Walt Disney Concert Hall Organ Finally Ready

It's often said that good things come to those who wait, and for those of us who have long been waiting for the completion of the Walt Disney Concert Hall Organ are finally going to get our just desserts.  After a year of installation, tuning, and voicing the 6,134-pipe organ is ready to make its debut to kick off what promises to be an excellent 2004/2005 concert season for the LA Philharmonic at the Walt Disney Concert Hall starting Thursday, September 30.

The organ was designed by Los Angeles organ designer Manuel Rosales of Rosales Organ Builders and Frank Gehry. Once design was complete, the pieces were then fabricated by Glatter-Götz Orgelbau, GmbH, in Owingen, Germany.  Design of the organ began in 1991and in addition to its sheer size it has many aesthetic features, such as the curved faced pipes made of solid, vertical grain Douglas fir, that make this instrument as pleasant to the eyes as the ears. This behemoth became the largest organ designed by Rosales Organ Builders to date and a milestone due to its opulence and visual appeal.  

As beautiful to look at as this organ is, it's really all about the music. To achieve the wide dynamic range that spans from fortissimo to pianississimo the organ features pipes the size of pencils, telephone poles, and everything in between.  Tucked behind the beautiful façade are the three level of pipes ranging in material from tin and lead alloys to Norwegian pine and other woods, all combining to produce a tone that is sure to make any music aficionado smile. 

The organ inauguration, coming one year after the opening of the concert hall itself, will begin with a recital by Frederick Swann on September 29th and will be followed up on Friday, October 1st at the Philharmonic's Opening Night Gala with a performance of "Grand on Grand" led by music director Esa-Pekka Salonen.  The renowned director will then lead the orchestra's subscription series with two weeks of music that will prominently feature the brand new organ.

To round out the opening weekend organist Todd Wilson will be performing Louis Harrison's Organ Concerto, as well as in Saint Sa"ns' "Organ" Symphony (No. 3).  Fans of the Bach will certainly enjoy this concert as it places two of his most famous organ works, Toccata and Fugue in D Minor in its original version for organ and Fugue in G Minor, "Little," as transcribed for orchestra, in the spotlight for what is sure to be an amazing night of music.

Luckily for both organ and music lovers alike, the Los Angeles Philharmonic also has many wonderful events planned to showcase the new crown jewel of the Walt Disney Concert Hall. The all new Organ Recital Series will include five presentations after the organ's inauguration on September 30th as well as many subscription performances including a holiday program on December 12 featuring the Los Angeles Philharmonic brass players accompanying the organ. 

Pipe Organ Fact Sheet

Materials used

  • Douglas fir (exterior pipes)
  • Norwegian pine (interior pipes)
  • Porcelain (stops)
  • Simulated ivory (keyboard)
  • Ebony (keyboard)
  • Lead and tin alloys (pipes)

Key Features

  • 6,134 pipes ranging in size from a pencil to a telephone pole
  • The organ is a gift to the County of Los Angeles from the Toyota Motor Corporation
  • The visual design of this new organ is the collaboration between architect Frank 0. Gehry and organ builder Manuel J. Rosales.
  • The mechanical design, construction, tuning and voicing is the result of collaboration by two internationally known pipe organ builders: Glatter-Gotz Orgelbau in Germany and Rosales Organ Builders in Los Angeles.
  • The voicing and tuning by Rosales Organ Builders toke over 2,000 worker-hours, and was completed May 2004.
  • The project consultant is J. Michael Barone of Minnesota Public Radio's "Pipedreams."
  • Planning, design, construction and installation have taken a combined 35,000 worker-hours.
  • The organ was shipped from Germany by sea in six containers; total weight is over 40 metric tons.
  • Installation by the Glatter-Gotz staff in WDCH began in April 2003 and was completed in June 2003.
  • Total number of ranks is 109
  • The length of the longest pipes is over 32 feet and the largest pipe weighs over 800 Ibs.
  • The smallest pipe is the size of a small pencil with a speaking length less than 1/4" long.
  • Lowest note is CCCC whose frequency is 16 cycles per second, which is C below the lowest note on the piano.
  • The highest note has a frequency of 10,548 cycles per second, which is an octave plus a third higher than the top note of a piano.
  • The specially curved wood facade pipes were made by Glatter-Gotz Orgelbau of solid, vertical grain Douglas fir.
  • The wood facade pipes are actual pipes consisting of the Violone and Bassoon basses.
  • Behind the facade are metal pipes which are made of alloys of tin and lead.
  • Wood pipes were made in the workshops of Glatter-Gotz Orgelbau of Douglas fir and Norwegian pine.
  • Metal pipes were made in various specialty workshops in Portugal, Germany and England.
  • The main console is permanently installed at base of the organ's facade in the 'forest' of pipes.
  • The stage console is moveable and can be plugged in at four locations.
  • 61-note manual keyboards are covered with (simulated) ivory and solid ebony.
  • 32-note pedal boards are made of maple and ebony.
  • 128 draw stop controls are hand-lettered on porcelain with solid ebony stems.
  • 80 manual thumb piston controls and 28 pedal toe-pistons are available for preset combinations.
  • 300 memory levels are available for the organists' preset combinations.
  • Organists' bench is raised and lowered with an electric motor.
  • Closed circuit television gives the organist at the main console a view of the conductor.
  • Wind for the organ is supplied by three blowers whose motors total 13.3 horsepower.
  • Wind pressures range from 4" (102mm) for the Positive to 15" (380mm) for the Llamada "Tuba."
  • The keys on the main console are connected to the pipe valves via a mechanical linkage known as "tracker action."
  • Both consoles are equipped with electric action which may be digitally recorded for playback and archival purposes.
  • The organ is equipped with MIDI interface for connection to digital systems.
  • The sound of this organ is designed specifically to support the orchestra and not to imitate it.

The organ is voiced with a wide dynamic range from super pianissimo to a breathtaking fortissimo.

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Tickets to all 2004/2005 concerts are on sale now at the Walt Disney Concert Hall box office, online at LAPhil.com, or via credit card phone order at (323) 850-2000. When available, choral bench seats ($15), will be released for sale to selected Philharmonic, Colburn Celebrity Recital, and Baroque Variations performances beginning at noon on the Tuesday of the second week prior to the concert. A limited number of $10 rush tickets for seniors and full time students may be available at the Walt Disney Concert Hall box office two hours prior to the performance. Valid identification is required; one ticket per person; cash only. Groups of 12 or more may be eligible for special discounts for selected concerts and seating areas. For all information, please call (323) 850-2000.

To read more on the Concert Hall go to our story Introducing the Walt Disney Concert Hall!

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