Concert Jan. 23 to mark Graham Chapel organ dedication

Over the past several years, Graham Chapel — one of the oldest and most beloved buildings on campus — has undergone a series of much-needed renovations, from cleaning and lighting upgrades to a new HVAC system.

Most recently, a major restoration of the chapel’s organ was funded by the Roland Quest Memorial Trust. Conducted by Quimby Pipe Organs of Warrensburg, Mo., the restoration included considerable internal and external repair as well as replacement of 10 ranks of reeds. In addition, the organ is now equipped with a four-manual console.

“The new organ console is a true work of art, created by master craftsman Robert Turner of California,” noted William Partridge Jr., University organist. “The console, with its state-of-the-art equipment, will inspire organists and control a superior musical instrument for many generations.”

At 4 p.m. Jan. 23, WUSTL will celebrate the chapel’s renovation with a free concert by internationally renowned organist James Kibbie. The event also will mark the organ’s rededication as the Roland Quest Organ.

The program will open with three works by Johann Sebastian Bach: Prelude and Fugue in E Major, BWV 566; Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr, BWV 662; and the monumental Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor.

The program will continue with Chorale in E Major by César Franck and will conclude with three movements from the Sixth Organ Symphony of Charles-Marie Widor.

Kibbie, professor of organ at the University of Michigan, has performed throughout North America and Europe, including the complete works of Bach in a series of 18 recitals. His recordings include Bach’s organ cycle Clavierübung III, and he is the only American to win the International Organ Competition of the Prague Spring Festival.

The Graham Chapel organ has undergone a number of renovations and restorations since the building’s dedication in 1909. The first organ, built by the Kilgen Organ Company of St. Louis, was replaced in 1936 with an organ from the Hammond Organ Company of Chicago.

In 1948, a new organ from the M.P. Möller Co. of Hagerstown, Md., was installed thanks to a bequest from Avis H. Blewett. (Another Blewett bequest established the Department of Music in Arts & Sciences, which soon thereafter developed a nationally renowned graduate program in organ performance studies directed by Howard Kelsey.)

In 1986, a major refurbishment by Petty-Madden Organbuilders of Hopewell, N.J., added a new console while retaining string and flute ranks and the organ case.

Roland Quest graduated from Washington University in 1937 with a bachelor’s degree in physics. In the 1940s, he joined McDonnell Aircraft Co. as an aeronautical engineer and his technical concepts for optimizing space vehicle design later were adopted by NASA for the space shuttle. (He later received an award from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.)

Quest also founded the Quest Marine Co., and as chief executive officer he developed innovative designs for pleasure boating on inland waters.

Quest believed that a world-class university must balance academic and spiritual inquiry, and that Graham Chapel was essential to that balance at Washington University. Since his death in 1993, the Roland Quest Memorial Trust, managed by his friend Phyllis Tirmenstein, has made several commitments to Graham, including the Roland Quest Memorial Challenge, which matched all gifts to the chapel, up to $500,000, from 1999-2001.

The University community came through, raising more than $620,000, including numerous special gifts from chairs of the Alumni Board of Governors. The Roland Quest Memorial Trust provided additional funds to restore the organ.

A separate gift of $2 million from the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Foundation also provided support to the renovations.

For more information, call 935-4841.