MSUToday
Published: June 5, 2017

Gift supports new pipe organ at Alumni Chapel

Contact(s): Michael Sundermann College of Music office: (517) 353-2043 sunderm1@msu.edu

Dick Northrup loved organ music. He also loved Michigan State University. Before he passed away in early 2017, the tenacious fundraiser worked diligently with the College of Music to garner support for replacing the original pipe organ in the MSU Alumni Memorial Chapel.

Wanda and Ed Eichler heard of the college’s effort. As lovers of pipe organ music themselves, they made a leadership gift that will enable the installation of a new organ in the ivy-covered chapel. 

“Within days of hearing about it, Ed stopped by campus to take a look at the chapel and the existing organ," says Wanda. "We knew immediately that this was something we could get behind and contribute to making this a spectacular space."

The Eichlers’ vision aligns with the college’s: to design and install a new world-class organ that is versatile and can be used in the performance of a wide-range of music for weddings, funerals and concerts.

“We saw this as an opportunity to enrich the choral music program and performance of sacred repertoire at MSU, as well as to create a location for interfaith weddings and events,” says Wanda. “The style of the chapel and renovations go beyond denomination to speak to people of all cultures and beliefs, which is in line with the mission of a public learning institution like MSU.”

Among the on-campus champions for the new organ and renovated chapel is Jonathan Reed, professor of music and associate director of choral programs. Reed concurs that the chapel’s original pipe organ, a one-of-a-kind Pels from Holland, is no longer functional, and suffers from progressive warping to some of the 1,332 pipes.

Reed also agrees that the chapel holds enormous potential as a venue for recitals, chamber concerts and performance of choral and brass works, and that a new organ would bring it up to a standard of excellence. The new organ, too, will provide learning opportunities for piano majors interested in expanding their range of skills to include sacred music and proficiency on the organ.

“For years, the Chapel has been used almost exclusively for weddings,” says Reed. “That means the space lies dormant most weeks, particularly in the winter when there aren’t as many weddings. The gift of a new organ will go a long way toward revitalizing a ‘sacred space' on this campus, and make it more useable for a variety of campus and community occasions.”

Plans for the chapel organ are currently underway with Létourneau Pipe Organs — an international leader in pipe organ design, construction, restoration and tonal finishing for more than 35 years.

“We're looking forward to going to Létourneau in Canada to see the workshop where the new organ will be built,” says Wanda. “That’s one of the most exciting things about a beautiful instrument like this. So many people will be involved it — from woodworkers to electricians to musicians. It's simply an amazing process.”

The new organ will cost approximately $980,000 — including construction, transportation and other costs associated with the creation and installation of a new organ. The college continues to raise funds to support the project and build endowment to provide funding to maintain the instrument after installation.

Learn more about the MSU Alumni Chapel Renovation Project, make a gift online or contact the College of Music Development Office at (517) 353-9872.

Reprinted with permission from the College of Music

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