochen Zhang is a worthy interpreter of this masterwork: Not yet 30, he's renowned for dazzling technique and thoughtful interpretation. Strauss's Alpine Symphony was inspired by a trek up a mountain, from pre-dawn darkness to deepening nightfall.
The 1925 version of The Phantom of the Opera is technically a silent movie … but not when the mighty Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ is unleashed! Verizon Hall's magnificent instrument creates the perfect soundtrack for this Hollywood classic, a tale of doomed love in the spooky confines of the Paris Opera House. Known for his performances on the legendary Wanamaker Organ, Peter Richard Conte is master of the keyboard for this special Halloween presentation.
Please note: The Philadelphia Orchestra does not perform on this concert.
Hark the herald trumpets (and horns, trombones, and tuba) sing! The unmatched sound and musicality of The Philadelphia Orchestra's legendary brass section usher in the holiday season on a high note. And the glory of the Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ adds another heavenly voice to this collection of treasured Christmas music, with master organist Peter Richard Conte at the keyboard for this festive presentation.
Shortly after sending Handel his libretto for a new oratorio, Charles Jennens wrote to a friend, hoping that the composer “will lay out his whole genius and skill upon it.” In 24 days of feverish writing, Handel did just that, creating his immortal Messiah. Pioneering conductor and Handel expert Jane Glover brings her decades of experience with opera and Baroque music back to the Kimmel Center for our holiday presentation of this masterwork, with the Philadelphia Symphonic Choir joining the Orchestra for a revelatory performance.
Two journeys to Italy bookend this program. Respighi's Pines of Rome is a sweeping pictorial of the Italian landscape. Edward Elgar's scintillating tone poem In the South commemorates a family holiday; the richly textured music conveys the Italian Riviera in all its warmth. Elgar's Introduction and Allegro is a showcase for strings.
About the Organ
The Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ, Dobson organ Op. 76, ranks as the largest mechanical-action concert hall organ in the United States. With its nearly 7,000 pipes, four blowers, 300 levels of memory, 111 stops, pipe sizes ranging from about the size of a drinking straw up to two feet square by 32 feet high, this is truly the King of Instruments!
- Largest Pipe: Built of wood, the largest pipe is approximately 2 feet square by 32 feet long.
- Smallest Pipe: Built of metal, the smallest pipe is the size of a drinking straw.
- Range of Wind Pressures: Three blowers totaling 25 horsepower supply the organ with air ranging in pressure from 4" to 25".
- Instrument Total Weight: The total weight of the organ and its structure is approximately 32 tons.
- Total Number of Pipes: 6,938
- Levels of Memory: 300 (meaning thousands of preset combinations can be stored for the organists' use during performance)
- Number of Combination Pistons: 48
- Number of Toe Pistons: 22
- Where does the Verizon Hall Organ rank in size?* 47th in the world (Interestingly, Philadelphia’s Wanamaker Organ is the largest fully functional pipe organ in the world.)
*Based on total number of ranks.
Click below to hear the different sounds of the pipes
1' C of Great Principal 8'
Glossary of Terms
The large unit where the organist sits to play and control the organ. This includes the keyboard or manuals, pedal board, pistons, and drawknobs or stops.
The pipes are grouped into several separate sections called divisions such as the Great, Swell, Solo, Positive, and Pedal. Each is controlled by its own manual or the pedal board.
Electric Key Action
In an electric key action, a wire, an electric circuit, and an electro-magnet cause the valve below each pipe to open and close. When you press the key, you close an electrical contact. Electricity flows to the circuit that causes an electro-magnet to open and close the valves under each pipe.
Mechanical Action (Tracker Action)
The key is connected to trackers (wooden, metal, or plastic strips or rods) that eventually connect to the valves that open to admit air from the wind chest into the pipe. When you press the key, you are physically opening the valve in the wind chest. In mechanical action, there is one valve for each note on the keyboard.
Note: The Verizon Hall organ has both electric and mechanical key action.
Organ pipes fall into one of four broad sound categories: principal, flute, string, and reed. The first three types are known as "flue" pipes and work like whistles. The majority of organ pipes are flue pipes. In contrast to the whistle-like flue pipes, the reed pipes work like clarinets or saxophones, but have a brass "tongue" instead of a cane reed. Some of the reed pipes are the loudest pipes in the organ.
Connect with the Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ on Facebook!