Saint Marys Chapel organ gets extreme makevoer

Jeff Daehn plays his portion of the concert in the chapel at Saint Marys Hospital on Thursday on the renewed 1932 Aeolin-Skinner organ.
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About 160 people turned out Thursday to celebrate the return of the Saint Marys Hospital Chapel pipe organ to its home of 82 years.

During the past six months, Ohio-based Schantz Organ Co. has examined and completely rebuilt every piece of the organ. Originally installed in December 1932, the instrument returned to the chapel in mid-June, restored to its former glory and with some added color.

"The opportunity presented itself to have it totally rebuilt, which means that everything went out — the works, the console, the pipes, everything went back to a shop in Ohio," Mayo Clinic carillonneur Jeff Daehn said.

In the process, Schantz made a few additions, carefully adhering to the style in which the organ was originally built and in one case concealing a new electronic panel in a hidden drawer.

"What we have is a little more color in the instrument, but carefully done in the style that the original builder intended," Daehn said.


The families of strings, flutes, reeds and principal chorus rang through the marble-walled chapel Thursday night as organist Andrew Galuska showed off the enhanced tonal palette of the organ and Daehn discussed the additions. The 1,481 pipes resonated with music played by Daehn, Galuska and Brian Williams as those in the audience, many wearing Mayo name tags, craned their necks to see the musicians and the golden pipes in the balcony.

"The renewal has been a work of art in and of itself," Mayo Clinic Heritage Days Chair Matthew Dacy said during the concert.

Sister Antoine Murphy described the rejuvenated organ's sound as "more beautiful, more majestic." Now 100, Murphy arrived in Rochester in 1938 and was among the first organists to play the instrument. The concert dedicated to her the final "Panis Angelicus" — a hymn she played on the organ many times.

A collaborative effort

During both the restoration process and in the original selection process, Mayo patients stepped in to lend their expertise.

The first was Emil Oberhoffer, founder of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, now the Minnesota Orchestra. When the hospital was first in search of an organ in 1932, Oberhoffer offered to help select one given his vast knowledge of music and instruments, Murphy said.

"This is representative of the finest organ building in the early 20th century of the United States." Daehn said. "They could have selected something a lot less expensive, but he advised them to get this company from Boston, which was Æolian & Skinner, and they were the premiere builder."

More than 80 years later, when searching for a company to do the restoration, another patient, James Hamman, offered his knowledge. Hamman is a retired professor of organ and past president of the Organ Historical Society.


"Teamwork has been a key principle in Mayo Clinic," Dacy said at the concert. "This organ is no exception."

The restoration was funded through the Mayo Clinic Department of Chaplain Services, Saint Mary's Campus Volunteers and the Rauenhorst Foundation.

"What we have here is a very fine piece of history preserved in a wonderful room," Daehn said, "and we're hopeful that not only will it serve worship purposes but the music purposes that would go beyond what we might have seen before."

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