The pipe organ at Stambaugh Auditorium was built by E.M. Skinner Co. It was designed to be integrated into the design of the auditorium and was installed in 1926 as part of the construction of the hall.
The organ is considered to be one of the finest and largest organs ever made by the Skinner Co.
It has 3,847 pipes, ranging from the size of a pencil to 30 feet high. The pipes are arranged in two wooden cases on either side of the stage.
By GUY D’ASTOLFO
The only task that remains in Stambaugh Auditorium’s pipe organ restoration project is the tuning of the massive instrument. But with 3,847 pipes, that could take a while.
The $1.4 million restoration project reached a milestone in October when the console was reconnected to the pipes. The organ was demonstrated to the news media Monday with Richard Konzen, a music professor at Grove City (Pa.) College and a nationally renowned organist, playing several pieces.
The refurbished organ will get its inaugural public performance Sept. 18, 2011, with a concert by David Higgs of the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., and the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra.
Another concert, with Cameron Carpenter, will be Dec. 3, 2011. Carpenter is just 29 years old but already has drawn international acclaim for his skill and showmanship with the pipe organ. He was profiled in a segment on CBS’ “Sunday Morning” two weeks ago.
In the meantime, Stambaugh is inviting university music students and local church organists to practice on the organ to help iron the bugs out of it, said Phil Cannatti, executive director of the auditorium. To schedule a time, call Cannatti at 330-747-5175.
The restoration project began in March 2009, when the A. Thompson-Allen Co. dismantled the pipes and trucked them to its factory in New Haven, Conn.
Installed by the E.M. Skinner Co. in 1926 when Stambaugh opened, the pipe organ was damaged by water from a roof leak in the 1940s, causing distortion and diminished sound quality, said Cannatti. It has been played intermittently over the decades — it was last used in December 2008 — but hasn’t been at peak performance level in about 60 years.
Its pipes range from pencil-sized to 30 inches in diameter and 30-feet long and are arranged in wooded enclosures on either side of the stage. A giant air blower in the basement delivers air to the pipes, and a system of stops and vents are manipulated to create tones.
The refurbished pipes were installed in September and October. The console, which looks like a wooden organ, was returned to the auditorium in late October and placed in the center of the orchestra pit.
Stambaugh received a $750,000 grant from the Bradley Foundation of Minnesota in 2009 for the restoration. The foundation is interested in the refurbishing of historic musical instruments, said Cannatti.
Additional funds were raised through private donations and fundraisers. The project is now $150,000 short of its $1.4 million price tag, said Cannatti.
The fundraising effort is continuing, and it got a boost Monday when students from Washington Elementary School in Niles presented a check for $500. The students learned of the pipe organ project after attending Opera Western Reserve’s production of “La Traviata” at Stambaugh last month and decided to help, said Cannatti. They not only donated the money they had raised from prior fundraising projects, but also plan to have an art sale to raise even more money for the organ restoration.