By Julianne Zala
On Oct. 25 and 26, Alan Morrison performed two recitals on the newly restored Klais organ in Gray Chapel. To commemorate the event, alumni and members of the Keller and Blanchard families appeared to hear the performances.
The Klais organ arrived to OWU in 1980; the organ had not received any restoration since, until a fundraising effort to improve and restore the organ began in September of last year.
The new renovations to the organ included a thorough cleaning of the entire organ, which involved the removal of all the original 4,522 pipes and windchests and the installation of an additional 122 pipes.
In addition, workers repaired any defects with the organ. The slider seals, which function to prevent the organ leaking wind when it exits from the windchests, were also replaced.
Once the cleaning process was finished, the 400-500 pound pipes were placed into the organ stop by stop. The term stop refers to the admittance of pressurized air into a set of organ pipes. Organ voicers made sure each stop spoke correctly at the proper volume, while other stops were made louder or softer, and others were completely revoiced.
Robert Griffith, an organ teacher at OWU, said there were, “five people who upfront gave seed money to get the project underway.”
“Most people were alums and former students,” said Griffith, who studied under Rexford Keller.
Most importantly, the new division of an additional 122 pipes, called the Blanchard Memorial Bombarde division, was added to the organ. The division is named after Dr. and Mrs. Homer D. Blanchard, who were both in the class of 1933.
Dr. Homer Blanchard began studying the pipe organ at the age of 13. Blanchard became a major proponent to acquire the Klais organ in Gray Chapel during his time teaching German at OWU in 1963.
After his death in 1988, his wife Gwen Blanchard established the Homer D. Blanchard Memorial Organ Recital Series Fund, which provides an opportunity for future performances on the organ. The family and friends of Dr. Homer and Gwen added the division, which includes two trumpet stops that will add a new voice to the organ.
University President Rock Jones opened the concert with a speech, detailing the history of the organ. He also recognized the family members of the Keller and the Blanchard families who attended the concert.
He then introduced the performer Alan Morrison, who has played the organ since he was a senior in high school, and is currently known as one of America’s premier concert organists.
Morrison graduated from The Curtis Institute of Music and The Julliard School of Music. He has played internationally in Canada, Europe and South America. He has been chosen to perform at four national conventions of the American Guild of Organists.
Morrison began the program with “Phoenix Processional” by American composer Dan Locklair. He followed with “Concerto in A Minor, BWV 593” by Johann Sebastian Bach, a piece that Bach transcribed after Vivaldi’s piece for the organ.
This was followed by “Ciaconna in B-flat Major” by Johann Bernhard Bach, which Morrison said to the audience was, “something [Bach] would have improvised while inspecting organs.” The piece also featured individual voices of the organ, while the previous two-piece served as ensembles.
Morrison then performed “Andante Sostenuto” by Charles Marie Widor, a French composer who composed the piece specifically for the Christmas season. The composition featured the strings and flutes of the organ. This was followed by “Scherzo, opus 2” by Maurice Durufle. Morrison described the piece as “a game of chase” that features the “lush strings and beautiful flutes of the organ.”
After intermission, Morrison performed “Five Dances” by Calvin Hampton, an American composer. Morrison said to the audience that the piece “works beautifully on this organ.” Morrison finished with “Variations on Sine Nomine” by John Weaver, an American Composer.
Morrison described to the audience that this piece was a “romp” of the tunes “The Saints Come Marching In” and “From all the Saints.”
Morrison closed the concert by recognizing those involved with renovating the organ. He described the process as, “such an overwhelming task” and “very labor intensive, a labor of love.”
Morrison said that the Klais organ, “has a lot of character,” and described it as “one of the best.”