The King of Instruments Goes to Waste

May 10, 2012

Phelps Organ in Christ's ChapelWhen it comes to a waste of beauty, I can think of many examples. One would be the dismantlement and disappearance of the The Phelps Organ in Christ Chapel,

At the time it was installed in 1978, the organ was the largest mechanical action organ in the United States.  It was a massive instrument that thundered and whispered with power and beauty.

 

In 1998 after water and neglect had damaged the organ, there was a move to repair it and then:

Phelps Organ at Oral Roberts University

“On December 2, 1998, twelve years of silence ended as the organ sounded once again during chapel amidst cheers from the student body. (Mr.) Tracy Russell, the new organist, accompanied the singing of the hymn that morning: Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.

“I’m very thrilled to see it and hear it being used again,” Celestino said. “From the beginning,” when plans to make repairs were announced, “the reaction from the students has been very positive,” he said. In talking with students, he added, “some thought (the organ) was for visual benefit only, because they’d never heard it. It never dawned on them that it made music.” (Story Link)

Never dawned on them that it made music?  University, right?

Nine years later in 2007, pictures showed the organ hidden behind banners and a massive video projection screen. When I was there last February it was no where to be seen. Blue curtains and bland panels covered the space and the grand organ was said to have been dismantled, put into storage and put on sale.

ORU Chapel

 

Shame.

Such a stunning work both visually and acoustically traded in for what? Bands playing the song of the week.

The video below is a nice piece on a young man who discovered what an organ could offer and plays regularly at his church.