Friday, September 28, 2007

Good bye, Old Friend

As of today, and most likely, as I'm writing this blog entry, UNC Chapel Hill's Hill Hall is losing an old friend. The 4-manual, 59-rank Reuter organ (Op. 367, ca. 1929) is being dismantled, most of the pipes being taken by Reuter, and the console removed. The Hill Hall Auditorium is slated to undergo renovation, and apparently, from what I heard, the Reuter had no place in the new plans. It seems sad ... but then again, I can understand why that decision was made. It's not a teaching instrument. It's very much a symphonic instrument. Several of us had the opportunity to play the organ last night. This was kind of a swan song of sorts for Op. 367. It's obvious the organ had not been well cared for or maintained for a very long time. But it was still neat to play this piece of history. I was taken on an organ crawl, and saw the pipes, the bellows, etc. There's some neat stuff on this organ - the chimes, the harp, among other things. There looked to be the name of every instrument you might be able to find in an orchestra on the stop knobs, and it was pretty neat to see the pipes to go along with them. Tuba mirabilis, for example. Yes, it was very tuba. The only thing I didn't see was the Echo chamber - it was built toward the back of the auditorium, in the ceiling.

Frankly speaking, I was quite surprised to learn the organ was just going to be taken away and essentially dismantled and disposed. I wondered, why couldn't they have thought of the Organ Clearing House - surely, they would have been happy to have taken the Reuter off of the Music Department's hands?

I don't know the story of the decision behind this organ's demise ... there was quite a bit of emotion flowing in that room last night, especially as a friend of mine played a few "farewell" type of hymns and songs ... The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, Is Ended (ST. CLEMENT), Day Is Done (AR HYD Y NOS), Auld Lang Syne ... by the time he got to Auld Lang Syne, there were some tears flowing in the room.

This seems to me to signal the end of an era, as far as the Organ Music program at UNC is concerned. I don't have any feelings one way or the other toward Op. 367 as I never really got to know it well. I would hope that whatever organ The Powers That Be decide to install in the new Hill Hall Auditorium will be able to serve the university for teaching, as well as performance, for years and years to come.

UPDATE, 9/29/2007

Well, this is interesting. After having returned from the Central NC AGO Chapter's Members' Recital and meeting, I went to UUMC for a bit of practicing (I do not want to make a fool of myself come October 30!!!!!!!!) when I noticed, parked in front of Hill Hall is a huge lorrie. What's on the side of the lorrie? Reuter's logo and other assorted info. So it's official. I'm sure that lorrie is holding whatever pipes it was the company wanted to take back.

So it's true: Op. 367 is no more.

I chatted with a couple of people who know a little more about the history of the Reuter. It sustained heavy damage, thanks to leakage problems and other related building problems. (Hill Hall needs some major help, and at least it will get it once its renovation gets underway.) Op. 367 was designed specifically for Hill Hall, and both were built around the same time (1929'ish or so). It's a shame that it fell into disrepair and general neglect. Unfortunately, even if time were to have been spent to get the instrument back in a playable condition, it would have been cost prohibitive to have done so, given the extensive damage the instrument suffered.

So with a little more background, I can understand why there was a push to get rid of the Reuter. The people with whom I chatted were unaware that today was the day of Reuter Removal. One of them remarked, "It's about time they got rid of it." It's sad. I'm sure if the organ did not suffer the damage that it did, and even if it had been maintained regularly and religiously, then it probably would have still been in a good, playable condition today. With a few modifications, it might have even been a good teaching instrument. But alas, general neglect and extensive damage has rendered the 78 year old Reuter unplayable.

Op. 367, it was a pleasure to make your brief acquaintance. May the memories of all the music you've made in the past be pleasant and sweet. Good night ...

3 comments:

Stefan said...

that is so sad..i am an organ-ic chemist too, and i am glad that at least a little video will remain on youtube! what a waste of a beautiful instrument---just disappearing

Lyn F. said...

Yes, very true. My friend Warren spent so much time on that instrument, and he took its demise rather hard. I am glad he took videos of a couple of friends playing the Reuter before it was taken away.

Stefan said...

do you have the specification? anyway, I'd be happy to hear from you! please email me:
sweist(at)gmx.de
Cheers