The Esther Wideman Memorial Organ
At the center of In Plain Air is Christ Church’s new C.B. Fisk pipe organ, Opus 150, dedicated the Esther Wideman Memorial Organ in May 2018. Fisk, working with Christ Church director of music and organist Parker Kitterman, designed a three-manual, 3,099-pipe mechanical action organ that is housed within the church’s historic 1837 organ case by Henry Erben and a new Chaire case on the gallery rail. The process, from design to completion, took three years, including a six-month voicing period, during which Fisk craftspeople, working ten hours a day, six days a week, finely calibrated the instrument to the acoustics of the Christ Church sanctuary.
An exciting aspect of commissioning Phyllis Chen and Nathan Davis was giving the artists the opportunity to compose their first work for pipe organ. Between September 2017 and April 2018, as the instrument was installed and voiced, Chen and Davis made regular visits to Philadelphia, working with the organ during its many stages of coming into being. Some movements of In Plain Air are informed by the artists’ experiments and observations during this time.
Kitterman, who shared his deep knowledge of organs and organ music with Chen and Davis, has been essential to the process of creating In Plain Air. He will play the organ in the premiere performances by International Contemporary Ensemble on September 22 and 23.
This video by Four/Ten Media tells the story of the Esther Wideman Memorial Organ and In Plain Air’s role as a standard for performances and projects to come.