Sacred Heart Cathedral organ makes grand debut - Catholic Courier

Sacred Heart Cathedral organ makes grand debut

ROCHESTER — Rarely are newly constructed items designed to last for centuries. Then again, few are as spectacular as the latest addition to Sacred Heart Cathedral.

On a day he termed "quite historic for this diocese and our community," Bishop Matthew H. Clark presided over the official dedication of the Halloran-All Saints Organ in a Sept. 12 ceremony. The organ, which cost $1.5 million, stands 40 feet tall and weighs more than 25,000 pounds. It comprises nearly 4,000 pipes, several of which extend majestically toward the cathedral’s ceiling behind the altar.

The organ is named after Father Emmett J. Halloran, a Rochester diocesan priest for 53 years, who died in 2004. Through his estate, Father Halloran, who was well-known for his love of classical music and opera, made a staggering donation that covered approximately half of the organ’s expense. The balance came from two anonymous donors, one from Rochester and the other from Auburn. Doug Mandelaro, diocesan spokesman, emphasized that the organ was completely funded by these three donors and that no diocesan funds were used.

Hans Davidsson, professor of organ at Rochester’s Eastman School of Music, described the Halloran-All Saints Organ as one of the finest instruments in the world, providing "a global organ facility for Rochester." The Eastman School worked closely with diocesan and cathedral officials on development of the organ project.

Construction was done over a two-year period by Paul Fritts, a master organ builder from Tacoma, Wash. Fritts and his team of artisans crafted virtually the entire organ in his shop. The parts were then transported cross-country from Tacoma to Rochester, where numerous volunteers helped unload the items and move them inside the cathedral. Fritts spent most of this summer in Rochester, adjusting each organ pipe to achieve ideal tone and volume.

"It has its own identity, and one reason is that it speaks in this space," Fritts said. "What you see here is the product of two years of planning and construction."

Fritts said the Halloran-All Saints organ is built to last at least 300 years. Yet David Higgs, chair of the Eastman School’s organ and historical keyboards department, remarked that it has the potential to last some 1,000 years — and, with restoration, even beyond.

The Sept. 12 dedication ceremony featured a concert of well-known sacred music hymns performed by members of the Eastman School, as well as choral music. This public gathering was the first of many scheduled events involving the Halloran-All Saints organ.

Bishop Clark observed that the organ presents a positive image not only for the cathedral and diocese, but also for the neighborhood surrounding Sacred Heart and the Rochester community at large.

"We believe in this city and this neighborhood," the bishop said.

"It’s a great evangelization tool. Many people will come for the musical programs, but it’s also a chance to for us to share the good news," added Father Kevin McKenna, who assumed the pastorate of Sacred Heart this summer. He said that many onlookers stopped in daily as the organ was being readied and were impressed "not only with the sound, but it’s a visual delight too."

Father McKenna noted that the long-awaited organ was the last in a series of major upgrades to Sacred Heart. The renovated cathedral was dedicated in early 2005.

"I think this is a grand finale, to use a musical term," Father McKenna quipped.

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