Opus 80

Nov 8, 04:06 AM

Photos above: Opus 80, Courtesy of Mount Angel Abbey.
Photos below: Thorsten Ott.

Illustrated below: Opus 79 (left) and Opus 80 (right).

BUILDING PRINCIPLES: Opus 79 and Opus 80

1.  Key action

The instruments employ mechanical key action also called, "tracker" action. Tracker action is the mechanical linkage between key and pipe valve. By depressing a key at the keyboard, the tracker action pulls and at the other end of the action opens a valve (pallet) and the wind (air) will blow the pipe. The performer’s fingertips have direct control of the opening and closing of the pipe valves. The action is particularly sensitive to "legato" and "staccato" articulation, as well as to the style of release. Mechanical key action is precise, fast and gives instant feedback to the performer. This type of key action has been proven over the centuries to be very reliable.

2.  Sider chests

Both organs employ "slider chests”. Pipes of the same note within each division are placed on a common wind way, called the "wind channel." The channel and valve (pallet) allow a gentle entry of wind into the pipe, enhancing pipe speech and tone. The slider chest produces a cohesive sound, it enhancing the blend and ensemble sound of the instrument.

3.  Voicing

Both instruments exemplify the tonal ideas and voicing style Martin Ott firm is known for; imparting clear, transparent texture of sound. All of the tone families (principals, flutes, strings and reeds) are represented in the tone choruses.

4.  Casework

The casework of both instruments is built from red oak wood and the case encloses all divisions of the instruments. Only the front of the cases is open to projects the sound directly to the listening area. The case blends and projects tone, adds richness and resonance, and protects the instrument. The organ pipes can speak to the listener with a light, unforced singing tone.

5.  Opus 80, pipe division layout

The traditional layout of the organ is in the strict order of the “Werkprinzip”. The pipes of the Hauptwerk division are in the center of the organ case. Below the Hauptwerk is the Schwellwerk. The pipes of the Schwellwerk division are located behind the expression shades allowing the organist to control the dynamics of the sound. The pipes of the Pedal division are divided, cantilevered to the left and right of the Hauptwerk. The Kronenwerk is located above the Hauptwerk.

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

Opus 80

Grand Organ at Mount Angel Abbey
St. Benedict, Oregon

Year of Commission 1993

The new pipe organs, Opus 79 and Opus 80 at Mount Angel Abbey, were built at Matin Ott workshop in St. Louis, Missouri. The Choir Organ, Opus 79, and Grand Organ, Opus 80, are mechanical-action instruments, designed and constructed according to classic German organ building principles. Opus 79, was built in 1995 and installed at the Abbey in spring of 1996. Opus 80, was constructed from May 1997 through February 1998. After several months of technical installation and voicing of the pipes, the instrument was completed in June 1998.

The manual keyboards have 61 notes. The keys are of granadilla wood, and the sharp keys
are covered with cow bone. The pedal keyboards have
32 notes; the keys are of oak, and the sharp keys are capped with ebony. The mechanical key action parts are made of hornbeam wood; the trackers are of western cedar. The wind chests are constructed of Baltic birch plywood, ash and maple.

The Grand organ, Opus 80, consists of 35 stops, 44 ranks and 2 extensions, for a total of 2,468 pipes, divided between three manuals and the pedal.

The following individuals participated in the construction of Mount Angel Abbey’s Grand Organ, Opus 80:
Albert J. Brass, Alexander E. Bronitsky, James F. Cullen Alexander D. Leshchenko, Richard J. Murphy, Earl C. Naylor Martin Ott, Sascha Ott, Karen A. Perrone.

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

Dedication recital:
Dame Gillian Weir plaid the dedicatory recital on July 5th, 1998.
Cherry Rhodes and her husband, Ladd Thomas played a two organ duet and a solo concert for the final event of the inaugural series. The duet "Meditations on Salve Festa Dies” by Fr. Marius Walter was commissioned by Martin Ott for the event.

Notes by the builder:
(By Martin Ott, Fall of 1988)

In spring of 1992 the monks of Mount Angel Abbey invited me to come to their monastery to evaluate their sanctuary organ. This organ with electro-pneumatic action was built the 1930s by the Kilgen Organ Company of St. Louis, Missouri. The pipes originated from various vintages and builders. The monks were aware of the poor technical and musical state of this organ. The possibility of operational failure was imminent; the mechanism was beyond repair. The pipes of this instrument were located in the upper north chambers of the triforium; the organ console was placed on the main floor, a distanced of 90 feet. This distance caused a time delay between depressing the key and the sound received by the organist. A instrument in closer proximity for the daily liturgy of the Divine office was needed.

The initial thought was to place a large organ in the front apse of the church. Musically this would have been a good solution, the sound of the organ would have been near the monks choir stalls and the instrument could project along the main axis of
the church. I proposed a
single organ of 40 stops and
52 ranks. However, after learning
more about the liturgical needs
and community life of the
monks, I became concerned about the large architectural structure of the organ in the front of the church. The visual impact would have changed the monks' praying environment dramatically and the full organ sound might have been too intense for the monks in their choir stalls.

To avoid this dilemma, I propose two organs. A smaller instrument serving as an accompanying instrument for of the Divine Offices the Choir Organ; and a large organ located at the opposite end of the church in the balcony, we named it the Grand Organ, designed for congregational singing and concerts. The proposal was presented at a community meeting in January of 1993. Abbot Peter Eberle supported this two-organ proposal, the monks voted with great a majority to adopt this plan.

These pipe organs were designed specifically for the acoustics of the Abbey church, both in its choir and in its nave areas. As with any well-designed pipe organ, these instruments are unique both architecturally and tonally. Their assignment will be to accompany the monastic choral singing along with the full church's congregational song using the rich musical tradition of the Benedictine order.

The stop list was developed by our firm, in partnership with the organ committee of the Abbey. The pipe scaling follows our principles. Our firm designed the visual organ cases with the assistance of the architectural firm of Humayun Somjee and Associates of St. Louis, Missouri. Our intent was to integrate the case design with the architecture of the church. The cases are built of white oak, stained in a brown color. All wood used was kiln-dried and milled in our St. Louis shop. The framework utilizes mortise-and-tenon construction. The raised panels are of quarter-sawn oak. The facade pipes are made from an alloy of 75% tin and 25% lead. All façade pipes are functional or "speaking" pipes. (Martin Ott, Fall of 1998)

35 Stops | 44 Ranks | 2 Extensions
Mechanical key action | Electric Stop Action