Pipes & Dreams

Take a closer look at the University organ

Pipes & Dreams
Photography by Joanne Lee

Mission Santa Clara is a church of “reverberant sound, reverent atmosphere, and visual splendor,” says University Organist Jim Welch, a place of “acoustical theatre and spiritual transcendence.” The breath of a pipe organ has filled the church for 40 years. An electroturbine blower gives the organ wind. Electropneumatic action connects the oak console to the wind chest.

Robert Nyquist. Photography by Charles Barry

THE MAKERS The Schantz Organ Company—founded in 1873 by A. J. Tschantz (the “T” was later dropped) and still run by the founding family—built the organ at their factory in Orrville, Ohio. (The town is also home to jam-maker J.M. Smucker Co.) The Schantz team traveled with the organ to the Mission Church in May 1975 to finalize the last step of tonal regulation. 

Photography by Charles Barry

NYQUIST THE ACQUISITIONIST Roger Nyquist, associate professor of music at the time, designed the organ and guided its acquisition. He gave the dedication recital on Nov. 13, 1975. These days he plays internationally; he recently played at a recital in Philadelphia where Pope Francis was present. 

An organ has many more pipes than are visible. The wind chest and pipes are enclosed on the side and back, to project sound out the front more clearly.

Virginia Coletti. Provided by Virginia Coletti

TUNE IN Because tuning is a two-person job, pipe organ tech and tuner Roger Inkpen and an associate work on the organ every six months. It was hearing a pipe organ played at a local pizza parlor that first roused Inkpen’s fascination with the instrument—which has led to his musical and mechanical and nomadic career. 

PLAY ON Virginia Coletti has played the organ since it was first installed. She has played for more than 1,500 weddings (she stopped counting a few years ago) and was a music group leader for Campus Ministry for 36 years. One year she played for 96 weddings, including 12 weddings over two weekends. She has stories: from having to play for an extra hour when the bride went into emergency surgery 30 minutes before the wedding started … to witnessing a thieving impostor priest.

Each pipe organ is custom made with its home-to-be in mind. Oak was the wood chosen for ours—to match the chairs of the Mission Church.

STEINBECK SUITE To mark the 75th anniversary of The Grapes of Wrath in 2014, organist and lecturer Jim Welch performed “Steinbeck Suite for Organ” for SCU’s American Music Festival. 

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