Building an organ in Auer Hall presented a unique challenge for C. B. Fisk. We have built many organs in academic settings, in fact, fully a third of all Fisk instruments are used for teaching. We are used to building in elite institutions such as Indiana University, as our work at Oberlin, Harvard, Rice, Stanford, and Wellesley, among others, will attest. But we had never been faced with completing an organ begun by another builder. Our first question was whether we could take someone else's uncompleted work and make it our own, an organ that was consistent with our vision of what would serve the Jacobs School of Music best.
Early in 2006, Fisk President Steven Dieck and Tonal Director David Pike traveled to Bloomington to survey the existing work and discuss the possibilities for a future organ with the IU organ faculty led by then Department Chair Chris Young. They made a complete inventory of existing pipework, in order to compare what was available and useful in comparison to what we felt would answer the desires of the faculty for an organ with 19th century French leanings, but with a level of eclecticism that would allow for a very wide range of music to be played with authenticity and authority. Dean Gwyn Richards expressed the School's preference to leave the visual design essentially unchanged from the outside, but our proposal included replacing more than half the pipework, and all of the wind system, chests, key and stop actions.
As discussions and planning progressed, it became apparent that by moving the organ further up and back in its gallery, useful space could be gained for masterclasses and instrumentalists. Such a change required a complete reorganization of the divisions within the case, as well as a new structural approach, and extensive changes to the building itself. These changes helped create the opportunity for improvements to the acoustical properties of the room. With the advice and counsel of Dana Kirkegaard, walls were made more massive, diffusers were added in the ceiling coffers, and the panels surrounding the stage were replaced, all resulting in a warmer, clearer, more bass-friendly sound. These improvements benefit not only the organ but also the many other instruments and voices heard in this busy concert hall.
Organist and Jacobs School of Music professor Chris Young has been central to the deliberations about the Auer Hall organ and is thrilled with the result. He observed: "The Fisk organ company has earned its reputation with carefully selected master craftsmen and artists of the highest caliber. For the last fifty years they have led American organ building by their devotion to teamwork, a keen interest in historic instruments and building practices, meticulous hand-crafted construction, finely regulated voicing, and the most impeccable artistic sensibilities."