Dedication of Rebuilt Organ Launches New Music Era at Duquesne Chapel

A special, invitation-only dedication Mass and recital on June 28 marked the beginning of a new musical era in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit.

After several months of work, the first-of-its-kind rebuilt organ and a redesigned choir loft were at the center of the dedication events, which began with a Mass con-celebrated by the Rev. Dan Walsh, C.S.Sp., director of Spiritan Campus Ministry, and the Rev. William Christy, C.S.Sp., campus minister.

More than 150 people were in attendance at the Mass, which included a special blessing of the new organ. Dr. Ann Labounsky, professor and chair of organ and sacred music in the Mary Pappert School of Music, played the organ during Mass and was accompanied by a choir and a brass quartet that included Dr. Ed Kocher, former dean of music and the William Patrick Power, C.S.Sp., Endowed Chair in Academic Leadership.

A special dedication recital immediately followed the Mass, featuring Labounsky on the new organ and Sister Marie Agatha Ozah, H.H.C.J., who accompanied her as a soloist. Labounsky’s program included pieces by composers Charles Tournemire, Johann Sebastian Bach, Jean Langlais, César Franck and Joseph Wilcox Jenkins, a theory and composition professor who taught in the music school for more than 40 years.

Originally installed in Duquesne’s chapel in 1896, the organ would receive various updates over the next 11 decades as needed. But by 2012, serious problems began to plague the organ, including numerous leaks in the bellows and wind chests.

Dan Jaeckel of the Jaeckel Organ Company in Duluth, Minn., was the builder of Duquesne’s new organ. Labounsky had played one of his instruments in the past and, being familiar with his expert craftsmanship and artistry, specifically approached the company and Jaeckel for the organ project.

According to Jaeckel, there is no other such type of instrument in the country like the new Duquesne University organ. In keeping with the French heritage of the University and the music school’s organ department, Jaeckel sought to implement the aesthetics of renowned French organ builder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll of the 1800s as well as French composer and organist Charles Tournemire.

The builders sought to capture the rich singing quality of the foundation and flute stops coupled with the power of the reeds, while keeping five of the stops from the original organ. Of the two sets of pedal boards, one is similar in style to that of the former organ and one features a flat pedal board commonly used in Europe.

“It will be more flexible and functional, with 19 stops growing to 30,” said Labounsky. “This is not to make the organ louder, but to make it more colorful, more subtle. A whole new chapter is starting.”

A gift in 2014 from the Donald and Therese Hastings family provided Duquesne University with the funds needed for a new organ. Additional funding was provided by the Estate of Alexander Stephen Labounsky (Ann’s late brother) for the acquisition of the organ, and the Rita M. McGinley Foundation provided funds for the renovation of the chapel’s choir loft (where the organ is located).