Doane Stuart News
Times Union: Doane Stuart parent donates pipe organRuffatti organ, spotted on eBay, installed at Doane Stuart
By TOM KEYSER Staff Writer
Published: Saturday, July 31, 2010
James Cole believes in fate. When he spotted the magnificent pipe organ on eBay within days of attending an open house at The Doane Stuart School's new campus in Rensselaer, he knew what he had to do.
He donated the Ruffatti organ, manufactured at the famous Ruffatti pipe-organ factory in Padua, Italy, for the school's interfaith chapel. This was September last year, and the college-preparatory school was about to open after moving from South Pearl Street in Albany.
Now, 10 months later, the organ's installation is nearly complete. Its approximately 3,600 pipes of wood, lead, brass, copper and tin, ranging in length from one-quarter inch to 16 feet, stand in place awaiting final adjustments and, on Oct. 23, a recital by the renowned organist John Rose at which the Ruffatti will be introduced to the public.
"I just can't wait until somebody touches those keys for the first time, and I hear the music," Cole said. "It's going to be spectacular."
Built in 1978, the organ would cost at least $1.5 million today, said Jim Stimpson, one of the installers from Elsener Organ Works on Long Island. And that's not counting the cost of installation, he said.
Cole bought it for about $8,100 on eBay, he said. But that, of course, did not include the costs of dismantling it, transporting it to Doane Stuart and installing it, all of which he and his family paid. He said he'd rather not say how much that cost.
Doane Stuart has 280 students from nursery to 12th grade, including Cole's daughter, a fourth-grader. His stepdaughter graduated from there. And his son will start school there next year.
"We believe very strongly that Doane Stuart is delivering for us, is doing the right thing for our children," he said. "This was an opportunity for us to give back."
Cole lives in Duanesburg and made the donation in the name of his family: the children and his wife, Tami. He works as sales manager for Oracle Corp., the multinational software-development company. And he likes to peruse eBay, which is where he happened upon the organ for sale by Purchase College.
He said it brought to mind the phenomenal pipe organ that Doane Stuart had in its Gothic-Revival chapel in Albany. Because the school rented that property, it had to leave the organ when it relocated to Rensselaer.
"I'm typically a very positive and optimistic person," Cole said. "But I wondered, 'How are they going to recapture that same feel in a quote-unquote new school?'"
He found his answer in the Ruffatti organ. He asked Richard D. Enemark, headmaster of the school, whether he wanted it.
"I was stunned," Enemark said. "And at first I thought, 'We haven't even moved in fully yet. I don't think we can handle this generosity right now.' Then I thought to myself, 'That's absurd. This is a gift that will enhance and enrich this campus and the institution and our program for the next 100 years.'"
Moving quickly to meet eBay's bidding deadline, Cole hired the Elsener pipe-organ service company to check out the organ in Purchase and its compatibility with the chapel at Doane Stuart. Everything checked.
"It just came together," Cole said.
After submitting the winning bid, he hired Elsener to dismantle the organ (it took seven workers one week) and transport it for storage at Doane Stuart. It arrived in crates that overflowed one vacant classroom. There it waited until school architects built a finely crafted chamber -- 10 feet deep, 17 feet high and 19 feet wide -- at the rear of the chapel to house it.
By the time the organ is ready for the October recital, Elsener workers will have spent more than a month putting it together and making upgrades. People who attend that recital, said Rose, the organist, will be amazed at what they hear.
"When people have a chance to experience not only the sound of the organ but also the feel of its vibrations enveloping the entire room, it's quite an acoustic thrill," said Rose, organist and director of chapel music at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. "It's hard to match the absolute grandeur of a fine pipe organ in person."
Rose has toured the Ruffatti factory in Italy and given recitals on some of the grandest pipe organs in the world. A trademark of Ruffatti organs, he said, "is they love the very beautiful and delicate, gentle sounds that are almost a whisper, when the listener says, 'Is the organ playing now, or am I just imagining that?' And that smoothly builds up in power to a very exciting and fully encompassing sound of full organ."
Students will be permitted to play the organ as part of the curriculum, Enemark said.
"It will add an incredibly rich and triumphal sense to this interfaith chapel, which is the very heart of the school," he said. "It will serve for everything from kids' processing in for their kindergarten graduation to what we hope will be a series of gala concerts open to the public for years to come."
Tom Keyser can be reached at 454-5448 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.