Angelic jazz, holy and cool

By John Nagy ’00M.A.

Experience a touch of the rare tingling elation that composer and pianist J.J. Wright ’14MSM, ’17DMA felt this spring when his Easter Vigil-themed sequence of five jazz oratorios, Drama and Devotion, premiered inside a landmark 16th century church in Rome.

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The 47-year final semester

By John Nagy ’00M.A.

John Kohne dropped out of Notre Dame late in the autumn of 1969, twelve credits shy of his chemical engineering degree. He traveled home to La Porte, Indiana, realizing as he walked in the door that he'd made a life-changing mistake.

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Out of the Office: Is 'Bazillion' a Number?

By John Nagy ’00M.A.

Maybe boredom explains why we’re not paying attention to what’s happening right now with Social Security and Medicare, the subject of a lunch-hour presentation that accountancy professor Jeff Burks ’97 made on campus a few weeks ago. If so, it appears our indifference will cost us.

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The Organ Builders: Ben Wooley, pipe maker

By John Nagy ’00M.A.

Before moving into his rental house in Seattle last year, Ben Wooley felt he needed to give his future housemates a warning. “Just so you know,” he told them, “I have a lot of instruments, and not all of them are going to fit in my room.”

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The Organ Builders: Joe Green, carpenter

By John Nagy ’00M.A.

Joe Green is a boat builder by trade. It’s inherently nomadic work that has taken him far away from home, building everything from historic fishing-boat replicas to rowing shells to the 42-foot motorsailers of the rich and famous — but there was always something missing. So now he builds organs for a living.

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The Organ Builders: Erik McLeod, pipe maker

By John Nagy ’00M.A.

When he was ready to start high school in 1993, his family moved across Puget Sound from Tacoma to a tiny logging town called Shelton. It sure didn’t feel like it at the time, but for McLeod, now 37, teenage exile would turn out to be one of the best career moves of his life.

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The Murdy Family Organ Has Finally Arrived

By 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

By 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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Out of the Office: The Relationship Business

By John Nagy ’00M.A.

The Carrot Barn is a busy produce market and country store that’s about as pleasant a place to eat lunch as any you might imagine. It’s hard to imagine it as either a disaster recovery center or — in the blue skies and breezy heat of summer — the backdrop of a heartwarming Christmas tale but, four years ago, that’s what it became.

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What I’m Reading: Farewell, Fred Voodoo, Amy Wilentz

By John Nagy ’00M.A.

I’m wary of parachute journalism, the practice of dropping a writer into a story without prior expertise. Columbia Journalism Review assures me parachuting is okay, as long as my own ruck is “packed with research.” So I picked up Farewell, Fred Voodoo, journalist Amy Wilentz’s 2013 “letter from Haiti,” which I took to be my best bet for getting to know this extraordinary country a little better in 310 pages or less.

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Magnum Opus

By 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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Imagining the Murdy Organ

By John Nagy ’00M.A.

So, what will it all look like, this impressive instrument and its fortified perch, once they’re built and installed in the south end of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart? We don’t know.

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