Ancient Romans and Greeks used them to heighten emotion at festivals, games and religious ceremonies. Byzantine and Arabic organs, highly valued at court, were elaborately decorated and sometimes made entirely of gold. Not surprisingly, these elegant and complex instruments were favorite gifts of kings throughout history.
The pinnacle of organ craftsmanship, the “golden age” of organ building and organ music, was reached in Europe between 1600 and 1750. Three centuries later, the legacy of these fine instruments continues to elevate the spirit, whether in church or in the concert hall.
Fortunately, a renaissance in pipe organ building is happening today, thanks to a handful of master craftsmen in Europe and America. One such craftsman, Dan Jaeckel, whose shop is located in Duluth, Minnesota, is considered one of the most respected organ builders in the world.
Distinguishing Jaeckel even more from other organ builders are the remarkable musical and technological talents he brings to his craft: Jaeckel is an accomplished organist, composer and historian of liturgical music. He also has a background in mathematics, engineering and architecture. His musical knowledge and refined ear enable him to coax the finest voice and acoustical sounds out of every instrument he builds, large or small.
Building a Jaeckel pipe organ involves hand-crafting most parts. Large pipe organs will take as long as three years to build. To date, Jaeckel, Inc. has produced 55 instruments of various sizes whose superior quality has earned him a reputation as one of the most respected pipe organ builders in America.
Each instrument is custom designed, aesthetically and tonally, to suit its environment. “We believe in building the best pipe organ for the situation. An organ’s voice is determined by the building’s size, seating capacity, acoustical qualities and the uses and expectations of the instrument,” says Dan Jaeckel. His professional integrity and choice to use only the best materials available result in instruments that will last indefinitely.
That is why, centuries hence, Jaeckel will be remembered as one of the few craftsmen of the late twentieth and twenty first centuries who brought about a second “golden age” of organ building.