History of the Abbey Organ
In the summer of 1957, John Wright Harvey professor of organ at the UW Madison, was asked about the design of an organ for the new Abbey church. Professor Harvey worked up a stop list and suggested that the Abbey contract with the Canadian firm Casavant Brothers to build the instrument. The contract was signed in 1958, and the instrument delivered in the spring of 1959. Lawrence Phelps was the tonal designer for the organ, in this his first instrument with Casavant company. The organ was installed by Mr. Otto Eberly of Milwaukee. The dedicatory recital was on June 17, 1959, during the extensive celebration events of the dedication of the entire Abbey building. The organist for the occasion was Staf Nees, famed Belgian organist. The program included works by Bach, Boellmann, Franck, Vierne and Widor.
Several additions have been made to the original organ. These include a group of new stops: Vox Humana, Cymbale III, Soubasse 32’, Bombard 32’, Trumpette en chamade above the west door and a Zimbelstern. The console of the instrument has been completely overhauled with the addition of new stop knobs and an eight level solid state memory bank. In fact, the entire instrument is controlled digitally. These additions were fabricated by the Schlicker organ company of Buffalo, New York, with the blessing of the Casavant company, and installed by Stanton Peters and Henry Weiland of Peters Weiland Company, Milwaukee. Stanton Peters has been curator of the organ for the last 35 years.
The Abbey organ is used every day of the year for the daily liturgies of the Abbey community: the Eucharist, Lauds, and Vespers.
Over the years, many of the world's finest organists have performed here including such noted artists as: Marie Clare Alain, Bruce Bengston, E. Power Biggs, David Briggs, Cameron Carpenter, Steven Cleobury, Peter Richard Conte, Ken Cowan, Miriam Duncan, Fernando Germanni, Robert Glasgow, Gerre Hancock, John Wright Harvey, Anton Heiller, Christopher Herrick, Paul Jacobs, Nicolas Kynaston, Jean Langlais, Jean Pierre Leguay, Andre Marchal, Thomas Murray, James O’Donnell, John Paradowsky, Flor Peeters, John Rose, John Scott, Daniel Sullivan, Eric Suter, Jane Watts, John Weaver, Paul Weber, Dame Gillian Weir, Bradley Hunter Welch.