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Duquesne University

Mary Pappert School of Music

Secondary Teaching and Practice Studio
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

In the early 2000s Duquesne University's Mary Pappert School of Music purchased Aeolian-Skinner opus 1508 (1968) for use as a practice organ. The three-manual, 9-rank organ had been modified over the years, and its performance was less than satisfactory for students and faculty alike. The most pressing issues with the instrument were excessive volume, a lack of easily settable combination pistons, harsh voicing, and disjointed tonal resources. A four-rank Mixture sat directly behind the music rack of the built-in console, making the stop unbearable even to the most insensitive ears. Attempts to lower the pressure of the organ to moderate the volume had been unsuccessful, resulting instead in slow speech and dull tone. In 2014, following the rebuilding of M.P. Moller opus 10235 in the school's primary teaching studio, Duquesne and Dr. Ann Labounsky again chose Luley & Associates, this time to replace the Aeolian-Skinner instrument with a comprehensive three-manual practice organ of 18 ranks with two enclosed divisions and a free-standing console. The organ possesses a diverse range of colors capable of authentically interpreting historic organ literature. The majority of the pipes are enclosed, providing maximum control of the organ's resources.


All new main wind chests and numerous offset wind chests were constructed. The Swell and Choir pipework is borred between divisions giving greater diversity in registration choices without overextending the resources. The biggest challenges in this project were voicing small scale pipework in an extremely small room to sound as rich and full as a great English organ in a large room, and fitting as many resources into the specification as possible without taking up too much valuable floorspace. All pipework in this organ was vintage sourced, with some ranks being over a century old. In many cases pipework was reconditioned to serve a purpose totally different than envisioned by the original builder. An example is the two sets of 1916 Estey 8' Dulciana Haskell basses forming the basses of the 8' Viole and 8' Salicional. The gentle tone and short length solve both space and volume problems without compromising the tonal integrity of the rank. The Principal choruses are likewise inventive. The Swell 8' Principal, for example, started life as a broad-scaled Moller 8' Salicional. Probably the most unique repurposing was that of the Great 8' Harmonic Flute, which was composed of pipes formerly in a Cornet Mixture. All three Mixture stops are derived from other stops as well as a single independent Quint rank. Each is composed at a different pitch to avoid redundancy and missing notes.  The three reed stops were restored and revoiced by Oyster Pipe Works of Louisville, Ohio. 


The console was originally built by M.P. Moller as a supply component for an instrument which was discarded in 2014. The cabinet and interior were stripped down to bare wood and completely refinished, the manuals were rebuilt with tracker touch magnet bars and additional thumb pistons, the pedals were re-capped, and a new inlaid music rack was fashioned. The latest Syndyne multi-level combination memory system was installed, giving up to 60 users up to 100 levels of memory each. 


The end result is an organ capable of performing diverse repertoire, with a broad color palette and the most advanced control systems available. It proves that just because a space is small does not mean that the organ therein has to be bland and basic. 


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