History of the St. Norbert Abbey Casavant Organ
See "3000 Pipes" (p. 8) in the Fall/Winter 2015 issue of "Abbey Magazine" for an interview with Fr. Bartholomew Agar, O. Praem.—his story of St. Norbert Abbey's Casavant Organ.
In the summer of 1957, John Wright Harvey, professor of organ at UW-Madison, was asked about the design of an organ for the new St. Norbert Abbey church. 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 Otto Eberly of Milwaukee. The dedicatory recital was held on June 17, 1959, during an 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 now 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. Peters has been curator of the organ for the past 40 years.
The abbey's Casavant organ is used every day of the year for the daily liturgies of the Norbertine community: Eucharist, Lauds, and Vespers.
Throughout the years, many of the world's finest organists have performed at the abbey, including such noted artists as: Marie Clare Alain, Bruce Bengston, E. Power Biggs, David Briggs, Cameron Carpenter, Steven Cleobury, Ken Cowan, Miriam Duncan, Fernando Germanni, Robert Glasgow, Gerre Hancock, John Wright Harvey, Anton Heiller, 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, Dame Gillian Weir, and Bradley Hunter Welch.
See the section on Past Concert Season Information for the Canon John O. Bruce Memorial Organ Concert Series for more information about organ performances at the abbey.
Sounds of the St. Norbert Abbey Organ