By Elaine Jacobs Smith
November 26, 2014
Appeared in the Fall-Winter 2014 issue of IUP Magazine.
Reading through the American Guild of Organists’ magazine in early 2010, Christine Clewell came across a call for proposals to house an organ the guild had received as a bequest, the Ronald G. Pogorzelski and Lester D. Yankee Pipe Organ.
Clewell acted swiftly. Ever since the organ program began at Indiana State Normal School under Mary Hays Dill in the 1880s, the school has relied on the generosity of local churches for access to organs for teaching and performance.
Christine Clewell instructed Nicholas Capone on the Pogorzelski-Yankee organ, leased to IUP by the American Guild of Organists. Photo by Keith Boyer
“There have been ongoing projects, between Carol Teti, my predecessor, and others who have gone before me, to get an organ on campus,” said Clewell, assistant professor of organ, who also completed her master’s studies at IUP under Teti in 1990.
Receiving support from her department chair, at that time Jack Stamp ’76, and her dean, Michael Hood, Clewell moved ahead with the proposal. She worked with Engineering and Construction to see if the Large Instrumental Rehearsal Hall, now Daniel DiCicco Hall, in Cogswell would be suitable to house the organ. She also relied on Charles Cashdollar ’65, professor emeritus of history and chair of the Teti Memorial Organ Scholarship Committee, for a history of the school’s organ program.
Clewell wrote in depth about the school’s great need for the organ—for lessons, as a symbol of the organ program, and perhaps most important, to establish the idea that organ music belongs in a university, not just in the church. “That message had to be taken to its full breadth and depth,” she said.
After incorporating feedback from many colleagues and mentors, Clewell shipped off her proposal to the organ guild by the April 30 deadline. And she waited.
In April 2013, almost three years to the day of the proposal deadline, James Thomashower, AGO executive director, called Clewell to see if a match could be made.
Again, Clewell received immediate approval from her dean, this time to bring the organ builder, Raymond Brunner, to campus. Brunner’s determination that the room would work well set in motion what Clewell described as “a journey of many voices and lots of cheerleading and support” to bring the organ to campus. “And the guild was right there with us.”
Brunner’s organ shop, R. J. Brunner & Co., of Lancaster County, custom built the organ from 1988 to 1990 at the request of Pogorzelski, an accomplished organist, for the home he and Yankee shared in Bucks County. Valued at $400,000, the organ is a true composite. Its casework, gilded in 22-karat gold leaf, is inspired by the 18th century Pennsylvania German organs of David Tannenberg; its pedalboard is reminiscent of the small organs of 19th century French builder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll.
“There’s no other organ like it,” Clewell said. “It’s as original as a Mona Lisa.”
Installation of the organ in Cogswell Hall, which Brunner completed in May and June of this year with assistance from many campus and community volunteers, is captured in a time-lapse video, produced by the Communications Media Department.
Time-lapsed video of the organ installation in Cogswell Hall, produced by the Communications Media Department.
As part of the lease agreement, the organ guild covers the costs of moving, installation, tuning, and ongoing maintenance. The guild also will establish an annual competition of new music composed specifically for the Pogorzelski-Yankee organ, with the winning piece premiered at IUP.
Organist Alan Morrison, whom the Music Department invited to give the inaugural recital on the organ in September, “exhausted the possibilities on the instrument,” Clewell said. But she cautions listeners not to expect a “loud, bombastic” sound from the Pogorzelski-Yankee organ.
“It’s a classy, elegant house organ that has a keyboard action that can preserve the true art of organ-playing skill,” she said. “It’s not intended to be a big, loud organ.” While the organ wouldn’t work in Fisher or even Gorell, “it’s perfect for Daniel DiCicco Hall.”
In celebration of the instrument’s arrival, the Music Department commissioned a new composition specifically for the Pogorzelski-Yankee organ through composer Daniel Locklair. The piece, for woodwind quartet and organ, will premiere in fall 2015, thanks in large part to a lead gift from Jack Reefer ’69, in memory of Donald Clapper ’50, longtime organist at Pine Street Presbyterian Church in Harrisburg.
At Clewell’s request, the piece will be secular. “It speaks to the point that organ music doesn’t just belong in the churches,” she said. “It really has a viable artistic voice in university curricula.”
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