Earlier this month, guest artist Isabelle Demers, the Joyce Bowden Chair in Organ at Baylor University, and a premier interpreter of organ repertoire performed on the newly installed Red Cedar Organ at the campus chapel.
“We are honored that Dr. Demers graciously agreed to be the guest artist for the inaugural performance on the Red Cedar Organ,” Jonathan Reed, MSU professor of music and associate director of choral programs, said in a statement.
Reed said he was first contacted about the organ in June 2014.
Dean of the College of Music James Forger first asked Reed to go over and evaluate the organ that was previously in the chapel, a 1952 organ built by a company in the Netherlands known as Pelz.
“It had fallen into disrepair over the years, and it was in really, really bad shape,” Reed said. “Not much of the organ worked at all. It was all badly out of tune, and it didn’t look like it could be repaired.”
MSU had been working on another project for Fairchild Auditorium with the people from Létourneau Organs in Canada and asked their people to assess the organ. They agreed with Reed, that the organ was beyond repair.
“We came up with a plan for a sort of a modest $400- to $500,000 instrument that was very basic and then we began to look for a donor,” Reed said. “We found donors in the person of Ed and Wanda Eichler. They looked at our plans and they thought, well, this isn't significant enough. We want a more significant organ in here. The people at Létourneau Organs came up with a different plan and everybody approved the plan, and then the rest is history.”
The eight-year process was mostly due to finding enough funding. Getting the funding and arriving at a plan took up to three years. Then, the team had to get through all of the scheduled weddings and events that were to be held at the chapel prior to the start of the organ process. The pandemic also halted production and slowed down the process.
It was the dean’s vision, however, that allowed for the university to be so lucky as to receive the organ into its chapel.
“It was the dean being involved,” Reed said. “It was me having an idea. It was the Eichlers having the ability to fund a project. We worked with just the right organ builder to create what we envisioned. And it just all came together. It wasn't without battles. Like I said, we had a couple of delays in scheduling and then we had COVID. But everybody persevered and I think that what resulted is really fantastic.”
The organ gets used a lot for weddings, funerals and memorial services. Those are all a regular part of what the chapel does.
What’s new about the chapel, however, is that The College of Music will oversee the scheduling of events from Sunday afternoon through Thursday by booking recitals and concerts.
A more comprehensive schedule of the available events will come out in the fall and spring.
After 20,000 hours of design, building, installation, and acoustic tuning, the organ has come to contain a large reed chorus and digital 32-foot pedal stops that promote a proper tone.
The pipes are up to 16 feet long and are meant to induce a palette of sounds that are just as versatile as the instrument itself.
“The leadership and generosity of Ed and Wanda Eichler can’t be overstated in making this all possible,” Forger said in a statement. “The Eichlers have done so much for MSU, and their incredible support for this beautiful new organ is yet another example of their leadership, vision and support to advance the musical arts.”
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