When the late Gerre Hancock, celebrated organist and UT sacred music professor, walked the halls of UT as a student in the ’50s, the College of Fine Arts was home to an Aeolian-Skinner organ. When it was later sold, Hancock, BM ’55, was both shocked and saddened by the loss.
“There was this large hole where the instrument used to be,” says Hancock’s wife, Judith, a senior lecturer in the Butler School of Music. “I think it was always on his mind that he would do something about it.”
Now, more than 50 years later, Hancock’s dream has finally become a reality. A one-of-a-kind Aeolian-Skinner organ, Opus 1393, was installed in the Jessen Auditorium in Homer Rainey Hall in December to help accommodate UT’s rapidly growing Organ Studio program. Though Hancock wasn’t able to see the project’s completion—he passed away last January—he was instrumental in bringing the transformational instrument to the UT campus.
Built in 1963, the organ was previously housed in Houston’s Central Presbyterian Church and underwent a massive restoration before making its way to the Forty Acres. With more than 10,000 pieces, 1,800 pipes, and 2,000 leather pouches, the instrument took more than 600 hours to install and an additional 100 hours for tonal finishing.
The new organ, an electro-pneumatic, complements the tracker organ already in place in Bates Hall, giving students in the Organ Studio program—which has grown 600 percent in the past seven years—more extensive training.
“The instrument we had could only handle one organ teacher at a time,” Judith says. “Both kinds of organs are prominent internationally, so we can now give students a broader education.”
A dedication ceremony that celebrated both the organ’s installation and Hancock’s contributions to UT was held last month.
Top, 50-year-old restored ivory keys. Inset, the traditional roll-top console.
Photos by Krysta Gonzales.
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