Chautauqua’s Smaller Organ Is the Centerpiece of Weekly Lunchtime Concerts

The Tallman Tracker Organ sits at the heart of the Hall of Christ.

Although Chautauqua Institution’s Tallman Tracker Organ is much smaller than the Amphitheater’s Massey Memorial Organ, its unique sound and history make the organ a Chautauqua relic.

Jared Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music, will perform weekly Tallman Tracker Organ recitals from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. Tuesdays in the Hall of Christ.  This Tuesday marks his first Tallman performance of the summer, titled “Dusting off the Trackers: Tallman 101.”

Jacobsen will use the initial concert to give Chautauquans background on the instrument’s operations and capabilities.

Jacobsen likes to include audience members in his show.

“I invite somebody up from the audience to actually turn this giant wheel to make the wind that I will use to play the piece,” Jacobsen said. “Then they get inducted into the most exclusive club at Chautauqua, which is called the ‘Tallman Aerobics Society’ because it takes a lot of work to do this, you know, for just one piece. They get a badge to wear and it’s like a secret handshake kind of thing.”

When an organist presses a key on a Tallman Organ, he or she activates a series of rods and levers that pull its stopper out of the pipe in order to let sound go through.

Although the methodology may seem dated, Jacobsen said it’s the way organs have been built since the 1100s and how they’re still being built today.

Chautauqua’s Tallman Organ was gifted to the Institution by a New York Baptist church in 2000, after building modifications made the church unable to keep it. Although it’s more than a century old, the organ was received in pristine condition and has only warranted small modifications since, including the addition of an electric motor and rebuilding of its hand-cranking mechanism.

“The Tallman Organ is very flexible because it was designed to be a very small, but enormously useful church organ in 1893,” Jacobsen said. “I have a good time each summer learning what it can do, so [this summer] I’ll be doing a series of pieces that show off the various tonal families of a pipe organ.”


(Photo by Mike Clark.)

Madison Rossi

The author Madison Rossi

Hailing from Chicago, Madison Rossi is the 2016 Interfaith Lecture preview reporter. She is a class of 2018 journalism major at Northwestern University with minors in marketing and religious studies.