Cover Feature Loyola University of Chicago Madonna Della Strada Chapel Goulding & Wood Inc. Indianapolis, Indiana

The American Organist, December 2008 | Go to article overview

Cover Feature Loyola University of Chicago Madonna Della Strada Chapel Goulding & Wood Inc. Indianapolis, Indiana


From the Builder

Chicago is home to numerous extraordinary sacred spaces, many featuring notable instruments. Madonna della Strada Chapel on the Lakeshore campus of Loyola University of Chicago is widely recognized as one of the finest worship spaces in the area given the chapel's compelling Art Deco architecture, picturesque setting, and generous acoustical environment. The chapel occupies a significant position in the larger church, serving as the mother church of the Jesuit Province of Chicago, one of the order's largest provinces. Begun in the late 1930s, the chapel was to overlook Lakeshore Drive, which at the time was only in the early planning stages. Taking advantage of this position, the chapel architects, coordinated by Fr. James J. Mertz, SJ, designed an elaborate facade for the building that would be visible to passing motorists. Unfortunately, the Lakeshore Drive project ended up terminating the road at the southern border of the university campus, leaving the chapel a hidden treasure.

Over the past four years, the chapel has undergone an extensive renovation project, including installation of a new marble floor, creation of new liturgical furnishings, building a new immersion baptismal font, and enhancing the mechanical systems throughout the building. The new organ in the rear gallery, our firm's Opus 47, serves as the crowning piece of the project. The casework harmonizes with the Art Deco design of the room, incorporating significant visual thematic elements, and the ribbon-stripe mahogany woodwork matches other new liturgical furnishings in species and stain color. The polished tin facade imparts lightness to an appearance that might otherwise have felt too imposing in the room. Display pipes employ large over-length extensions, adding to the airiness and disguising the generous scales of the principal chorus. Despite the mass of the instrument - the depth is over twelve feet from the rear wall - the visual presence is elegant and nimble. Fulfilling the pragmatic needs of the instrument, an intricate and innovative skeletal system supports the considerable weight of the display pipes and columns and provides a framework for the apron paneling and buttressing. The center panel of the case's apron displays a carved Jesuit crest acknowledging the importance of the chapel to the order. The console carries the Art Deco design language forward with brackets and corbels employing a vertical cascading profile and a decorative music rack of burled and quarter-sawn walnut and ebony.

Musically, the organ takes many cues from French organs and organ repertoire while accepting as a foundation our understanding of sensitive liturgical design. As such, the instrument is not a historical copy of any nationalistic school of organbuilding, nor is it primarily focused on repertoire. The point of departure for the tonal design, as with all of our instruments in ecclesiastical settings, is the liturgy. We seek first and foremost to provide the musicians who use the instrument with the resources they need for lively and exciting leadership of hymns and other congregational song, accompaniment of choral literature, and compelling execution of organ works from a wide range of national and historical schools.

Within this context, the organ at Loyola University has something of a Gallic accent. Each manual division has a flute cornet to support Grands jeux ensembles, and the reed choruses supply generous power and energy. The plenums, on the other hand, are rich in fundamental and broad in scaling, following more closely the precedents of American Classic instruments. The Grand-Orgue 16' Montre is 261 mm at low C, while the 8' Montre is even larger at 163 mm at low C (the corresponding pipe in the 16' Montre being 155 mm). Mouth widths of the diapasons on the Grand-Orgue are two-ninths, allowing for higher upper lips, increased fundamental, and considerable warmth. For balance, the principal chorus of the Pédale uses the same scaling and voicing approach as the GrandOrgue. …

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