TACOMA, Wash. – Paul Fritts ’73 and his team of artisans in Tacoma craft thousands of wood and steel components into some of the most graceful and inspiring modern pipe organs in the world. One of these artworks is the Bethel Schneebeck Organ in Kilworth Memorial Chapel, on the campus of University of Puget Sound.
On Sunday, April 27, Fritts’ work and his contributions to music will be recognized by the university’s School of Music with the 2013 Outstanding Music Alumnus Award. It is an honor for alumni who have achieved distinguished careers in the field of music or the music industry, or through outstanding service to the musical arts.
The public are invited to the 2 p.m. presentation in Kilworth Memorial Chapel, which will take place following intermission during the 23rd Annual Bethel Schneebeck Organ Recital, with university organist Joseph Adam performing. The concert will include works by Heinrich Scheidemann, Francois Couperin, Johann Sebastian Bach, César Franck, and Maurice Duruflé. Admission is complimentary and no tickets are required. A link to a map of campus is below.
“We are proud to have Paul Fritts making world-class organs in Tacoma, and keeping alive traditional design practices that ensure nothing is lost in the centuries-old art of organ-building,” said School of Music Director Keith Ward. “We also are thrilled to be able to honor him and his remarkable work with this distinguished alumni award.
“It is only fitting that we present Paul with the award before one of his organs, which was made possible through the generosity of Bethel Schneebeck.”
Paul Fritts, director of Paul Fritts & Company Organ Builders, has overseen the building of more than 40 custom-designed organs, now housed in churches, cathedrals, residences, and universities in 13 states and Korea.
Working in an elegant timber-framed workshop, with a front door and ceiling of gigantic proportions, the team builds mechanical-action organs as tall as four stories high. Their work is inspired by historical organ-building traditions and by Fritts’ travels in the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Mexico, France, and the United States.
Fritts, a Tacoma native, graduated from Franklin Pierce High School and entered University of Puget Sound in 1969. He studied violin with the legendary Edward Seferian and played in the orchestra. In 1977 he joined his father’s Tacoma organ-building business.
By 1980 Fritts had taken over the firm, and he switched from building electrical-action to mechanical-action pipe organs, a more technically demanding practice. In 1989 he constructed the Bethel Schneebeck Organ at Puget Sound, replacing the organ his father had installed some 20 years earlier. Since then his meticulous attention to detail and sensitivity to the acoustical properties of the spaces where his organs are installed have earned him the highest praise. His interest in historical organ models also has contributed to a revival of historically informed organ music.
Organist Joseph Adam, an affiliate artist at Puget Sound, has performed throughout Europe and the United States. He has won prizes in numerous competitions, including first prize at the 1991 St. Albans International Organ Competition in England. His recitals have taken place in venues including the Cathedral of Saint Bavo in Haarlem, Netherlands; St. Augustine Church, Vienna; and Basilica of the National Shrine in Washington, D.C. Adam has been cathedral organist at St. James Cathedral in Seattle since 1993, and he performs regular concerts at Kilworth Memorial Chapel.
The organ in Kilworth is one of the finest in the region. It is named in honor of Bethel Schneebeck, who helped enrich the artistic and cultural life of University of Puget Sound and the community.
For directions and a map of the campus:pugetsound.edu/directions
Press photos of Joseph Adam and Paul Fritts can be downloaded from: pugetsound.edu/pressphotos
Photos on page: Top right: Joseph Adam; Above left: Paul Fritts; Above right: Bethel Schneebeck Organ in Kilworth Memorial Chapel.
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