Through a chance encounter between Diana Murdy and Fr. Peter Rocca, CSC, rector of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, also an organist, the dream of a new pipe organ for the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the University of Notre Dame Campus’ has recently been realized. In late summer 2016 Paul Fritts & Company Organ Builders delivered the Murdy Family Organ, their Opus 37 to the University of Notre Dame. The organ was installed and tonally finished over a three-month span from August through October, 2016.  The donors, Mr. & Mrs. Wayne Murdy are to be applauded for their family’s tremendous gift that made possible this exceptional new pipe organ. As an alum I had the honor of thanking them in person during the recent festivities surrounding the organ’s dedication. 

The original organ for the church was built by Garret House in 1864. In 1875 Derrick & Felgemaker installed what must have been a herculean organ. Singing hymns with the some of the few remaining unchanged Felgemakers at Organ Historical Society Conventions made a lasting impact on me. From those instruments I heard in person, and speaking to a fellow alum who played the original instrument it must have been excellent. Felgemakers’s workmanship, materials and design were universally praised for their excellence.  It is unfortunate that in the late 1950s it was “improved” by Tellers.

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart’s third instrument was a Holtkamp installed in 1978. This is the organ on which I played my only organ recital on. The instrument was a disappointment, when the church was full of people singing hymns all you could hear of the tutti was the 32 Bourdon and the tops of the mixtures; the organ almost “disappeared” past the transept. After the carpeting was removed and a hard floor installed the organ still had this problem as well as numerous mechanical and winding issues.

Murdy Family Organ is a spectacular addition to the other three Fritts Pipe Organs on the University of Notre Dame Campus. I have told many, “if you think the organ look stunning, well as a musical instrument it is 100 times better than it looks”. 

The organ Paul Fritts built at the Princeton Theological Seminary was the first of his organs I heard in person. It is a fine organ. Many years later I recorded Craig Cramer on the Paul Fritts Organ at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.  Then Fritts Opus 25 at St. Joseph Cathedral in Columbus, OH. This organ was a revelation to me. Everything about it was right. I did not think that his firm could do better, but they have. The organ that Paul Fritts & Company has built for the Basilica of the Sacred Heart is one of the landmark organs of the United States. I hope Mrs. Diana Murdy’s great grandchildren will be able to sing hymns with it long after we are all gone.

The Murdy Family Organ is a phenomenal addition to Our Lady of the Lake’s University. 

Build a Pipe Organ like a Champion.

Joe Vitacco, ND ’90