One of Texas' finest pipe organs will be a magical part of Texas A&M International University's new Center for the Fine and Performing Arts with the announcement of a special gift Thursday.
Laredo businessman E. H. Corrigan, longtime supporter of the arts and president of The E. H. Corrigan Foundation, announced the gift of the Sharkey-Corrigan Pipe Organ in a brief press conference held in the rotunda of the Student Center.
Corrigan said the Gift is a reflection of his affection for his hometown.
"This gift is intended to provide the University with one of the finest pipe organs available and to make real the musical riches of this marvelous instrument for TAMIU students and our community.
"Brownsville, Laredo and Hidalgo have been my home over a period of years. Through the years, I have taken great pride in working closely with Mexico-US artistic communities like the Laredo Philharmonic Orchestra and others to make sure that the Mexico-US border continues to have access to the wonders of music and the arts. Today's gift is a statement of a great affection for a community that has been kind to our family and brought business successes for many years," Corrigan explained.
University president Dr. Ray Keck, himself an accomplished organist, said the gift is unusual in its scope and magical in its possibilities.
"It's most unusual for universities today to enjoy the presence of a magical instrument of this caliber. Having the Sharkey-Corrigan Pipe Organ here will raise our arts program to a new level of visibility. In addition to making remarkable learning opportunities possible, it also will make possible truly impressive guest performances for our students and the community at large. With our new partnership with both the Laredo Philharmonic Orchestra and Laredo Community College, this organ will play a leading role in some incredible future performances," Dr. Keck said.
Corrigan considered that providing the Gift to the University was a logical choice.
"Dr. Keck and this University have taken the lead in our community in elevating the arts here. It is this elevation that makes the University the natural setting for this Gift. By educating and framing countless art experiences, TAMIU truly secures its mission as a leading regional University of choice and a champion of the arts," Corrigan added.
Keck recounted an experience from his teenage years in which Corrigan had provided him an opportunity to enjoy classical music. That experience, he recalled, opened up a new world and began a lifelong fascination and study of music.
"If the University can continue to frame experiences like that I enjoyed, I believe we will help to nurture a local and regional artistic community that will thrive through such experiences," Keck said.
He gave additional insight into the new Sharkey-Corrigan Pipe Organ, offering a quick explanation of how such organs function and create sounds.
"Pipe organs are complex instruments controlled by a player that can create music which imitates a variety of instruments, including the human voice, blending them together into a distinct, immediately recognizable sound. Although an organ player uses a keyboard, a pipe organ is really a wind instrument. Each pressed key opens a valve, allowing air into a pipe or pipes. The wind stream is constant, and thus it is up to the player to control the attack or release. This continuous tone, which differs from the piano where the decay is natural, is an important characteristic, and the history of the organ can be described as an on-going attempt to control the wind," Keck explained.
The Sharkey-Corrigan Pipe Organ will be a three-manual pipe organ, which includes at least 50 ranks and 39 stops. This means that there are three keyboards or manuals, played by hand. The Sharkey-Corrigan Pipe Organ will have a movable console, meaning that the manuals and stops are not physically attached to levers that control the pipes. Instead, the pipes are controlled remotely, through electronic devices. The console can be placed anywhere on the stage.
The Sharkey-Corrigan Pipe Organ will anchor the 815-seat Recital Hall that is part of the new $22 million Center for the Fine and Performing Arts that is scheduled to open this Fall.
The University is currently receiving bids on construction of the Pipe Organ and hopes to have the Organ in place within two years.
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