On trip to Sweden, pipe dreams come true for organ students

It's not easy for students at the University of Rochester's Eastman School of Music to find a snowier place to spend winter break than their upstate New York campus.

But 30 Eastman students and four of their professors traveled to an even colder climate this week for intensive organ-music training in Göteborg, Sweden. The trip to Göteborg was organized by Prof. Hans Davidsson, who founded and directed Göteborg's Organ Art Center (GOArt) before arriving at Eastman in 2001. The Göteborg center focuses on organ performance and on building replicas of historic organs.

Instead of merely having students tour European churches with famous organs, Mr. Davidsson designed a more hands-on experience during their two-week stay in Sweden. They'll give recitals on six organs and attend lectures, seminars, and lessons at the School of Music at Göteborg University.

"It's very important that they're not just looking but really working with these instruments and getting that experience," Davidsson says. Eastman organ-music graduates go on to careers as church musicians, teachers, and concert performers. The school offers a diploma in sacred music for students pursuing majors in organ, choral conducting, music education, and voice.

In Rochester, Eastman students make do practicing on the school's 20 organs as well as others in local churches designed in the 1970s or '80s. But at GOArt they have access to a full-sized replica of a large Northern European Baroque organ played by Bach in 1705. The replica's pipes and pedals were constructed with the same processes the original builders employed.

Davidsson says using the Göteborg organs will allow students to fully experience European music that contains references to original organs.

"It's as if one had access to a cookbook with wonderful recipes, but without the appropriate ingredients," Davidsson says of the limited range of instruments available in the US. "Our trip will allow us to 'cook and taste' original and delicious 'musical meals,' so important for the understanding and interpretation of our common musical heritage."

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