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Opus 79

Nov 8, 04:02 am

Left: Opus 79. Right: Opus 80.
More detail on the commission, construction principe and specifications for these instruments, Opus 79 as well as for Opus 80, can be found on the Opus 80 page.

Opus 79

Choir Organ at Mount Angel Abbey
St.Benedict, Oregon

Year of Commission 1993

Opus 79 was commissioned at the same time as Opus 80 for Mount Angel Abbey. Opus 79, the Choir Organ, features a total of 866 pipes. All pipes with the exception of the Prinzipal 8’ and 1-12 pipes of the Subbass 16' are under one common expression. The organ has a common Tremulant. The Choir organ (Opus 79) was built in 1995 and installed in the spring of 1996.

The Grand organ (Opus 80) can also be registered and played from the Choir organ manual and pedal keyboards and vice versa.

Engineering and execution:
Richard Houghton, Milan, Michigan.
Wood inlay of music racks:
Herbert Bilgram, St. Louis, Missouri.

The following craftsmen participated in the construction of this organ:
Albert J. Brass, James Cullen, Andrew Held, Aleksandr E. Leshchenko, Richard J. Murphy, Earl C. Naylor, Martin Ott, Sascha Ott, Karen A. Perrone.

Notes on Opus 79 and Opus 80
(By Fr. Marius Walter, O.S.B. Choirmaster and Organ Committee Chairman.)

One of the wonderful realities most monks think about on the Solemnity of the Annunciation is the way in which God works in mysterious, often quiet, and ever sure-footed ways as He unfolds His beneficent, saving and gracious ways to His people. It is a celebration of decisive power and marvelous creativity, giving us cause for great wonderment, genuine hopefulness, and untold love.

It was Annunciation Day, 1992 when Martin Ott first set foot in the Abbey Church. His reputation had preceded him. The Abbey Organ Committee had heard of him from Kenneth Nielson (later to become Br. Karl), and had written to Mr. Ott as one of the prospective builders for its project. The Committee had been formulated by Abbot Peter in December 1991, and was working diligently to gather information for its task of deciding who should build the Abbey's new organ.

The word that kept coming up time and time again with respect to Martin Ott was integrity. Many committee members manifested an intuitive sense that this builder would deliver. He did not engage in any hard-sell techniques. His manner was simple, forthright, and direct. If he thought that a request was superfluous, he said so. If he thought that another request would compromise the project, he did not mince words. Always polite and respectful, always sincere and in earnest, eminently down-to-earth and unassuming, a man of simplicity and humility, many of us hoped even then that a person such as this would become our builder.

It was on that Annunciation Day meeting that Mr. Ott mentioned the European monastic dual-organ model, consisting of a small organ in the monastic choir and a second, larger instrument at the rear of the nave, to serve the diverse musical needs which arise in many monastic settings. While the committee acknowledged the merits of such a plan, it did not think it a realistic aim. So, Mr. Ott submitted a plan for the next-best solution: a single, large instrument to be placed in the apse of the church.

In time, the list of prospective builders was narrowed to five.
In September, Fr. Jerome and I traveled to St. Louis to play, hear, and inspect some of Mr. Ott's organs. Neither of us was thinking about a dual-organ solution at the outset of this trip, but the idea resurfaced. This time it would not go away. I think that this reality was due in large measure to the versatility that Mr. Ott built into his smaller instruments. We left Saint Louis confident that Martin could build us a choir organ that would be capable of providing sufficient variety to be used on a daily basis. Although Fr. Jerome and I had played organs by many fine builders during our search, the quality of Mr. Ott's instruments impressed us profoundly. This and our perceived receptivity of this builder to respond to the needs of our particular setting convinced us that he would be our builder of choice. A few days after we returned from St. Louis, Fr. Jerome left for studies abroad. His parting comment to the committee was, "I have one recommendation to make to you: OTT".

After the trip to St. Louis, I gave a report to Abbot Peter regarding the two basic options, which the Organ Committee had recommended. The Choir Organ/Grand Organ solution was favored, but would be more expensive. The other option would be to place one large instrument dead center in the apse. While this would cost less, there were concerns that the monks would feel that the organ was looming over them (both visually and aurally), and that the organ would become the dominant symbol in the church. Abbot Peter decided that the community should be informed of the options and that its input should be sought. So, he asked me to prepare a report on the options, including their respective pros and cons. I delivered this report at a community meeting on December 7, 1992.

It was delightful to experience the keen interest and worthwhile insights of the monastic community both at the meeting and during the ensuing weeks. Abbot Peter determined that there was sufficient interest in the dual-organ option to warrant requesting Mr. Ott to draw up a proposal for a dual-organ plan.

It was delightful to experience the keen interest and worthwhile insights of the monastic community both at the meeting and during the ensuing weeks. Abbot Peter determined that there was sufficient interest in the dual-organ option to warrant requesting Mr. Ott to draw up a proposal for a dual-organ plan.

Then, in January of the following year Mr. Ott spent a week at the Abbey. During that time, he became acquainted with Mount Angel's prayer as well as the monks themselves. There developed between the orgelbaumeister and the monastic community an easy and mutual affinity. During the same week, Fr. Marcel Rooney (later to become Abbot of Conception Abbey and Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Order) had given the monks a series of presentations on the liturgy and church architecture. This aided the monks, too, in their deliberations concerning the role of the organ in liturgical celebrations and its placement in the Abbey Church.

After continued community discussions and committee deliberations, Abbot Peter decided that it was time to come to a decision regarding the organ project. He encouraged his monks to support it: "We are well aware of God's boundless goodness to us. Now, we have an opportunity before us to do, in the words of Mother Teresa, something beautiful for God." While the vote that followed indicated broad approval from the monks, they were not alone. The Abbey's benefactors, already known for their generosity showed their support. For example, the Summer Appeal for the organ project was the most successful in history.

The rest is, more or less, history. But, for me it has not been ordinary history. There has been much cooperation and goodwill, and many reasons for gratitude.

As the Chairman of the Organ Committee, I owe a debt of thanks to many: to Abbot Peter, who had the vision to initiate the project and to support it through much of its progress, including the installation of the first of the two instruments; to Abbot Joseph, who is now seeing it to its completion; to the Pipe organ committee members, both past and present, who have so often been a source of help and encouragement for the project to be done well; to the Organ Placement committee, whose members studied the options of the placement of the instruments and considered them within a broad context; to the monastic community which communicated a vital interest in the project and many votes of confidence along the way. Many family members, friends, members of our broader hilltop community and gracious benefactors have made generous contributions. In truth, without your support this project could not have happened. Finally and of greatest import is that the project has been brought to fruition by the graciousness of God. It is altogether fitting that it was on Annunciation Day when the seed for this project was sown. Our Good God has visited us, working in our midst with decisive power and marvelous creativity, giving us cause for great wonderment, genuine hopefulness, and untold love.

Fr. Marius Walter, O.S.B .
Choirmaster and Organ Committee Chairman

15 stops | 15 ranks
Mechanical key and stop action.