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Royal Opera House, Muscat, Oman

Started by KB7DQH, December 27, 2013, 07:59:56 PM

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The pipe organ has been called the King of musical instruments. After the concert at the ROHM last week, there are many who would say that the pipe organ is not the King – it's the Emperor.

The origins of this mighty instrument lie in the simple reed pipes that were played in ancient Greece and associated with the Greek god, Pan, whose realm was the wilds, nature's fields and forests, shepherds and their flocks.

In the third century BC in Greece, a water organ known as the hydraulis was invented. Water power from a natural source was used to push air through the pipes and the music was played on a keyboard. Eventually, in Roman amphitheatres, the hydraulis was played to add excitement to competitions and performances.

By the second century AD, bellows were used to pump the air through the pipes; and, in the thirteenth century, portable organs were popular for both sacred and secular music. In the fourteenth century, large organs were known in Germany, some of which had bellows that were operated by as many as ten men.

During the Renaissance when construction became more sophisticated and tonal colour more varied, pipe organs spread throughout Europe where they were used in cathedrals and for the grand balls of aristocrats. The popularity of this by-now magnificent instrument reached a zenith in Europe in the glory of the Baroque period of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, a golden age for the pipe organ.

The era of silent film in the early twentieth century brought a resurgence of organ music which proved effective in creating atmosphere, propelling action and emphasizing dramatic moments. Today, the pipe organ is still the preferred liturgical instrument and it would be hard to find a cathedral in any part of the world without one.

A Royal Pipe Organ

A focal point in the splendour of the concert hall at the Royal Opera House Muscat is the utterly magnificent pipe organ that reigns over the stage from the back of the concert shell. The pipes, numbering 4,542 and ranging in size from an astounding 9.75 metres to a miniscule 1.18 centimetres, are made of gilded metal decorated with beautiful zouag painting in regal colours and geometric patterns. The pipes are encased in an intricately carved wooden cabinet featuring classic Islamic decorative motifs.

Although the pipe organ blends seamlessly into the wood of the concert shell  and weighs some fifty tones, it is moveable on rail tracks, as the shell separates from the proscenium when the stage changes from theatre to concert mode.  It is one of the few large pipe organs in the world designed with this capability.

This very special organ contains four keyboards and seventy stops or mechanisms that control the flow of air to a row of similar pipes, and thus produce a particular kind and quality of sound. Stops are usually named after the orchestral instruments with a sound similar to the one that they produce – such as the flute, trumpet, violin or horn.

A set of three especially wonderful stops have been named 'Solo Royal' and they produce: 1) the sound of tubular bells; 2) an unusually bright, crisp timbre; and, 3) an exceptionally fine flute voice.  Overall, the organ has a beautiful warm sound which reverberates and fills the entire hall with a tangible richness.

The ROHM organ was purpose-built by one of the world's finest pipe organ manufacturers, the Johannes Klais Company established in 1882 in Bonn, Germany. The process started with the careful selection and cutting of trees and included customised metal casting and in-house manufacture of parts. The details of the creation of the ROHM pipe organ were explained in a fascinating talk by Philipp, great-grandson of the founder of the Klais Company, at a symposium held in conjunction with the concert.

Voice of the Great Hall

In the moments before the concert began, the vast organ stood in silent splendour, the gold of its pipes glittering under lights, as everyone waited for the sound to break out and give the great hall its rightful voice.

As French soloist Marie Bernadette Dufourcet struck the keyboards in the Allegro Vivace movement of a symphonic piece by Charle-Marie Widor (1844-1937), it was as if musical peals of thunder began to roll through the hall like the streaming heavens - all-powerful and full of glory.

Then there was a sudden change as the music flowed gently like a running brook sliding on clouds into slow rivers. The mighty lion became a lamb. These were the first of the many moods of the organ that we would experience in the concert.

Next the audience was surprised by a jazz performance, which, at first thought, would seem antithetical to the organ, associated as it predominantly is with liturgy and grand ceremony. German soloist, Barbara Dennerlein, accompanied by percussionist Pius Baschnagel on drums, proved otherwise with an energetic, toe-tapping rendition of The Unforgettable. Barbara was demonstrably right when she emphasized the incredible versatility of the instrument. Half way through the first piece, it was easy to forget that Barbara was playing an organ, such was her skill in turning it into a sax, a trumpet, a trombone, a clarinet.

The Organ & a Very Fine Small Orchestra

ROHM's richly endowed program included the Ukrainian National Ensemble of Soloists 'Kyivska Kamerata', a very fine small orchestra that specialises in chamber music from all periods. Under the baton of Hisham Gabre, they began with Tomaso Albinoni's (1671-1751) Adagio for Organ and Strings in G Minor, featuring Omani soloist Rashid Salim Al Rashidy on the organ. With the orchestra ascendant and the pipes seeming to roll in from a great distance like waves on the shore, this piece had celestial overtones and gave me the sensation of riding a ship in the sky.

This was followed by Franz Liszt's (1811-1866) Fantasy and Fugue in the Name of Bach with the orchestra accompanying Giampaolo di Rosa on the organ.  Lebanese soloist and composer, Naji Hakim completed the program with his two of his own compositions, a concerto for organ and string orchestra and an improvisation on Omani themes.
From start to finish, the experience was both beautiful and sensational. The program seemed perfect at this point in the opera season and it gave us an even greater sense of pride in the Royal Opera House Muscat.

The objective is to reach human immortality—that is, to create things which are necessary to mankind, necessary to the purpose of the existence of mankind, and which have become the fruit that drives the creation of a higher state of mankind than ever existed before."


Muscat: The centrepiece of the Royal Opera House Muscat (ROHM) is the grand pipe organ, which acts as the backdrop for most symphonic concerts there. But recently, the German-made instrument was the highlight of both a symposium and concert.

For the second year in a row, the ROHM organised two events to feature the pipe organ, which has over 4,500 pipes. Last week there was a symposium which featured pipe organ specialists, the builder, and a performance to accompany the 1926 silent film The General.

"The objective is to provide you with further information. We are trying to build a bridge between us as administrators and help you understand what we are selecting and presenting at the opera house," explained Dr Issam El Mallah, adviser to the Board for Programming and Events.

On the second day of the programme a pipe organ concert was held featuring an array of local and international musicians who played a variety of music, including jazz and classical compositions.

The objective is to reach human immortality—that is, to create things which are necessary to mankind, necessary to the purpose of the existence of mankind, and which have become the fruit that drives the creation of a higher state of mankind than ever existed before."


QuoteBy Maurice Gent, Opera Critic — This has been a very special weekend for the Royal Opera House Muscat. Firstly leading experts on the history, theory and practice of pipe organs, which can trace back a verifiable history for literally thousands of years came to Muscat for an intense and highly valued seminar on the development of an instrument, which can trace back its history and development from ancient times. Then on the second day came a concert with world class practitioners showing their skills to a packed audience deeply appreciative of their artistry and skills. The pipe organ occupies what will continue to be a very special role  in the history of ROHM. It is an instrument, which has a role in the history of music which has attracted music lovers for thousands of years for the purity and quiet penetrating intensity of its sound.

Those fortunate enough to attend the concert could sit back and enjoy the purity of sound produced by Barbara Dennerlein, who fell in love with the instrument and its sounds at the age of 11 when she bought a small box version of the pipe organ. Within the space of a year the instrument had become her passion. At the age of 13 she was making succesful public appearances,  and was on her way to stardom. Now a highly skilled musician she attracted intense attention from her audience, which marvelled at  her consummately graceful skills. The power of this  mighy instrument linked to the graceful yet intense skills of this musician, will live I am sure for a lifetime in the memory of many people, who attended this concert. Performances of overall global significance linking the music of different civilisations and cultural values over many years have an intrinsic value of their own and play an important role in world cultural develpment. Well done ROHM.
—  Photos by Khalid al Busaidi

The objective is to reach human immortality—that is, to create things which are necessary to mankind, necessary to the purpose of the existence of mankind, and which have become the fruit that drives the creation of a higher state of mankind than ever existed before."


This instrument in fact is over a year old :-[ :-[ :-[ :-[ :-[

GCC's first pipe organ makes its musical debut at ROHM

Muscat: The Royal Opera House Muscat (ROHM) will take audiences on a compelling and breathtaking journey when the harmonious sound of the new majestic pipe organ fills the air at the Royal Opera House Muscat Pipe Organ Recital on Monday, next week.

The magnificent musical wonder of the pipe organ will be unveiled at the concert to bring to light the surprising musical versatility of the majestic pipe organ.

Unrivalled in its potential for musical majesty, the pipe organ has earned its moniker as the 'King of Instruments'.

The ROHM organ, the first to be installed in an opera house in the gulf region, comprises more than 4,500 pipes, some of which are nearly 10m long.

The concert will feature the Budapest Symphony Orchestra (MAV) and five pipe organ soloists, including Jean Guillou, Isabelle Demers, Ian Hockley and Zuzana Ferjencikova.

Oman will be represented by soloist Rashid Salim bin Salim al Rashidy, a keyboard student at the Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra who has achieved Grade 8 Passes with distinction in organ and piano. The program includes Bach's iconic Toccata & Fugue in D minor, as well as works by Puccini, Prokofiev, Mozart, Mussorgsky, Tschaikovsky and Händel.

In addition to the concert, a symposium will be held with local cultural and academic partners, to let invitees to share thoughts on the fascinating history of the instrument.

Four international experts will explain and demonstrate the history and function of the pipe organ. Prof Dr. Schmitt and Prof Schnorr will focus on the heritage and demonstrate music pieces. Philipp Klais, the creator of the ROHM pipe organ, will give insights into this specific instrument and how it was built especially for Oman.

This will be followed by Kaets demonstrating one of the most popular uses for the organ, showing a part of the Charlie Chaplin silent movie 'Goldrush'. The day will also feature a special appearance by ROHM acoustic designer Nicholas Edwards, who will give a short introduction to the organ's acoustic design.

Christina Scheppelmann, CEO of the Royal Opera House Muscat, commented: "The pipe organ was at the heart of the Opera House design and we wanted the introduction to this very unique instrument to be suitably grand. ROHM's pipe organ was built by the famous Pipe Organ builder Orgelbau Klais based in Bonn, Germany. As we have the musical debut of the instrument at the concert, we hope the Omani audience will enjoy and appreciate what this extraordinary and versatile instrument offers when the concert celebrates the majesty of the pipe organ. We are, in fact, proud to have this remarkable instrument in our opera house."

The objective is to reach human immortality—that is, to create things which are necessary to mankind, necessary to the purpose of the existence of mankind, and which have become the fruit that drives the creation of a higher state of mankind than ever existed before."