The organ in the University Church has brought a distinctly French baroque sound to the center of spiritual life at
Rose Hill for more than 130 years.
Today, however, the University’s liturgical needs require more flexibility, said Robert Minotti, the director of music at Fordham.
To accommodate those needs, the Office of University Mission and Ministry will unveil a new custom-made organ in October that will be capable of covering a much wider array of compositions.
The $2 million project is being funded through the generosity of Stephen E. Bepler, FCRH ’64; his wife, Kim B. Bepler; the late George Doty, FCRH ’38; Joelle and Brian Kelly, LAW '95; and John C. Walton, FCRH '72 and Jeanette D. Walton, TMC '71, GSAS '73.
“The choral program and liturgies here have really developed over the past 20 years, so we’re looking for an instrument that enhances and strengthens our liturgical celebrations,” Minotti said.
The organ, which is being built by Schoenstein & Co. in San Francisco, will be tested this spring at the factory before arriving at Rose Hill. The University Church will close in June as the old organ is dismantled and removed. The new one will be brought in, pipe by pipe, in August and laid out on top of the pews, like so many puzzle pieces.
It will replace the church’s Roosevelt Tracker organ that was built in 1879. That organ was expanded and converted to an electro-pneumatic instrument in 1929 and restored by the Lehigh Organ Company in 1979.
“The present organ was built to emulate an organ you would find during the Baroque era in France, so it lacks a lot of what we call color stops,” Minotti said. “It doesn’t have a lot of foundational stops to support congregational singing, so it doesn’t have the variety of sounds that are expected today in liturgical celebrations, which often go from Baroque music to contemporary music to supporting hymns.”
Monsignor Joseph G. Quinn, vice president for University mission and ministry, said he is looking forward to hosting showcase concerts and enhanced liturgies that will make use of the new organ’s capabilities.
“Thanks to the selfless generosity of some very special friends of Fordham, next summer will witness the installation of a world-class organ in our University Church. It signals for Fordham the start of a new era of lifting hearts and voices in praise of God,” Monsignor Quinn said.
Last semester, the church was the site of 10 major University events, including a welcome Mass for the Class of 2015, a remembrance on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and a tribute to leaders of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.
“For the Ukrainian Catholic festival, we had 110 voices from Connecticut, New Jersey and New York alone, here in song. So to have this magnificent new organ will only enhance and uplift such gatherings,” he said.
In addition to a greater range, the organ will be equipped with technology that fosters better coordination between it and the smaller organ at the front of the church.
“If there’s a wedding where the bride would like both piano music and organ music, it’s easy to go back and forth,” Minotti said. “Or if the choir is doing a concert up front, the keyboard is right there.”
To achieve its full array of sounds, the new organ will occupy more space on the wall of the church, with pipes that play the eight lowest notes taking up as much as two feet each in diameter.
Minotti said that the New Holland Church Group, which is building the casework, will make it look as if the organ has been there for a long time.
“It’s going to look old even though it’s new. It’ll be shiny, but the wainscot will match,” he said. “It will look like it belongs there, not like a modern piece.”