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OPUS 3 - Erskine College Due West, SC

(Watch Videos of Opus 3 Below)

It is said that the sound board of every organ is the room. Memorial Hall is rich with warm, musical resonance and intimacy – a musician’s and listener’s delight (if not quite the cathedral acoustic that organ aficionados often yearn for). Our goal for Marshall & Ogletree Opus 3 was to satisfy the needs of the teaching environment with an instrument that is as flexible and thrilling to play as it is to hear. Visiting artists are always pleasantly surprised at how well this 32-stop organ can play just about anything, from any period.
A primary key to the flexibility of this organ is the Alternate Stop in each division and
the particular way we approach this feature. M&O Alternate Stops each have displays which show, at all times, what you will hear when you draw an Alternate Stop. The menu of Alternate Stop choices themselves is the result of considering what individual stops one might add to "complete" particular types of registration and to provide color stops, given the reality that the number of physical stops in a division can't be infinite. There are many directions this choice can take. The Alternate Stop provides great flexibility in creative hands without bloating the physical size and cost of the instrument.
The 24 audio channels of Opus 3 are distributed in four locations: in the balcony to the left and right of the stage; on the stage above the proscenium arch; and in the rear gallery. Subwoofers are located beneath the stage. This arrangement allowed us to create two additional “virtual divisions” for the organ, accessed from the Alternate Stops: a Continuo or "Stage" division of four stops (accessed via Alternate stops on the Choir or Swell) which provides clear support for musical groups on the stage; and a Solo/Echo division which plays from the rear gallery (accessed via the Alternate stop on the Great). One question remained: should the Choir stops be located with the Great or the Swell? We decided to leave this decision to the individual performer by creating three separately voiced versions of the Choir division, making it user-switchable between the Great, Swell, and Stage locations.
From Professor Robert P. Glick of Erskine College...
For many years, the music department at Erskine College had dreamed of having a fine organ in its music concert hall. As we are a traditional Christian liberal arts institution, sacred music is central to our repertoire. Even though we are a small school, there are always a significant number of organ students in both the undergraduate and graduate music programs. While the choral/vocal department has traditionally been especially robust, there has been no proper venue for its performances. The college's main auditorium has a fine three-manual pipe organ, but it is staunchly neo-Baroque and thus not very adaptable either for many choral accompaniments or for teaching the full scope of organ literature. Further, the acoustics in the room are particularly ungrateful to organ or vocal performance. On the other hand, Memorial Hall, the concert hall in the music building, had superb acoustics - but no organ.
As part of a major capital funds campaign in 2006, a substantial new wing was planned for the music building, and Memorial Hall itself was to be renovated. This was the time finally to address the issue of procuring an organ for the hall. We obviously wanted to obtain the best organ possible. But in addition to limited funding, we also were dealing with an historic building with a rather small stage. A pipe organ would have not only taken up more precious space, but might have compromised the acoustics of the room as well. It seemed clear to us that the next best option was Marshall & Ogletree. I had heard and played the Trinity Wall Street organ in New York and was convinced that this organ was indeed historic - a third kind of organ - not pipe, but certainly not what I had experienced with other digital organs. We considered it Providential not only that such technology was newly available just when we were in the market, but also that funding was suddenly made available through a special gift.
The original contract called for a modest three-manual organ of 32 speaking stops, supplemented by 37 alternate registers. Since it was our desire that this organ should not only serve as an appropriate accompanimental instrument, but be the primary teaching and recital instrument on campus, it was imperative that the organ be as eclectic and flexible as possible. The trick was to so arrange the main stops and the alternates so that one alternate stop per division available at a time would be the only one needed. Negotiations with Marshall and Ogletree were collegial and fruitful. The results of that process are available to be seen elsewhere.
It was a remarkable experience to see how the present organ took shape. Our original ideas for speaker placement were not as successful as was hoped. Rather than placing all the speakers on the stage, we have ended up with most of the speakers in side balconies, and in the rear of the auditorium. Through the generosity of Marshall & Ogletree, many more alternate stops were added - not just individual voices, but creative combinations of stops insuring that any number of alternate stops might be made available at one time, coming from any one of four locations. The added flexibility was and is astounding. Currently, there are 112 options available among the alternate stops.
What all this means is that the instrument is no longer a modest three-manual organ, but one that is fully capable of handling any piece of organ literature or accompanimental score. As the list of stops includes the full palette of colors from all the major schools of organ building (as adapted by the American Classic organ building tradition), my students and I have readily available the stops we need for almost any piece of music. And since these stops are reproduced with such amazing accuracy, the organ is truly a remarkable teaching instrument.

Robert P. Glick
Associate Professor of Church Music and Worship
Erskine College and Theological Seminary
Due West, South Carolina
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