"This organ will speak of Madison," promised Philipp Klais, managing director of Orgelbau Klais
. "It will reflect your history, your experiences, and even the way you speak. For us the most important aim is to reach the hearts of your audiences."
One of the ways in which the organ "speaks" Madison is in its design. According to Overture Center architect Cesar Pelli
, the organ façade reflects the soft curves of the Overture Hall ceiling and alludes to the natural reflections of the rolling hills surrounding Madison. The organ creates a landscape of shimmering and matte tin pipes within the frame of the warm glow of the wooden orchestra shell.
The organ and shell were designed to create a striking backdrop for the Madison Symphony Orchestra, and both elements are fully integrated into the acoustical environment in Overture Hall. The organ has architecturally integrated lighting to provide the opportunity for dramatic presentation of the instrument, depending on the piece being played.
The Overture Concert Organ consists of 63 stops, 72 ranks and 4,040 pipes, the tallest of which is 32 feet and the heaviest weighing in at more than 1,200 pounds. The organ took nearly three years to design and build. Including its unique movable chamber, the organ weighs in at 174 tons and is believed to be the heaviest movable object in any theater in the world.
The movable organ chamber is designed with innovative engineering technology by Theatre Projects Consultants
in partnership with the acoustical firm of Kirkegaard Associates
. The instrument moves forward on 16 steel wheels on four steel rails, powered by a rigid push chain drive. No other organ in the world moves in this fashion. It takes about 30 minutes to roll the organ into place for
Madison Symphony Orchestra concerts into either a "regular" or "choral" configuration. When not in use, the organ stores in a "garage" at the rear of the stage, with doors that hinge out from the main structure. In use or in storage, the organ and chamber are fully integrated into the acoustical environment of Overture Hall.