Cultural Conversation: Kravis Center’s digital organ


By: Marisa Gottesman Associate Editor
Palm Beach County’s Raymond F. Kravis Center is home to a digital organ and it’s the first performing arts center to install a custom Marshall & Ogletree instrument in its theater.
The custom-designed digital organ made its debut recently when internationally acclaimed organist Cameron Carpenter took the stage with the Jacksonville Symphony.
This organ isn’t the one you would find in a church. It’s a pipeless organ that combines the latest technology with five manuals, 200 stops and 96 audio channels. It has about 300 high-definition sounds sampled from 35 American pipe organs. The organist can make it sound like a string instrument, a clarinet a trumpet and other sounds.
The high-tech instrument completes a dream that was always envisioned for the performing arts center.
When Alexander Dreyfoos donated $5 million to the Kravis Center, he requested $1.5 million of the gift be allotted toward purchasing a digital organ. To keep within the budget for the center, the organ was scrapped from the plans.
It took some time, but the inventor’s wish to add an organ has come true.
“It is pretty exciting,” he said reflecting on the organ’s debut. “I couldn’t expect anything better on our opening concert.”
Dreyfoos said the had the idea to bring a performing arts center and organ to Palm Beach after he spent time living in Boston.
He said he used to go to the Boston Symphony Hall, which has an organ, and thought Palm Beach needs one of these, too.
“I said, ‘Let’s have a symphony hall and we need an organ in it,’” he said. “The project grew and it really became a performing arts theater with opportunities for opera and broadway.”
Even though the center was ultimately built without the organ, Dreyfoos said space was left to add one.
Known as Opus 11, the organ was dedicated to Dreyfoos’ late business pattern and friend, George W. Mergens. The organ is called the George W. Mergens Memorial Organ.
“George had been a lover of gadgets,” Dreyfoos said of his friend. “One of the gadgets we liked was the organ. He had a small one in his home.”
Dreyfoos said he wanted to memorialize his friend after he was killed when a car hit him while he was riding his bicycle. He wanted to do so by dedicating the organ to his friend.
“The sound is absolutely incredible,” Dreyfoos said. “It’s just a beautiful piece.”