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The Carletonian

Completed Chapel organ renovation brings new music to campus

<ents returning to campus this year might have noticed something new as they walked to class or lunch: the Chapel chimes now play a song daily at 11:57 a.m. since the organ restoration has finished this fall.

Four years ago, the College decided to expand the Weitz Center to create a new performance venue, destroy the previous Concert Hall and renovate the Chapel. However, the Concert Hall organ would not fit into the Weitz Center’s space and was bought by Rutz Organ Co. As a result, the Chapel organ became Carleton’s major organ for teaching, worship, and college functions.

“We needed to make sure this organ was maintained in a way that was fitting for organ students and all the other functions it has,” said Chaplain Carolyn Fure-Slocum.
In the summer of 2016, construction began in the Chapel to install a new set of lights, sound system, projection and air conditioning. The organ restoration was also part of this project. Since fall term of 2017, the 102-year-old instrument was under renovation by Rutz Organ Co. to repair, clean and fit its 3,000 pipes. After years of use and damages, parts of the organ did not produce sound or function properly.

The organ pipes are now restored to working condition and are located at the front of the Chapel and above the balcony. The antiphonal division above the balcony is a new feature that was not functional in the past. The carillon, also known as bells or chimes, was also replaced with new technology that can be computer programmed. These changes and upkeep to the organ were a long time coming; the last renovation of the Chapel organ happened in the 1950s. The restoration was finished at the start of fall term 2018 and was still being tuned on the day of this year’s opening Convocation.

The college organist, Janean Hall, is pleased with the organ’s updates. “The new variety of color and timbre of these pipes creates such a spectacular palate of sound to the listener,” she said.

According to Fure-Slocum and Hall, the carillon has over 5,000 pre-recorded songs, including classical, Broadway, popular and foreign music. Before the term started, Hall and another staff member selected songs to be played randomly and automatically throughout fall term. After the term is over, the chimes will continue to play more seasonal music for the holidays for the town and remaining students on campus while avoiding strictly religious hymns or songs. Although the daily chimes are played automatically, they can also be played from the organ. Hall still plays the organ for opening and honors Convocation.

“Our Convocations deserve a regal instrument to open and close each academic year,” said Hall. “It is our hope that the tunes can brighten up the day for all who hear them. They add a lovely aesthetic to campus life.”

In the past, the organ was traditionally played by the few students studying the organ on Tuesdays and Thursdays during common time and before Convocation. However, they would not always come regularly, and students would play whatever songs they chose, according to Fure-Slocum.

“It was often ‘Happy Birthday’ for friends, or the Rubber Ducky song if it was raining,” said Fure-Slocum.

As Senior Lecturer of Organ and Harpsichord at Carleton, Hall says that organ is an intimidating instrument, even for students with previous experience with the piano. However, there is more literature written for organ than any other instrument from Medieval times to present.

“I see the joy in my students’ faces when they begin to master the organ,” said Hall. “It is my hope that many students will give organ a try, and experience the sheer power and excitement that a pipe organ brings. What a gift Carleton has given our campus and our students.”

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