College Organ designated "historic instrument" with star performers on site
Learn more about the restorationThe College celebrated the restoration of Herrick Chapel's historic organ with a rededication ceremony April 3-4, 2009.
Renowned organist Kevin Bowyer, from the University of Glasgow, Scotland, familiarizes himself with Grinnell's newly refurbished Aeolian-Skinner organ, Opus 1091. Bowyer has been described as "one of the world's hardiest and most formidable virtuosos," for his ability to perform new, unusual, and difficult music.
Bowyer's program included the world premiere of John Zorn's Là-Bas. Zorn is an American composer known for challenging and adventurous work reflecting a multitude of influences such as jazz, rock, punk, classical, cartoon, klezmer, and improv. Though he rarely takes commissions, Zorn said he was honored to be asked to compose a work for this occasion and instrument.
Bowyer's performace also included Toccatas and Fantasia by Brian Schober, compostela/finisterre by Chris Dench, and Missa Mundi by Charles Camilleri.
Those unfamiliar with pipe organs often wonder what all the knobs, levers and other controls do. Most recognize the keyboards--the manuals, played by hand, and the pedalboard, played with the feet. But what do the draw knobs, couplers, pistons, and other controls do? You can get a taste of things from Wikipedia's Pipe Organ article.
The sun lights the stained glass windows in Herrick Chapel as Juilliard faculty member Paul Jacobs samples the organ's tones. Jacobs was at Grinnell to perform the rededication recital.
Jacobs, known as "one of the most supremely gifted young organists of his generation," performed Prelude and Fugue in B Major. Op. 7 by Marcel Dupré, Trio Sonata in E Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach, Prelude and Fugue in B Minor by Samuel Barber, Pageant by Leo Sowerby, and Fantasy and Fugue on "Ad nos, ad salutarem undam" by Franz Liszt.
Jacobs listens to the subtleties of the Herrick Chapel organ, produced with the four keyboards (3 manuals and pedalboard), 62 stops, 58 ranks, and 3554 pipes.
Grinnellians joined organ enthusiasts from throughout the region to celebrate the rededication of this historic instrument. NPR's Michael Barone, host of "Pipedreams," attended the weekend program.
Linda Bryant, College organist, speaks to the crowd during the dedication ceremony.
Bryant's early experiences with the organ were exciting. "When I became Grinnell College organist in February 2001, I was delighted to have a substantial, beautifully crafted pipe organ to play," she says. "However, I soon found myself dealing with stops that didn't work, dead notes, notes that played when the weren't supposed to, and myriad things that made turning the organ on an adventure."
Needless to say, Bryant is enjoying the changes. Iowa Public Radio's John Pemble interviewed Bryant and Eric McIntyre about the event.
Joseph F. Dzeda, with Nicholas Thompson-Allen, represented the organ restoration company, A. Thompson-Allen Company, L.L.C., at the dedication ceremony. He shared the firm's delight in working with the College on the project.
President Russell K. Osgood, instrumental in getting the organ restored, spoke about the history of the multi-year project. Not surprisingly, organ restoration is a delicate process and takes awhile.
"I am delighted that this period went reasonably rapidly," he says, "and that we can all gather now to hear again the glorious sound of this fine instrument. And as important, a number of our College students, under the tutelage of College Organist Linda Bryant, are learning to play the organ."
Restorer Nick Thompson-Allen represented the Organ Historical Society. Generally, an organ must be at least 50 years to be considered for a Historic Organ Citation.
Nick Thompson-Allen presents President Osgood with the Organ Citation, which reads, in part:
This Organ built by Aeolian-Skinner Organ Co. of Boston, Massachusetts in the year 1949 has been selected for recognition as an instrument of exception historic merit, worthy of preservation.