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ISSUE 120 VOL 12 PUBLISHED 2/23/2007

Boe unveiled

By Emelie Heltsley
News Editor

Friday, February 23, 2007

After months of preparing, waiting, tuning, voicing and remodeling, Boe Chapel and the new Holtcamp organ will finally be featured this weekend in celebratory events aimed at showing members of the St. Olaf community and other visiting guests what the renovated space is capable of doing. While the chapel is not fully finished, the space is completed to the point where, as Elliot and Klara Stockdal Johnson Professor of Organ Music John Ferguson said, “It is appropriate to pause and celebrate.”

Those who have not seen Boe Chapel since its remodeling are in for a big surprise, according to Ferguson and College Pastor Bruce Benson. “It’s quite stunning, isn’t it?” Benson said about the new interior of Boe, which includes a new floor, new pews and hymnbooks, fresh paint, a completely renovated chancel area and the new organ.

In Saturday’s service, Ferguson, the St. Olaf Cantorei and a small brass ensemble will lead a hymn-sing involving those in the congregation. “This type of service is a much neater way to [dedicate the organ],” Ferguson said. Pieces performed by the musicians will show off the organ and the acoustical space, as well as exemplify how the renovations can help include the congregation in worship.

Benson and Ferguson both stressed the nature of Boe as an aid to worship, not an object to worship. “The new Boe isn’t everything, but that’s not saying it is nothing,” Benson said, explaining how each new improvement can help involve the congregation in worship. “When it comes to worship, a building is never more than a servant. We all know that there are good servants and not-so-good servants, and the new Boe is a very good servant,” he said.

Financial concerns have been raised at many points during the past year, but Benson said that, on a college campus, the question of appropriate use of funds should never go away. “I don’t want them to stop asking this question of St. Olaf, of themselves or of their country,” he said of members of the St. Olaf community.

Ferguson said that the renovations to the Chapel have all been done in good taste, with the college’s financial resources in mind. “Thanks to Pete Sandberg and Steve Edwins, an amazing amount of work has been done with great economic care,” he said. “I don’t think money has been spent profligately.” Members of the community can appreciate the beauty around them, such as the intricate woodwork, bright paint and improved acoustics.

The new Holtcamp organ, consisting of 4,105 pipes, will not be completed for some time, as a second, smaller back organ still needs to be built. The back organ, which is tentatively set to be installed in August and voiced in the fall, will make the whole instrument richer and fuller, according to Ferguson. “The back organ will have the ability to embrace you from behind, and say, ‘settle back – sing with me,’” he said.

Students, staff and faculty may have heard single notes played for extended periods of time during the last few weeks. This process is not tuning (which can be completed in two to three days), but tonal regulation. The process allows the “voicers,” or the technicians who make each pipe produce the appropriate tambour to give the organ its overall voice, and to set the relationships between the various pipes to produce a warm, rich ensemble sound.

“They are like the voice teachers for the organ,” Ferguson said.

The organ comes as a welcome relief for Ferguson, Professor of Music Catherine Rodland ‘87 and students of church and organ music. “It’s so wonderful to play pipes again,” Rodland said, remembering the electric organ that had been in Boe since early last year.

She also noted the benefits to organ students. “They love it,” she said. “It was exciting for them to see the building process.”

Rachel Foster ‘09, an organ student, agrees. “I’ve never been able to play on an organ with such a variety of tambours before, and I think working with the new organ will help me develop a discerning ear,” she said. Like Rodland, Foster also expressed relief at playing an organ with real pipes, not an electric instrument.

Ferguson also mentioned the organ’s color and tambour. “This instrument can provide a much richer and more subtle palate of musical sounds to support each person as worshipper,” he said.

For Ferguson and many others, the organ is a dream come true. While certain aspects of the project frustrate him – having to approach all pieces as if he has never played them before, for example – finally playing a new and improved instrument hits a personal note. “I have my voice back,” he said.

All members of the St. Olaf community are invited to join the weekend’s celebrations. Saturday evening features a hymn-sing at 7 p.m. in Boe, featuring the St. Olaf Cantorei. The organ will be used for Sunday morning worship at 10:30 a.m. in Boe, and Rodland will give an organ recital Sunday at 3:30 p.m.

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