Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Concert Hall organ bought by local company, Chapel organ renovated

<ing of a new performance space in Weitz—not large enough to contain a pipe organ—and the subsequent destruction of the Concert Hall instrument, the College is investing over $300,000 into repairing and renovating the Chapel organ. This organ is currently used for weddings, funerals, college events, and community concerts.

The project, run by local company called Rutz Organ Co., began in the fall with the removal of parts of the instrument already not working. During winter break, the main console was removed, making the organ temporarily unplayable. The goal is to finish the repairs by Honors Convocation in May.

The Chapel will not be shut down during the process and only the classroom downstairs will be closed, as it serves as an area for the organ repair workers and the entryway to the organ, according to Chaplain Carolyn Fure-Slocum.

The organ was placed in the Chapel during its initial construction in 1916. Dedicated to Emily Skinner, the wife of Miron Skinner (who the Chapel is named after), the organ was “considered one of the best organs in the Upper Midwest,” said Fure-Slocum. The organ contains 3000 pipes and three keyboards. The organ was also electric when electricity was scarce in rural Minnesota, according to Senior Lecturer in Harpsichord and Organ Janean Hall.

The organ was built specifically for the building, stretching about four stories from the basement to the balcony levels. Yet, due to its design, none of the pipes are straight, generally curving around multiple corners. This structure creates a muffled sound, according to Fure-Slocum.

After years of use and various damages, “you had to know how to work around all the things that didn’t work in this organ,” said Fure-Slocum, citing several pieces of the instrument that no longer produce sound or do not function properly.

The Chapel organ differs dramatically from the other pipe organ on campus, currently in the Concert Hall. Built in the 1970s and valued at millions of dollars, the organ in the Concert Hall is much louder and more advanced than its counterpart in the Chapel.

According Fure-Slocum, a previous organist for Carleton once described the difference between the two instruments as speaking distinct languages, with the Chapel organ communicating in “late Romantic American with a British accent,” whereas the Concert Hall organ is “mid-century modern organ with a German accent.”

 Due to the size of the Kracum Hall, the new Weitz performance space, the Concert Hall organ cannot be moved to the Weitz once the building is demolished. As a part of the deal with Rutz Organ Co., the company bought this organ, according to Fure-Slocum.

Decisions to repair the Chapel organ began about four years ago, said Fure-Slocum, when the College decided to expand the Weitz Center and destroy the Concert Hall. As a part of this plan, the Chapel installed air-conditioning summer 2016.

With the Concert Hall organ soon to be gone, a new, electronic organ was added to a Weitz studio dedicated to keyboards, harpsichords and organ. This new organ is “cutting edge of what organ is,” said Hall.

The engineers who created the instrument in Weitz recorded famous organs around the world, often entering into some of the most renowned churches at 3:00 a.m. to get the perfect sound. This organ, using these recordings, replicates the various organs, so the musician can choose which instrument they want to hear. While she was tentative at first about the new type of organ, “now I am a believer,” said Hall.

Hall has taught at Carleton since 1994, and she continues to work as a full-time church organist as well. She currently teaches two students in the organ and three other students in the harpsichord (on an instrument created by a St. Olaf dean). “I wish I could have 30,” said Hall. “I’m just one of those nerdy people who love what I do.”

One of her students, Daniel Quintero ’20, had no previous experience on the organ before starting to play at Carleton. Playing since his freshman fall, Quintero—citing Hall’s kindness and the program’s accessibility—would “100% recommend the organ program.”

Hall and her students currently have 24/7 access to the electronic organ in Weitz, and they can use the UCC organ across the street, if they want to practice on a different instrument until the Chapel organ is playable again, according to Fure-Slocum.

While sad to be losing the Concert Hall organ, “I really love the Chapel. It’s a really great place for performances,” said Quintero, excited to play on the revamped instrument. “Real organ gets more emotion and performance.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *