Among the many changes that have occurred over the summer break at Eastman – new elevator cars in the Annex building and other physical changes – an extraordinary new educational resource for both Eastman students and the community has been added to its instrument collection. Thanks to the efforts of the Eastman Rochester Organ Initiative (EROI), a rare and historic 18th century Italian Baroque organ has made its new home in Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery.

EROI is a collaboration of Eastman professors David Higgs, William Porter and Hans Davidsson along with experts from around the globe that intend to create an unmatched collection of new and historic organs in Rochester.

The organ arrived in July after its transatlantic journey from Marburg, Germany. After the preliminary reassembling, the organ was scheduled to undergo several weeks of tuning and other adjustments to have it set up in its new permanent location. Gerald Woehl, an organ builder and restorer, along with a team of experts, were responsible for the reassembling of the organ.

Woehl discovered the Italian Baroque organ from a Florentine antique dealer in 1980. With the assistance of organ experts, scholars and performers – Edoardo Belotti, Harald Vogel and Davidsson of the Eastman organ department – he completed the restoration.

“It was amazing because the exquisite keys from the old organ were kept, making it a unique experience to play the historic instrument,” said junior Adam Peithman.

Based on its size and elaborate ornamentation, the organ has been identified as being constructed around 1770 by an anonymous builder and is believed to have originated from the Tuscany or the Naples region of Italy. It consists of 600 pipes and is decorated with paintings and carvings on the case in the grandiose and lavish style of the time period.

These features, of course, will fit appropriately with the artwork of the Baroque and late Renaissance eras of the Memorial Art Gallery’s Herdle Fountain Court.

The organ’s inauguration will commence the 11-day 2005 EROI Festival – the longest of its history – with a private concert for the Eastman community on Oct. 6 and an invitation only concert on Oct. 7. There will also be an organ open house with mini-concerts throughout the morning on Oct. 8. The festival will also include master classes, public concerts, seminars concerning the new organ and guest artists.

With the addition of the Italian Baroque organ, Eastman organ students and community members will be able to better appreciate what organ music written during the Baroque period sounded like. Junior Jason Bowles is one of the organ students at Eastman that has the opportunity to play on this new instrument. “It’s extremely exciting to play Italian Baroque repertoire on an instrument crafted during that time period,” Bowles said.

Not only will it be a remarkable learning tool for Eastman students and faculty, but being the only organ of its kind outside of Italy will also help to establish EROI and Rochester as a center for the research and preservation of new and historic organs.

Figueredo can be reached at

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