INAUGURAL CONCERT HELD FOR RESTORED LAKE ERIE COLLEGE HISTORIC PIPE ORGAN
- FEATURED ORGANIST WAS TODD WILSON OF SEVERANCE HALL
(PAINESVILLE, OHIO) – For the first time in over ten years, Lake Erie College was roused with the sounds of organ music as the historic Skinner Organ played its inaugural concert since its recent and long-overdue renovation. The inaugural concert took place on Saturday, October 7, 2006 at 4 p.m. in Morley Music Hall on the campus of Lake Erie College. The concert featured Todd Wilson, head of the Organ Department at The Cleveland Institute of Music and Organ Curator of the recently restored E.M. Skinner Organ at Severance Hall, home of the Cleveland Orchestra.
“As both an alumnus of Lake Erie College and a faculty member, I am very excited by the return of the Skinner to our music program,” said Paul Gothard III, professor of music. “The instrument can now carry forward the legacy and traditions of the past, and also create new ones for future generations.”
The restoration of the organ and much of Morley Music Hall itself, were made possible from donations by local foundations, businesses, alumni and friends of the College. In addition to the complete restoration of the Skinner Organ, Morley Music Hall also received a new roof, new carpet, interior painting, renovation of the stage area and a complete overhaul of the chamber room where the pipes are housed. The total project cost was $1.1 million, including the organ restoration, upgrades to the building, establishment of an endowment for ongoing organ maintenance and ongoing restoration of the building’s mahogany pews.
The Morley Music Preservation Committee formed in 2003 and consisted of 18 alumni and friends of the College. One alumna who helped to spearhead the funding of the restoration was Carol Lewis Morris ’67. Morris’ gift made a significant impact to the funding efforts and the College is pleased to dedicate the organ in her name as the “Carol Lewis Morris '67 Restored Skinner Organ”.
Founded in 1856, Lake Erie College is a dynamic and progressive institution of higher education. The College offers 26 undergraduate majors, including new programs in sports management, forensic psychology and therapeutic horsemanship, as well as master’s degrees in business administration and education. This coeducational college, grounded in the liberal arts, enrolls just over 1,000 students of all ages and is nationally recognized for its equine studies programs and international learning opportunities for students.
For more information on the concert or the restoration process, visit the college website at www.lec.edu/skinner or call 440-375-7030.
About the Organ and Morley Music Hall
The Helen Rockwell Morley Hall Building was built to house Opus 647. The Morley Music Hall and Skinner Organ were made possible by a gift from Charles Morley in honor of his mother. Helen Rockwell Morley was a graduate of the Willoughby Seminary and is the daughter of one of Lake Erie College’s founders. The building was designed by Abram Garfield, son of President James A. Garfield. It is of classic Greek design in Bedford limestone. The building has Corinthian pillars at the Mentor Avenue entrance, and wreaths of bas relief around the top commemorating the names of great musicians. Its 812-seat auditorium has a stage large enough for a 90-member choir. The auditorium and its pews are of Philippine mahogany.
The organ (Opus 647) in the Morley Music Hall was hand-built by Ernest M. Skinner. In its original configuration, it consisted of Great Swell, Choir, Solo, Echo and Pedal divisions with 63 ranks, 55 stops and 4,226 pipes. With the exception of the Skinner Organ in Cleveland Public Hall, it was at that time the largest Skinner Organ in Ohio.
From 1927 through the mid-1980’s, prominent organists, such as Russell Gee, Edwin Arthur Kraft, Jock Darling and David Gooding were artists in residence. Christmas Vespers and organ recitals drew full house audiences. Guests were exhilarated by the distinguished sound of the Skinner at Founder’s Day, Baccalaureate, Commencement and many festive community events.
The Skinner was in need of service in the early 1970’s. Influenced by the organ reform movement that spread across the United States in the 1960’s, it was decided that the Skinner was out of fashion and needed to be “modernized”. This modernization resulted in the loss of the original console and many of the original pipes. The Skinner, showing the wear of time and in need of repair, was last played in 1995. The Morley Music Hall’s building was renovated in 1991 and opened for special events. Its mahogany pews are also showing 77 years of wear and tear and need to be refinished.
Most have been entirely discarded and replaced as they went out of fashion during the “Organ Reform Movement” which hit the United States in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Lake Erie College is somewhat fortunate, in that nearly all of the “chassis” (blower, ductwork, chests) of Opus 647 remains as Skinner built and installed it. Although today only some of the original pipe work remains, those pipes that do exist are the most costly and important ones, namely, all of the 32’ and 16’ pipes, along with many of the 8’ ranks. Had these been lost, they would have been the most difficult and costly to replace. Opus 647 is worthy of being restored since it is a rare example of a Skinner organ that is found in an academic setting, and that is relatively intact. Furthermore, the College has replaced the missing pipe work with original Skinner pipes from other sources.