Pipe Organ at CU Renovated

For Immediate Release: 
Jun 10 2009

CONTACT: Anita Moody, Director, Public Relations/Marketing
1-304-384-5288, news@concord.edu

NOTE TO EDITORS: My apologies for the lengthy delay in releasing this information.

Pipe Organ at CU Renovated

Athens, W.Va. – One could describe the sounds of the restored pipe organ in the Alexander Fine Arts Center as … bold, perfect, harmonious, soft, and full, as Mr. Jesse Ratcliffe, a senior at Concord, demonstrated the ranges, octaves, and nuances of the instrument for Board of Governors members June 2008 after a much-needed restoration.

President Emeritus Joseph F. Marsh provided the funding for the refurbishing and repair work. Moreover, he has provided funding for maintenance on a going-forward basis for the Casavant-brand pipe organ that was installed in the Alexander Fine Arts Center in 1969. Mr. Ratcliffe, a student majoring in music at Concord University, conducted the demonstration.

The organ had not undergone any major renovations until 2008, when Washington, D.C.-based company, Lewis and Hitchcock, began a job that ultimately concluded in May of that year. Renovations of this type typically take six months because of the many problems that can develop through use and over time. Much work was needed to restore the organ. Contacts on the chimes were corroded and some of the pipes were bent. In addition, some pipes were missing.

Some of the pipes in this organ are eight feet tall,” Ratcliffe said. “You have about 25 pounds of pressure bearing down so, over time, some pipes bend in on themselves. Keep in mind there are probably 2,000 pipes in this instrument. Lewis and Hitchcock repaired or replaced pipes, and then they tune every one of them.”

“A lot of people on campus really don’t realize what we have in the Alexander Fine Arts Center,” he said. “I’ve heard people say that they’ve never heard this organ. Now we have an instrument that can be showcased for performances.”

Concord also has a “practice organ” for students that is located in an office in the Fine Arts Center. Out of use for many years, the motor to the organ tended to “lock up.” It was replaced during one of Lewis and Hitchcock’s visits.

“The university is privileged to have this practice organ,” Ratcliffe said. “It was built by John Brombaugh, who is one of the top five organ makers, and he only made 70 of these organs. It’s reminiscent of the medieval period.”

This will not have been the last visit from the Lewis and Hitchcock Company because they will be taking over regular maintenance of both organs. Every six to eight months, the company will come back to tune and see that everything is in working order.

“The company will come in twice a year to maintain it,” Ratcliffe said. “Regular maintenance will preserve the organ. For right now, however, I as well as the company do not think there will be any major repairs for a long time.”

Casavant Organ Builders, a Canadian company, has been in business since 1879. Casavant built the pipe organ in the Alexander Fine Arts Center.

The practice organ was made by John Brombaugh & Co. in 1973 and was designed to have features similar to the pipe organ in the Main Theater of the Alexander Fine Arts Center.

Lewis & Hitchcock, located in Washington, D.C., and in business since 1915, also builds pipe organs. They completed the restorations and renovations on the CU pipe organ.


PHOTO: Pipe of the Casavant-brand pipe organ that was installed in the Alexander Fine Arts Center in 1969.

PHOTO: Mr. Jesse Ratcliffe points to the practice organ that was unused until recently.

NOTE TO EDITORS: Higher resolution photos are attached at the end of this page.

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Andrea Meador, a sophomore majoring in public relations wrote this news release. Her hometown is Ghent.