Editor’s note: Welcome to “Trinity Treasure,” the newest standing feature in The Trinity Reporter. Each issue will highlight a person, place, or thing on campus that is just what the name implies: a Trinity treasure. Do you have an idea for what to showcase? Please send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The most extraordinary single instrument anyone can play.” That’s how John Rose, Trinity College organist, Chapel music director, and director of the Trinity College Choir, describes the organ.
The Chapel’s organ was built in 1971 by the Austin Organ Company of Hartford. With more than 4,700 pipes made of varying materials that range in size from that of a pencil to larger than most of the Bantam linebackers, the organ can match the power and variety of an orchestra as it evokes the tonal colors of many orchestral instruments as well as those unique to the organ. The organ was specially designed for the Chapel space and is periodically updated with new technology that enables it to grow and evolve. To play the organ, one must simultaneously devote attention to five different keyboards: four for the hands and 32 pedals played by the feet, as well as the manipulation of dozens of stops located on the sides of the console.
Trinity’s notable organ tradition began with Clarence Watters, who was appointed College organist in 1932. The Chapel organ has been a “home instrument” to several professional organists, including Christopher Houlihan ’09, who recently was named artist-in-residence at the College. Houlihan learned to play the organ under Rose’s tutelage starting at age 12 and continued studying during his time at Trinity before heading to The Juilliard School for his graduate work. Rose, who has been at Trinity since 1977, offers organ lessons to any student wanting to learn; he says two first-years, John Rose Organ Scholar Benjamin Gessner and Fabiola Yun, are currently trying their hands, feet, and brains at the complicated instrument with daily practice and a weekly lesson. He adds, tongue in cheek, that these lessons are aided by what may be the most exciting new feature of the organ since its 2012 restoration: the adjustable bench!
Many former Trinity presidents have recognized the organ for the exquisite instrument that it is and its importance as a College tradition worth preserving, and President Joanne Berger-Sweeney adds to that legacy of appreciation through her own fondness for organ music.