posted January 16, 2007

Rededication Concert on Jan. 30 to Celebrate Organ

Hope College will celebrate the restoration of its historic Skinner organ with a rededication concert on Tuesday, Jan. 30, at 7:30 p.m. in Dimnent Memorial Chapel.

The public is invited. Admission is free.

The concert will feature performances by Dr. Huw Lewis, who is a professor of music and college organist at Hope, and by Hope senior Richard Newman of Midlothian, Va. Participants in the rededication ceremony will include Hope College President Dr. James E. Bultman; Dr. James N. Boelkins, who is provost at Hope; and the Rev. Trygve Johnson, who is the Hinga-Boersma Dean of the Chapel at the college.

The college's highly regarded Skinner organ was built in 1928 by the Skinner Organ Company, which Lewis noted "was thought of as the Rolls Royce or the Cadillac - the industry standard - for quality construction or sound."

Lewis's assessment is shared by Nick Thompson-Allen of the A. Thompson-Allen Company of New Haven, Conn., which specializes in Skinner organs and conducted the restoration. The company has restored organs around the U.S. as well as abroad; its on-going responsibilities include the large Skinner organ in Yale University's Woolsey Hall.

"The late-20s Skinner organs, from 1925 to 1930, in my opinion, anyway, were the best that they produced," Thompson-Allen said. "They were the Duesenberg of pipe organs: beautifully made, beautifully constructed, beautifully conceived, beautifully voiced."

"And this one is exceptionally good tonally, and the organ chambers work so well," he said.

Period accounts placed the original cost of the organ at $25,000. It was donated to the college by Barend Arendshorst and his sons William and John Arendsorst and dedicated and installed in 1929, the same year that the chapel was completed.

As an antique produced in a bygone era the organ is irreplaceable, but its estimated value today is between $2 million and $4 million.

Its recent restoration by the A. Thompson-Allen Company - which emphasized preserving the organ's original character--took nearly two years, from January 2005 through the latter part of the recent fall semester. The entire organ, including all 2,932 pipes and the console, was removed and taken to New Haven for the work, through which the instrument was repaired and restored to its original factory specifications. In addition, the chambers housing the pipes were renovated and the chapel's roof drainage system was modified to repair and prevent water damage caused by the building's original design. The most major work previously done on the organ had been conducted more than 40 years earlier, in 1963, when it had been cleaned, refurbished, releathered and regulated.

The Jan. 30 rededication concert will feature a variety of works. The program is scheduled to include "Passacaglia in C Minor, BWV 582," by Johann Sebastian Bach; "Andante sostenuto" (from the Gothic Symphony), by Charles-Marie Widor; "Adagio and Allegro, BWV 594," by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, "Scherzo in E Major," by Eugène Gigout; and "The 94th Psalm," by Julius Reubke.

The concert is the first in a series of five events during the current calendar year celebrating the restoration. Lewis will perform twice with the college orchestra and once with the choirs; two of those performances will feature commissioned pieces. In addition, on Tuesday, Oct. 23, Olivier Latry, organist at Notre Dame in Paris, will be performing a solo recital.

Dimnent Memorial Chapel is located at 277 College Avenue, at the corner of 12th Street.