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Music Department to Receive Pipe Organ from American Guild of Organists

Pogorzelski-Yankee Memorial OrganThe Department of Music at Indiana University of Pennsylvania will add a notable instrument this spring to its already vast keyboard collection. In May 2014, the department will make way amid its 93 Steinway pianos for the Pogorzelski-Yankee Memorial Organ, valued at $400,000.

The two-manual and pedal, 24-rank tracker pipe organ will come to IUP via a special renewable lease from the American Guild of Organists. The pipe organ is a bequest to the Guild from its original owners, Ronald G. Pogorzelski and Lester D. Yankee, formerly of Bucks County, Pa.

Three years ago, the Guild announced a request for competitive proposals to house the organ; and IUP’s proposal, written by IUP assistant professor of organ Christine Clewell, was selected. The organ will be installed in the large instrumental rehearsal room in Cogswell Hall, a room with the size and acoustical properties to provide an ideal setting for teaching and performance on the organ, according to Michael Hood, dean of the College of Fine Arts at IUP.

“We are thrilled with the great honor that the American Guild of Organists has bestowed upon the department and IUP, and I can guarantee you that its honor and trust will be fully matched by the care and the respect with which this marvelous instrument will be treated,” Hood said. “I am extremely grateful for Dr. Clewell’s perseverance, the quality of the winning proposal, and the clear quality she has maintained in our organ studio.”

According to AGO Executive Director James Thomashower, the Guild selected IUP because of its “thoroughly documented and passionate desire to have this instrument on campus and for its commitment to use the organ regularly for teaching and performance purposes exactly as Messrs. Pogorzelski and Yankee desired.” The proposal, he said, “made it abundantly clear to us that IUP’s organ students, faculty, and administration would treasure the opportunity to have this elegant organ at the school, and that it would be of immediate and lasting benefit not only to the academic community, but to the larger community around Indiana.”

In addition to moving and installing the Pogorzelski-Yankee Memorial Organ, the AGO will be responsible for its ongoing maintenance and will establish the Ronald G. Pogorzelski and Lester D. Yankee Annual Competition—a composition competition to encourage the creation of new music specifically for this instrument. Each year, the winning composition will be given its world premier performance in a gala recital at IUP by an internationally recognized organist.

The organ was built under commission in 1991 by Raymond J. Brunner & Co., with casework, gilded in 22-karat gold leaf, inspired by the early Pennsylvania German organs of David Tannenberg (1728–1804). Tannenberg was the most famous apprentice of Johann Gottlob Clemm, who established the rich, early 18th-century Pennsylvania organ building tradition. The IUP installation will also be completed by the original builder, Mr. Brunner.

Since at least 1881, at what was then Indiana Normal School, the organ program has relied on the benevolence of local churches that have offered their instruments for practice, teaching, and performance. Acquisition of the Pogorzelski-Yankee Memorial Organ will not change that relationship, Clewell said, but will build on the critical message that the organ and its great literature hold a viable artistic voice outside of the church.

The organ will serve as IUP’s premier performance instrument and will be used for solo organ performances as well as collaborative ensemble music written for strings, voice, woodwinds, brass, percussion, keyboard concerto, and choral accompaniments. Music students in all applied performance areas will benefit from having a high-quality organ available for accompanying both student and faculty recitals on campus. Plans also include establishing an alumni organ series.

“IUP will embrace a policy of hospitality with the instrument, using it as a tool for building community relations, where we will continue to encourage the study of organ to vanquish the ever-present problem of the ‘vanishing organist’,” Clewell said, addressing the shortage of organists in the rural, western Pennsylvania region and elsewhere throughout the U.S. She expects the new organ to result in more frequent, higher quality organ performances, which will increase interest in organ study.

“The new acquisition will materially raise the profile and expand the reputation of the IUP organ program and will serve as a promotional vehicle for organ study not only for prospective students, but also for those presently enrolled.”

American Guild of Organists logoThe American Guild of Organists is the national professional association serving the organ and choral music fields. Founded in 1896 as both an educational and service organization, it sets and maintains high musical standards and promotes the understanding and appreciation of all aspects of organ and choral music. The mission of the AGO is to enrich lives through organ and choral music. The Guild currently serves approximately 18,000 members in more than 300 local chapters throughout the United States and abroad. The American Organist Magazine, the official journal of the AGO and the Associated Pipe Organ Builders of America, reaches an audience of more than 20,000 each month.

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