Vol. 19, No. 32
May 25, 2000
When John Panning, tonal director for Dobson Pipe Organ Builders Ltd. in Lake City, Iowa, adjusts the 1,234 pipes on the newly installed pipe organ at the University of Delaware, his ears will be his only technology.
But the tuning and toning will reverberate through cyberspace. Beginning on May 31, visitors to the UD's web site (see box) will be able to watch and listen as Panning manually adjusts each pipe in the Edward and Naomi Jefferson Pipe Organ.
The $350,000 organ, donated by the Jeffersons, was recently installed in Bayard Sharp Hall. Edward Jefferson is the former chief executive of the DuPont Co. in Wilmington. A former Episcopal church dating from 1843, Bayard Sharp Hall was fully renovated by the University as concert space.
Just as organ builders did in the 14th century, Panning will sound each pipe to make sure it has the correct tone and tune for the hall. The process is called "voicing" and is done after the pipe organ is installed. This voicing process is so ancient, even Bach would immediately recognize it if he were to visit the website.
"Each space has its own acoustical character," Panning said. "Tonal finishing is done so that each pipe has the proper tone color in the space." For example, the flute tone (or stop) should have a soft, round tone, while the strings stop should be keen and bright, Panning said.
The decibel levels of the pipes must also be adjusted mechanically.
At times very tedious, the painstaking task will take weeks, continuing through the better part of June, Panning said.
"It's all done by ear," he said. "There's no other way."
- Maureen Milford
Listen on web Want to follow the ongoing progress of the organ tuning and voicing live? Visit the special UD web site at [www.udel. edu/pipeorgan] to learn more about Bayard Sharp Hall and the Jefferson Music Gallery, feturing the majestic new pipe organ.