The Sandy Secrets Behind the Fritts Sound

Author: Photography by Barbara Johnston

When Paul Fritts opened his own pipe-making shop in 1984, the organ building world took notice. At that time it was highly unusual for a small, artisanal firm like Paul Fritts & Company Organ Builders to make its own pipes, but the director wasn’t satisfied with his suppliers.

Today, Fritts and his craftsmen are still innovating — in this case by borrowing a technique used by leading European pipemakers. The Murdy Family Organ, on track to arrive at Notre Dame’s Basilica of the Sacred Heart in August 2016, will be the first in which the Fritts company will use metal cast on sand — a smooth layer of silica sand and peanut oil a few inches thick — rather than on linen or synthetic cloth.

What difference does that make? We got to watch the casting process as the shop made the last of the Murdy’s 5,164 pipes in January.

John Nagy ’00M.A.

This story was corrected on May 16, 2016.