posted November 10, 2010

Hope’s Skinner Organ Recognized for Historical Merit

The Skinner Organ in Dimnent Memorial Chapel at Hope College has been recognized "as an instrument of exceptional historic merit, worthy of preservation" by the Organ Historical Society.

Hope received a plaque in honor of the designation on Tuesday, Nov. 9.  Since establishing the Historic Organ Citation program in 1975, the society has honored only 398 pipe organs across the United and in Canada.  In contrast, the society has cataloged more than 47,000 instruments ever built or installed in the U.S. or Canada, citing about 12,000 in active use.

The presentation was made in conjunction with a concert that was sponsored by the Holland Area Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, Hope and Pillar Church as part of an evening featuring the Skinner Organ; the college's J.W. Walker and Sons studio organ, which was completed a decade ago; and the Pillar Church organ.  Dr. Huw Lewis, professor of music and college organist, performed Marius Monnikendam's "Theme and Variations for Christmas Night" at each stop so that listeners could distinguish the characteristics of each organ and room.

The college's Skinner organ was built by the Skinner Organ Company of Boston, Mass., in 1928 and dedicated in June 1929.  The instrument was restored, with an emphasis on preserving its original character, from January 2005 through the latter part of 2006 by the A. Thompson-Allen Company.  The entire organ, including all 2,932 pipes and the console, was removed and taken to New Haven, Conn., 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.

Founded in 1956, the Organ Historical Society is an international organization dedicated to documenting and preserving historic pipe organs and to raising public awareness and appreciation of America's organ heritage.  The 398 organs recognized through the Historic Organ Citation program range in origin from 1698 to 1962.  The total includes 15 instruments in Michigan, and 25 instruments by the Skinner Organ Company.