Thursday, April 25, 2013

Students visit 'world renowned' organ maker

By Katelynn Padron, Guest Writer
The Gottfried and Mary Fuchs Organ in Lagerquist Concert Hall took 35,000 hours to complete. Of those hours, 1,000 were dedicated solely to planning.

Last Saturday, Campus Ministry provided several Pacific Lutheran University students the opportunity to tour the workshop of Paul Fritts, the craftsman who created the Fuchs Organ.

It was in this workshop that Fritts assembled the Fuchs Organ, disassembled it for transport and reassembled it in Lagerquist, installing it in January 1998. "We were working [installing the organ] while rehearsals were going on," Fritts said.

Fritts told students who attended the tour that there was some debate about how grandiose the Fuchs Organ should be. Some members of the committee in charge of designing Lagerquist wanted the organ to be shorter, Fritts said, but the committee eventually agreed that the organ was an "architectural entity of its own."

Today PLU students and visitors can enjoy the resonant sounds of the Fuchs Organ in Lagerquist during chapel and concerts.

Paul Fritts & Company Organ Builders has been building organs in its workshop in Parkland for more than 30 years. Tucked away on 121 Street and close to PLU, the workshop is adjacent to the house where Fritts grew up.

During the workshop tour, Fritts showed students several magnificent organs that are awaiting shipment to their new homes.

Paul Tegels, associate professor of music and a concert organist, gave tour attendees a sample of music from several of the organs.

From a robust rendition of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" to a chapel-worthy "How Great Thou Art," Tegels showcased the brilliance of Fritts’ craftsmanship.

Catherine Graham, a sophomore who attended the tour, said she was intrigued by the differences in sound.

"Most of the time, I don’t get a chance to hear two organs played in the same room at the same time," Graham said.

Fritts has many ongoing projects. One recent project was refurbishing the organ from Tower Chapel in Eastvold Chapel and Auditorium. Built in 1964, the organ featured what is known as a "New Baroque" sound, which enjoyed brief popularity in the 1960s.

Fritts modernized this dated sound. The organ is completed and will be transported to PLU upon completion of the renovations in Eastvold.

Junior Tommy Flanagan, missions coordinator of the University Congregation Council, was a part of the Campus Ministry team that planned the tour.

Fritts’ workshop is "Parkland’s best kept secret, because nobody knows that there is a world-renowned organ maker on 121 Street," Flanagan said.

While the Fuchs Organ in Lagerquist is strikingly large with almost 4,000 pipes and three keyboards, the University of Notre Dame recently commissioned Paul Fritts & Company Organ Builders to build an even larger organ. Fritts said he estimates the project will take three years to complete.