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Watjen Concert Organ

Photo: Lara Swimmer

Centuries of craftsmanship and artistry have been married with modern technology to create the Watjen Concert Organ in Benaroya Hall. This magnificent instrument is showcased throughout the season in symphony performances, the three-concert Fluke/Gabelein Organ series and free Watjen Concert Organ Recital-Demonstrations.

To learn more about the Watjen Concert Organ, members of the media are encouraged to contact the Seattle Symphony Public Relations department at 206.215.4714.

History of the Watjen Concert Organ

In July 2000, the Seattle Symphony debuted the magnificent 4,490-pipe organ during Watjen Concert Organ Dedication Week. Approximately 14,000 people attended events surrounding this debut, which included concerts, free public organ recitals and demonstrations, the Festival Organ exhibit and the American Guild of Organists national convention.

Before Benaroya Hall was built, the Seattle Symphony conceived of the future concert hall as a venue for live, un-amplified orchestral music. The Symphony’s Music Director, Gerard Schwarz, initiated the idea of including a concert organ in the main auditorium since it would greatly enhance the Symphony's ability to perform both the orchestra-with-organ and solo repertoire with tonal and stylistic accuracy.

In 1995, after thorough research, including consultations with professional organists, who were brought together to form the Seattle Symphony Organ Committee, the Symphony selected the firm of C.B. Fisk, Inc., of Gloucester, Mass., to build the organ.

The majestic 83-stop, 4,490-pipe tracker organ is the direct result of a magnanimous gift from Craig Watjen, a member of the Seattle Symphony Board of Directors, and his wife, Joan. The Watjens are long-time supporters of the Seattle Symphony. In addition to their generous gift of the concert organ, they subsequently made a substantial donation to the Symphony to facilitate creation of Soundbridge Seattle Symphony Music Discovery Center in Benaroya Hall, an interactive music education facility for people of all ages. For more information on Soundbridge, click here.

The organ façade, containing 69 of the organ's largest pipes, was installed in time for the opening of Benaroya Hall on September 12, 1998. After construction and testing in Gloucester, the organ was dismantled for shipment to Seattle in July 1999. Two large moving vans arrived at Benaroya Hall bearing the 30 tons of completed, yet disassembled, organ. Over the next seven weeks, Fisk technicians re-assembled the organ in its final home. From August 1999 through June 2000, the painstaking process of voicing the complex instrument occupied 56 hours each week. The construction of the Watjen Concert Organ took C.B. Fisk, Inc., a total of 50,000 hours of labor. Benaroya Hall is one of a handful of concert halls in the United States featuring a permanent tracker pipe organ.

C.B. Fisk pipe organs draw their tonal inspiration from many different styles and periods of organ building, enabling the organs to showcase a wide range of organ literature. The key action is mechanical, directly linking each key to a valve controlling wind-to-pipe and imparting sensitive control to the player's fingers. The stop action is electrically controlled and includes solid-state combination action to permit instant access to a nearly limitless combination of pre-set registrations.

C.B. Fisk, Inc., is internationally recognized for its innovation, high level of craftsmanship, architectural sensitivity and the tonal quality of its instruments, all of which is achieved by the meticulous voicing of each pipe for the acoustics of the room.

Watjen Concert Organ Fact Sheet

Benaroya Hall, Home of Seattle Symphony
C.B. Fisk, Inc., Gloucester, Massachusetts
38' wide, 26' high by 11' deep
83 (A stop is a full set of pipes that corresponds at least one pipe to each key of the keyboard. Each stop represents a particular "sound color" or "voice.")
Three manual keyboards of 61 notes each (CC-c4). Keys are covered with cow bone; sharps are made from ebony. The pedal keyboard has 32 notes (CC-g1).
The instrument is composed of five divisions. The Great, Positive, Swell, Pedal and solo divisions form the basis of the classical organ. The Tuba division can be played on the manuals or the Pedal, is on a higher wind pressure and is specifically suited for use in climaxes in music for organ and orchestra.
Key action is mechanical, also known as a tracker action. A Servopneumatic lever may be engaged, which allows the player to maintain effortless control when playing all the divisions of the instrument at the same time. Stop action is electrically controlled.
4,490 pipes of poplar and pine wood as well as alloys of tin and lead.
The organ is winded from blowers totaling 11.6 horsepower, providing 3,100 cubic feet per minute at pressures that range from 3" to 20" water column.
The organ debuted on July 1, 2000, in a special Organ Dedication Concert featuring organists David Christie, Guy Bovet and Carole Terry. The American Guild of Organists held their biennial convention in Benaroya Hall the same month, featuring works written for the Watjen Concert Organ.