The instrument originates from Walcker Orgelbau in Lower Austria and belongs to the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz Institute for Church Music and Organ. During renovation of the historic rooms of Palais Schwarzenberg [Schwarzenberg Palace], the instrument was stored and renovated by the Slovenian firm Orglarstvo Močnik.
Director of the Institute Gunther Rost, and Graz-based artist Sigi Hrad-Rynda – Director and Founder of the Erste Grazer Malschule [First Graz School of Art] – jointly came up with the idea of completely renovating the exterior of the organ and allowing the children to paint the instrument’s wooden cladding. Sigi Hrad-Rynda, whose art school opened in 1973, has always been the go-to person for young artists, whom she supports with child-oriented professional expertise. Sigi Hrad-Rynda studied at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Graz, the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, and in Paris und Rome, and continues to be very active herself as an artist.
The project involved pupils from the art school, plus children from the Graz learning café run by Caritas Mariengasse, which is right next to Sigi Hrad-Rynda’s teaching premises. The Caritas Lerncafés provide free education and afternoon activities for children aged six to fifteen, who actively benefit not only from the after-school support, but first and foremost from the mix of different cultures and nationalities. Many children from refugee families also take part and improve their German language skills here. In this collaboration with the charity, the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz was keen to act as an interface for integration, interculturality and – given the sacred nature of the organ – interreligious dialogue.
The external organ case was dismantled and returned to Graz from Slovenia in February 2017 and immediately reassembled at the art school’s premises at Ghegagasse 32. Report
The organ was painted using “encaustic” painting, a technique that flourished more than 2000 years ago in Graeco-Roman times. Pigments added to heated wax are applied to the painting surface, which in the case of the Blaue Orgel was wood. As with its previous project based on the works of Lebanese-born composer Naji Hakim, here once again the aim of KUG Institute 6 was to build a bridge with the afflicted Middle East, incidentally the place where the earliest known records of organ building originated during that same Ancient Classical period.
With motifs chosen by the young people themselves on the theme of “life in the past, present and future”, an extremely inspiring work of art was created thanks to the creativity of the young artists and the skilled supervision of Sigi Hrad-Rynda. The imagery also illustrates the organ domain addressing its past, as well as present and future organ building techniques. The traditional workings of the instrument were extended with MIDI technology using funds from the Centre for Organ Research and prepared for hybrid interaction with electronic instruments.