The Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ Experience - 2018-19 Season
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.
Featured Concerts in the 2018-19 Season:
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In this second program, we witness The Creation of the World, courtesy of Frenchman Darius Milhaud, who was energized by the jazz he heard on a visit to Harlem. Francis Poulenc's Organ Concerto is a dazzling showpiece for the marvelous Fred. J. Cooper Memorial Organ. The Rite of Spring—first brought to America by Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphians— remains a primal, shattering musical masterpiece. Albert Barnes once wrote about the strong link he saw between the works of Henri Matisse and Stravinsky's compositions. This program reveals the intellectual and artistic zeal Barnes and Stokowski shared, which resonates to this day.
Join the Orchestra in costume for this fun and irreverent night with the Philadelphians and the Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ.
Yannick teams up with mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, one of the biggest vocal talents in the world, a rare combination of exceptional skills and winning personality. She'll shine in Chausson's musical poem about love, death, and the sea. The Philadelphians take center stage in Wagner's Prelude to Act I of Lohengrin and Respighi's Fountains of Rome. And we are eager to welcome back American composer Mason Bates after the resounding success of his fascinating and futuristic Alternative Energy in 2017.
Bramwell Tovey brings his delightful spirit to this charming program that's just right for kids of all ages. Britten's Young Person's Guide is surely the most enjoyable music-appreciation class ever, especially under Tovey's enchanted baton (he also delivers the captivating narration). Once an annual staple on network television, Amahl tells the story of Christmas through a shepherd boy's encounter with the Magi, as they journey to meet a miraculous newborn child. You'll never forget this mystical encounter with the three Night Visitors.
We welcome back Esa-Pekka Salonen for a program of music that's sure to win hearts, minds, and ears. There's more to Richard Strauss's Zarathustra than the few notes heard in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey: It's a unique experience in the concert hall with orchestra and the Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ. The Viola Concerto was one of Bartók's last compositions.
A Czech composer's take on a Russian-Ukrainian novelist's (Gogol) tale of a Cossack hero—Janácek's tone poem Taras Bulba is gorgeous music! And so, of course, is Weber's Clarinet Concerto No. 2, thrillingly realized by our brilliant Principal Clarinet Ricardo Morales. Brahms's penultimate symphony shows the master composer at the peak of his musical powers, a fitting conclusion to this dynamic program, led by Andrés Orozco-Estrada.
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.
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.
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