Preparing the Way:The process of transition

Interim President John D. Yordy

Goshen College hosts many guests on campus each year – visitors who share perspectives on a range of topics and issues,

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Heart, mind and soul journey: Spiritual formation on campus

Rachel Lapp, director of public relations

It's a common notion that college will challenge students' faith. Indeed, exposure to new perspectives and world views inevitably causes us to

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Working with the enemy: pizza, guerrillas and miracles

Based on a sermon by Doug Schirch, Jan. 7, 2005; Edited by Jodi H. Beyeler

When Associate Professor of Chemistry Doug Schirch '82 was working with the ecumenical Christian organization Witness for Peace (WFP) in Nicaragua during the late 1980s

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Bridging traditions: organ music connects generations of worship

By Anna Groff '06

Walking into Rieth Recital Hall, curious about a new kind of music resonating off the high ceilings, one is easily overwhelmed by Opus 41.

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Solving Bach's temperamental puzzle

By Jodi H. Beyeler

Bradley Lehman '86 has solved the centuries-old mystery of what appeared to be an arbitrarily scribbled design on an original copy of one of J.S. Bach's compositions
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Bulletin cover 2005 March issue
Heart, mind and soul journey: Spiritual formation on campus

March 2005

Bridging traditions: organ music connects generations of worship

By Anna Groff '06

Walking into Rieth Recital Hall, curious about a new kind of music resonating off the high ceilings, one is easily overwhelmed by Opus 41. Its tones are rich and deep and it is designed with the elegance of a historic era yet quickly reveals the nimbleness of its modernity. Opus 41 is not a composition, but a pipe organ that enriches the possibilities of the Goshen College Music Center in a way similar to how the instrument itself can add dignified, worshipful exuberance to church music.

Opus 41 - pipes wood Photos by Jodi H. Beyeler and Zac Albrecht

While the Goshen College Music Department has waited for this significant addition to the Music Center since the facility opened in 2002, plans for the building included the pipe organ long before the foundation was laid. Associate Professor of Music Beverly Lapp said she is fascinated and energized by how Goshen College is now embracing this instrument, particularly at a time when other college campuses are cutting pipe organ programs. "The installation of the organ is yet another wave of energy for this new facility," she said. "The organ is an instrument nonmajors and music majors alike can explore."

The installation of the organ began on Dec. 6, with the finishing work of tuning and voicing done in January by employees of Taylor and Boody, the builders of the instrument. The organ is tuned and voiced specifically to match the acoustics of Rieth Recital Hall. A spectator gallery was opened to anyone interested in viewing the final trimming and mouth adjustments to the pipes. Opus 41 is tuned with the "Bach/Lehman 1722" temperament, an unequal temperament Bach developed as recently uncovered by alumus Bradley Lehman '86 (See Solving Bach's temperamental puzzle ).

Lapp said Goshen College students and faculty have varied church music backgrounds: some grew up in congregations for which a piano is a fairly recent addition, while others are accustomed to hearing organ accompaniment with every hymn. "[We] have people passionate about the pipe organ who also value a cappella singing," Lapp added. "With this new instrument in an intimate hall with great acoustics for singing, we have an opportunity to bring the richness of both traditions together."

Amanda Entz, a music major from Newton, Kan., took organ lessons last fall and hopes the arrival of Opus 41 will encourage more students to learn to play the instrument. She said she is considering a job as a church organist one day. "I think organs have their place in the church service, as do contemporary worship songs. I believe that an organ can have an amazingly powerful contribution to a worship service. There are some great hymns that need to be sung and that can have deep meaning when sung with an organ," she said.

Christine Thögersen, assistant professor of music, is steering the organ program. She looks forward to exploring ways to use the organ with vocal music, one of the major goals for the Goshen College instrument, which she believes is symbolic of connecting worship styles. During the week of inaugural pipe organ performances in May, two of four recitals planned will feature a vocal ensemble, both with and without organ accompaniment. Thögersen hopes to collaborate with existing student ensembles and faculty musicians, along with the possibility of offering pipe organ accompaniment to community hymn-sings.

Opus 41 wood closeup Plans in the near future include introducing the organ to students of the Community School of Arts, using the instrument during the Morning Song worship service initiated by College Mennonite Church for Goshen College students and collaboration with the University of Notre Dame to attract internationally known organists to perform at each school.

Thögersen said she valued the human connections that were integral to the process of planning, building and installing the organ; she believes the relationships between those involved added to the quality of the end product. "Although organ-building is an art of its own, it depends a great deal on the [architecture and acoustics of the room]," said Thögersen. "There was recognition that this project was a team effort."

Lapp said it was essential that the organ builder was identified early enough for Taylor and Boody to be a part of the entire process of design for Rieth Recital Hall. She said the process of determining the placement of the instrument included discussions about the role the instrument has had in the church. The front of the larger Sauder Concert Hall was determined to be too dominant a space; the medium-sized organ in the Rieth balcony symbolizes the instrument's versatility for use in recitals, small ensemble concerts and hymn sings.

"[The organ] is part of the versatility of Rieth," said Thögersen. Located opposite the stage in the recital hall, the organ does not distract audiences when not in use for performances and events. However, for an organ performance, the direction of the chairs can easily be reversed.

Originally, architects had planned for Rieth Recital Hall to be much like Sauder Hall, but George Taylor and John Boody met with the Music Center committee to propose a change. Taylor and Boody, who started the 28-year-old organ-building company based in Staunton, Va., described the optimum acoustical conditions for organs as being in a balcony in a room with level floors (the ground level in Sauder Hall is slanted). Architects and acousticians, Schmidt Associates, The Mathes Group (now Mathes Brierre) and The Talaske Group, made changes in the plans of Rieth Recital Hall to meet these needs.

The search for an organ builder had begun in the spring of 1999 by a committee consisting of President Emeritus J. Lawrence Burkholder; Doyle Preheim, professor emeritus of music; Thögersen; Julie Zimmerman, former assistant director of public relations; and then-seniors Sidney King '00 and Scott Barge '99.

Barge, currently Goshen College's coordinator of institutional research and planning, said that while the group was diverse, all shared a knowledge of and interest in organs and visited 30 organs in seven states throughout a period of four months.

Early on, the committee decided that the type of instrument that would best serve the campus would be a tracker organ, a type that physically links the keys and pipes, which gives the organist greater control over musical articulation. This requirement narrowed down the list of possible builders. "[The pipe organ] is a teaching instrument and we wanted students to have experience with an authentic instrument," Barge said.

In July of 1999, the organ committee signed a contract to place Goshen College on the waiting list with Taylor and Boody, a small firm of 17 skilled workers that designs and builds tracker organs in the classical North German and Dutch styles of the Baroque Era. While Taylor and Boody is one of the leading builders inspired by those styles, the company's instruments are flexible enough to accommodate instruction of much of the literature that would be part of an undergraduate's repertoire.

All parts of Opus 41 were handmade in Taylor and Boody's workshop, including the fabrication of the metal flue pipes and reeds. The builders used the finest materials, including lumber cut and dried especially for use in constructing organs, as Taylor and Boody pipe organs are built to exacting standards.

Aesthetically consistent with the rest of the Music Center, Boody noted that the light wood used throughout the building influenced the decision for the hand-carved case to be made of solid white oak to compliment that design theme.

Roseann Penner Kaufman, Bethel College pipe organ instructor, who consulted with the Goshen project, said Taylor and Boody's proximity to and knowledge of Mennonite communities and the importance of the denomination's singing tradition influenced the committee's choice. "Their pipe organs have a full, rich tone that supports singing without overpowering it," she said. "They included some interesting details, such as hand-made iron hinges on the case, that reflect traditional Mennonite values of simplicity and practicality."

The five-year process of selecting the organ and planning its installation ended in December. To celebrate the finishing touches of installation of the highly anticipated instrument at Goshen College, Thögerson brought it to life with Bach's "Prelude in E-flat major" -– the first piece played on Opus 41.

High's gift provides sounds of inspiration

Opus 41 organCalvin '54 and Janet High of Lancaster, Pa., designate a gift to Goshen College for the new organ planned for the new Music Center building. The Highs – with Calvin now retired from executive responsibilities at High Industries – are supporting Calvin's alma mater while taking an opportunity to broadly share the spirit of Janet's vocation as a organist in providing this instrument as part of a new organ program at Goshen. The Highs were able to hear, at a New York City church, a Taylor and Boody tracker organ, the type of instrument that the GC organ committee had contracted with that company to build. A longtime church organist, Janet is particularly committed to advocacy for music education for young people that is sensitive to their interests in new styles while helping cultivate an appreciation for traditions of hymnody that have inspired Christians for centuries.

Opus 41 facts:

  • The pipe organ is in the style of a Baroque instrument, which was also a predecessor to the piano.
  • Name of the organ: Opus 41
  • Total hours of labor: 14,000
  • Total hours of finishing work: 500
  • Lead-tin alloy pipes: 1,604
  • Height: 24 feet
  • Manual keyboards: 2
  • All 17 workers at Taylor and Boody worked on the Opus 41
  • Building an organ is a 10- to 12-month project

Inaugural Opus 41 inaugural concert schedule:

  • Sunday, May 1, 3 p.m. – Organ Dedication Service.
  • Sunday, May 1, 7:30 p.m. – Organ Dedication Concert with University of Notre Dame Professor of Organ Craig Cramer
  • Tuesday, May 3, 7:30 p.m. – Duo-organ concert, featuring GC professor Christine Thögersen '75 and Bethel College (North Newton, Kan.) instructor of organ Roseann Penner Kaufman.
  • Thursday, May 5, 7:30 p.m. – "This Organ's Distinctive Tuning," a lecture/demonstration by Bradley Lehman '86.
  • Friday, May 6, 7:30 p.m. – Organ concert, featuring Goshen College alumnus Mark Herris '95.
  • Sunday, May 8, 3 and 7:30 p.m. – The St. Joseph Valley Camerata, with Christine Thögersen, organ. Directed by David Seitz.

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