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Superstars were out in force Saturday evening to open the new Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center with an organ recital, one of a series of showcase events on the new music hall’s first day. The recital was preceded by Santa Rosa pianist Jeffrey Kahane playing Beethoven and Chopin and followed by pianist David Benoit’s tribute to Charlie Brown.

The first superstar was the organ itself, a Baroque-style tracker organ — meaning the pipes’ valves are opened and closed by mechanical pushrods connected to the keys of the keyboards — built by famed organ builder John Brombaugh in 1972. It’s considered a masterpiece of organ building.

The second was James David Christie, world renowned as one of the finest organists of his generation. He’s the organist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and has won numerous international prizes for his playing.

The group of composers who wrote the program’s music were all superstars, as well. George Bohm (1661-1733) wrote the oceanic Preludium in C Major. A piece by an anonymous Dutch composer from the 16th Century was like a walk through a spring meadow. Jan Sweelinck (1562-1621) wrote the mystical polyphony of his “Ricercar” that turned from empyreal to earthily playful at the end. Johann Buttstett (1666-1727) wrote a Fugue in E Minor that shimmered like images in a hall of mirrors. Dieterich Buxtehude (1637-1707), one of Johann Bach’s teachers, was at his ponderous and stormy best, while Bach’s second cousin, Johann Bernard Bach (1676-1749), wrote the Ciaconna in B-Flat Major that beautifully showed off the organ’s various possibilities.

Christie finished the concert with that old warhorse, Johann Sebastian Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. He notched up the tempo, played it with enormous verve, and showed that it doesn’t have to be Halloween music.

The final superstar was Schroeder Hall itself, an acoustically perfect space for the world class organ. Christie chose these pieces to showcase the instrument, turning its pipes and stops and timbers like jewels reflecting sunlight. He got a well-deserved standing ovation, and the most common word heard among the crowd as it filed out was, “Wow!”

At a media event last Monday, Christie said that the Brombaugh Opus 9 organ, with its 1,248 handmade pipes and all-wood cases, is not only a beautiful musical instrument, it’s historically important, too. When Brombaugh built it in 1972 for a Baptist Church in Toledo, Ohio, he designed it to replicate the clear voice of the great Baroque organs of northern Europe rather than the neo-Baroque style that was in vogue in the 1960s and 1970s and was common in church organs of the time. “It launched a reawakening of interest in that earlier construction,” Christie said.

Interestingly, Christie mentioned that when the Brombaugh Opus 9 was installed in Toledo, he was 18, traveled there to hear it, and had a chance to play it, so this world-famous organist and this instrument came full circle at Schroeder Hall’s inaugural recital.

The hall was funded by Jean Schulz, among others, the widow of “Peanuts” creator Charles M. Schulz. The Santa Rosa cartoonist’s characters included Schroeder, a tow-headed kid who loved playing Beethoven on his toy piano. The foyer of Schroeder Hall features many original cartoon panels featuring the young pianist at his keyboard. The Brombaugh organ was donated by B.J. and Bebe Cassin. Mr. Cassin is a Bay Area venture capitalist who invested early in many of the high-tech businesses that now rule Silicon Valley.

The Opus 9 sits high on its own balcony above the stage. The ceilings are high and vaulted and the sound flows over the seats to the rear of the hall, which is curved like half of a cylinder. This allows the sound to refocus itself over the seating, adding rich texture and reverb to the organ’s clarity of line. The walls leading from front to rear hold hardwood chests containing velour panels attached to rollers. Motors allow the panels to be pulled out or tucked away to “tune” the hall to the sounds of instruments, whether organ, piano, brass choir, voice, or chamber ensemble. The entire hall is an instrument and part of the action.

Some of the most savvy design teams in the country took part in the planning of the $9.5 million hall and the 3,420-square-foot recital chamber. The architecture was designed by BAR Architects of San Francisco, with acoustical expertise by Kirkegaard Associates of Chicago and theatrical consulting by Auerbach Pollock Friedlander of San Francisco. Structural and civil engineering were by Santa Rosa firms.

A concert series called “Sundays at Schroeder” starts next month and will feature singers, a bagpiper, a jazz vocalist, organists and others. The hall will also be used to present performances by students and faculty of SSU’s music department, and as a lecture hall for the music and other departments at the university.

For information about Schroeder Hall or the Green Music Center, visit www.gmc.sonoma.edu.

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