Magazine article The American Organist

Westminster Presbyterian Church Minneapolis, Minnesota Dobson Pipe Organ Builders Inc

Magazine article The American Organist

Westminster Presbyterian Church Minneapolis, Minnesota Dobson Pipe Organ Builders Inc

Article excerpt

From the Musician

Westminster Presbyterian Church, in celebration of its 150 years of ministry in downtown Minneapolis, undertook a campaign to address a number of capital needs in both facilities and programs of the church. One area of focus was a series of enhancements to the chapel, Westminster's most frequently used worship space.

A chapel organ committee, formed at the behest of Dr. Timothy Hart- Andersen, Westminster's pastor and head of staff, held its first meeting in October 2005. David Engen served as consultant; Gerald B. Fischer chaired the group. The committee readily determined that the best route forward was to replace our ailing organ with a new instrument. Recognizing that a pipe organ is a legacy for both present and future generations, the committee established the criteria for a new organ. Of highest priority was identifying a builder who could create an instrument of exceptional tonal beauty whose appearance would enhance the architecture and aesthetics of the chapel. The specification needed to offer artistic versatility, and the structural design needed to be space efficient. The committee sought a partner who would understand Westminster's values and who could deliver a mechanically sound organ of the highest workmanship and materials.

Dobson Pipe Organ Builders was unanimously chosen. A contract was signed in November 2006, and on a sub-zero day in March 2008 the new organ was delivered. A group of hearty, mittened volunteers carried the instrument into its new home. Installation and tonal finishing were completed in mid-May. Each step of the process affirmed the Tightness of selecting Dobson Pipe Organ Builders. The personal integrity of the entire Dobson crew, their pride of craftsmanship, and their high levels of skill and commitment to our organ made this a project of joy in its unfolding.

We are now midway through our inaugural concert series, which is celebrating the organ in solo performance, as choral accompaniment to adult and youth choirs, in community collaboration, as leader of congregational song, and as ensemble instrument. We are delighted each and every Sunday by the transformation that has occurred in worship with the presence and sounds of our new organ. I am reinvigorated to practice and can't find enough hours in the day to spend with Opus 86. This is an organ of and for the people. It is visually and spatially accessible to all. It did not result from the gift of a single donor but from the countless gifts of Westminster members. They valued the potential of a fine organ, and Opus 86 has not disappointed. Coupled with the human spirit, it will give, and it will lead, and it will praise both now and for generations to come.

MELANTE OHNSTAD

Minister of Music and the Arts/Organist

From the Builder

A chapel in many vibrant Christian churches is the setting for worship experiences with significantly varying themes. The gamut ranges from weddings with their frequently grand and celebratory music to funerals and memorial services, which, too, are celebratory but often in a quieter, more reflective way. Though these are the same requirements of an organ in the main sanctuary, space and dollars are frequently at a premium in chapel organ projects. These situations call for an organbuilder's ingenuity in every realm, be it musical, technical, architectural, or financial.

Upon construction of its chapel in 1937, Westminster Presbyterian Church received as a gift Opus 717 of the Skinner Organ Company, built in 1928 for the Minneapolis residence of F.M. Crosby. M.P. Möller made tonal and mechanical changes following a 1960s fire that severely damaged the east organ chamber. From the beginning, maintenance of the organ was problematic, as the instrument did not fit comfortably within the chancel chambers provided at Westminster. Furthermore, the console was situated under the west chamber, preventing proper assessment by the organist of balances within the instrument or, indeed, the organ's relationship to congregants or other musicians. …

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