Festival Organ (1995–2000)
Touring exhibit traveled to thirteen sites in the United States and Canada
It was the first keyboard instrument, with roots extending back to ancient Rome. It can have as many as 30,000 pipes, from the size of a pencil to the length of a trailer truck. It can play everything from symphonies to jazz. But to many people, the pipe organ remains a little-known byway of musical and cultural history.
All that changed when Festival Organ: The King of Instruments showed at museums and libraries in eleven locations in the United States and Canada from 1995 to 2000. Festival Organ included an interactive exhibition, concerts, and other events designed to give general audiences the chance to experience first-hand the history, repertoire, and construction of the pipe organ. Festival Organ's kaleidoscope of programs was designed to interest music lovers, architects, scientists, history buffs, engineers and the curious of every age.
A twenty-four-foot “Timeline of the Organ,” depicting the organ’s long and varied history, is part of this unprecedented touring exhibition. “Today, many people think of the organ as a sacred instrument. But the first organs were used outdoors, at large public events such as gladiator games, and even in battle,” said Lynn Edwards, creator of the exhibition. “There are a lot of amazing twists and turns to the organ’s history, as visitors to the exhibition will see.” The exhibition also dramatically demonstrates the organ's connection with architecture and the various materials and methods of construction.
Visitors were able to see how an organ works and is built, and can pump bellows, depress keys, watch valves open and close, and hear pipes sound.
One display included an array of organ pipes to be heard: metal, wood, open, stopped, a pipe with a “chimney,” cylindrical pipes, conical pipes, tapered pipes, and pipes named after the musical instruments that inspired them: Vox Humana, Oboe, Trumpet, Flute, and Viol da Gamba, to name only a few.
In each of the sites where the exhibition was installed, it was paired with activities involving local organs and individuals. Collaborators presented solo recitals and ensemble concerts, and opened their churches, buildings, and workshops for organ tours, educational programs, and special events.
The creation of Festival Organ was made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and by contributions of collaborators and sponsors nationwide.
The Festival Organ exhibit has now been retired and decommissioned.
Los Angeles, California
Buffalo, New York
St. Paul, Minnesota
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Old Salem, North Carolina
Rochester, New York