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Happy 50th: Stetson Celebrates Its Beckerath Organ’s Half Century With 2 Days of Recitals

| October 23, 2011

Stetson University will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its Beckerath Organ on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 4 and 5, with a series of guest recitals, receptions and talks to be held on Stetson’s DeLand campus. The recitals will be held in Lee Chapel, inside Elizabeth Hall, 421 N. Woodland Blvd. An observance of the 50th anniversary began in February with a concert performance by Boyd Jones, Stetson’s John E. and Aleise Price Professor of Organ and university organist. This two-day celebration, Nov. 4 and 5, will include the following events:

  • An organ recital by German organist Harald Vogel, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4, Lee Chapel, in Elizabeth Hall
  • Visits by organ builders who apprenticed with Beckerath, including Fritz Noack (Massachusetts) and Hans-Ulrich Erbslöh (Hamburg), who restored Stetson’s Beckerath Organ in 2004, as well as Charles Nazarian, who built the new case for the Paul R. Jenkins, Jr., Organ in 1992
  • A paper delivered by Stetson graduate Dr. Russell Stinson ’78, Professor at Lyon College, Batesville, Arkansas
  • New music for organ by Sydney Hodkinson, Stetson’s Almand Chair of Composition
  • A joint recital by recent alumni Josiah Armes ’07 (MM Yale School of Music), currently pursuing doctoral work at the Eastman School of Music, and Silviya Mateva ’08 (MM Eastman School of Music), now enrolled in doctoral study at the University of Oklahoma.

Stetson’s Beckerath Organ, named for Paul R. Jenkins Jr., Organ Professor Emeritus, following his retirement, is a distinguished, mechanical-action concert instrument capable of authentically performing a wide range of organ literature. Stetson University’s organ by Rudolf von Beckerath of Hamburg represented a revolutionary departure from the generally accepted norms in American organ building. It foreshadowed and strongly influenced a re-birth of classic organ design in the United States. Internationally recognized, the Beckerath organ has had seminal influence on organ building in America, and has been featured on the cover of Orgel Internationale.

The first modern European tracker-action organ of its kind built in an American college or university performance space, it was shipped piece-by-piece via boat from Hamburg, Germany, to DeLand, where it was installed in 1961. It includes 2,700 pipes, ranging from 18 feet in length to the size of a pencil. In 1992, the organ was taken completely apart for a thorough cleaning, and a new case was built complementing the chapel’s traditional look. In 2004, the organ was arduously cleaned again, and many improvements were made, including a new console and pedal board.

“It is an historically significant instrument,” said Jones. “It was the forerunner of a type of instrument that came to be recognized as superior and more historically informed than what had been previously found in America. Yale University, for example, acquired a Beckerath in 1971. At Stetson, the Beckerath Organ has become a symbol of the institution.”

Jones, who teaches organ and harpsichord, will also talk about the organ and its history at the program. A graduate of Stetson, he earned his master’s and doctorate degrees from Yale. He has been a member of the Stetson faculty since 1998. Admission for the two-day event is $75 – adults; $25 – spouse/partner; $25 students. Please visit www.stetson.edu/organ to register and for more information, or call (386) 822-8950.

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