Thursday, October 24, 2013

Rebuilt Rexford Keller Organ

UPDATE: You are invited to join Ohio Wesleyan as we “make a joyful noise” Oct. 25 and Oct. 26 to celebrate the Rexford Keller Memorial Organ!

DELAWARE, Ohio – Let the trumpets sound! Or, in this case, let the “trumpet stops” sound, adding a new richness to the voice of Ohio Wesleyan University’s 4,644-pipe Rexford Keller Memorial Organ.

Alan Morrison

Alan Morrison

Concert organist Alan Morrison will perform on the newly refurbished and expanded pipe organ in free concerts Oct. 25 and Oct. 26 in Gray Chapel inside University Hall, 61 S. Sandusky St., Delaware. Morrison will perform at 7:30 p.m. both nights, with each event featuring a different program. The public is invited to attend one or both concerts.

Ohio Wesleyan’s 33-year-old pipe organ is one of 12 instruments in the United States built by Johannes Klais Orgelbau, and it is the largest of these with mechanical-action. It underwent a five-month, donor-funded cleaning and restoration earlier this year. The $525,000 project included adding the “Blanchard Memorial Bombarde Division,” honoring the memories of Homer D. and Gwendolyn S. Blanchard, both 1933 Ohio Wesleyan graduates.

The 122 pipes in the new division comprise two trumpet stops of 16-foot and 8-foot pitch with hooded resonators. These trumpets “aim” their sound into Gray Chapel, “generating a tonal excitement heretofore unknown from this great instrument,” said emeritus professor of music Robert Griffith, who continues to teach organ lessons at the university.

During the restoration work, nearly every pipe in the organ was removed by a crew of Klais experts from Bonn, Germany. Following the cleaning, the pipes – old and new – were placed back into the organ stop-by-stop. The voicing was done by Klais expert Andreas Brehm, who worked to ensure that each stop is “speaking” correctly and at the proper volume for its historic Ohio Wesleyan home.

Griffith said Morrison was invited to perform back-to-back concerts to debut the refurbished organ because he is recognized as one of America’s premier concert organists, performing in prestigious venues across the United States and in Canada, as well as in international festivals. As a recording artist, Morrison has recorded 10 critically acclaimed CDs, with critics stating: “Alan Morrison knows something about igniting audience passions. Without hesitation and throughout, Morrison’s playing is consummate and dazzling.”

Morrison is the head of the organ departments at both The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton, N.J. He also is the college organist at Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pa. He is a graduate of The Curtis Institute of Music and The Juilliard School of Music. Learn more at

The upcoming concerts are sponsored by the Homer D. Blanchard Memorial Organ Recital Series Fund, established by gifts from family and friends to honor his memory. Before Blanchard, Ph.D., returned to his alma mater to teach German, he had owned and managed H.D. Blanchard Pipe Organs, a pipe organ service, repair, and building business in Oberlin, Ohio. He was a major force behind the acquisition and design of the Klais organ in Gray Chapel.

The Rexford Keller Memorial Organ is named in memory of Keller, who taught organ, music theory, and directed OWU’s internationally renowned A Cappella Choir from 1934 to 1969. Keller also served as chairman of the Department of Music for 33 years.

Learn more about Ohio Wesleyan’s Department of Music at
Learn more about contributing to the University at

Founded in 1842, Ohio Wesleyan University is one of the nation’s premier small, private universities. Ohio Wesleyan offers more than 90 undergraduate majors, sequences, and courses of study, and 23 NCAA Division III varsity sports. OWU combines an internationally focused curriculum with off-campus learning and leadership opportunities that connect classroom theory with real-world practice. Located in Delaware, Ohio, OWU’s 1,850 students represent 41 states and 45 countries. The university is featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives,” listed on the 2013 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction, and included on the “best colleges” lists of U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review. Learn more at

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