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Historic organ to make its UNT debut

The oldest playable organ in Texas has found a home in Denton.

Last November, the Raisin Organ came to the UNT College of Music. The college will host an inauguration for the instrument at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in the Organ Recital Hall in the Music Building, 415 S. Ave. C. A free concert follows at 4 p.m.

A Lutheran pastor hauled the Raisin Organ from Switzerland to Texas by sea more than 150 years ago. Early German pioneers in Texas were the earliest musicians to sit at the instrument.

“The Raisin Organ is a clear voice from the past,” said Jesse Eschbach, professor of organ and coordinator of UNT’s organ program. “To have an instrument of this caliber and workmanship that is still speaking so strongly is an honor. It is like a time machine.”

The organ is named for the small Texas town where it was discovered, and is believed to have been built around 1780. It served as the first instrument in the Trinity Lutheran Church in Victoria, until it was placed in storage and forgotten. Victoria businessman Rubin Frels discovered the instrument in a former stagecoach inn and commissioned organ expert Susan Tattershall to restore the organ to working condition in 1980.

UNT alumna Susan Ferré bought the organ in 1991 and loaned it to the Mesquite Arts Center for public display. In November 2015, Ferré donated the instrument to UNT.

Thanks to Ferré’s donation, UNT students now have the opportunity to practice on the instrument.

Ferré will perform a solo, then will be accompanied by a chamber group and organist Hentus Van Rooyen at the inauguration. She also will discuss the complex history of the organ. The concert also will include instrumentalists and singers of the UNT Early Music Program, directed by Paul Leenhouts, performing 18th-century Swiss repertoire.

For more information, visit http://music.unt.edu or call 940-565-2791.

— Staff report