“A monumental instrument in a landmark building.” An organ of “rare beauty, coherence and depth.” That was the vision laid out before Paul Fritts & Company Organ Builders, the Tacoma, Washington, workshop now constructing a unique, handmade pipe organ for the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

Representing four years of dedicated labor, the Murdy Family Organ will be the 36-year-old studio’s most ambitious piece for any client. When it is played in public for the first time in December 2016, visitors to the University’s historic church will hear an instrument capable of leading congregational singing with unprecedented power and beauty and of training 21st century masters in composition and performance.

Notre Dame Magazine reports here on its creation.

Grand Entrance: The Murdy Organ Installation in 130 Seconds

It took 12 days to unpack it into Notre Dame’s Basilica of the Sacred Heart and assemble the Murdy Family Organ out of 10,000-plus pieces. All the while, university photographer Barbara Johnston’s cameras continued to snap, snap, once every two minutes, capturing every step of the process from the altar, the center aisle, the arches high above.

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The Murdy Family Organ Has Finally Arrived

John Nagy ’00M.A.

It’s here. It took ten years of planning, nail-biting and hopeful angst at Notre Dame; three-and-a-half years of designing, pipe casting and precision carpentry at the Paul Fritts workshop in Tacoma, Washington; and a cross-country journey of some 2,100 miles spanning three time zones and the Continental Divide. Now, at last, the Murdy Family Organ has reached its permanent home inside the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

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Bare Ruined Choir

John Nagy ’00M.A.

Andrew McShane rounded the corner in front of the altar of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart and sized up the cacophony in the choir loft: Drills wheezing. Socket wrenches clicking. Wisecracks flying. Workmen calling down from vanishing tiers of organ pipes that still rose three and four stories above the church floor.

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Magnum Opus

John Nagy ’00M.A.

Paul Fritts & Company Organ Builders is one of a handful of shops in the United States capable of making mechanical action pipe organs as good as anything Bach ever played. With 70 stops and 5,164 pipes, rising to the height of a four-story building, the organ the company installs next year in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart will be the largest and grandest instrument it has produced since 1979, when the 28-year-old Fritts took over his father’s small business.

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The Workshop, July 2015

Image from Basilica Organ video


Key Change, January 2016

Image from Basilica Organ Key Change video