Maintaining a strong and vigorous religious life on campus remains important to the St. Olaf community. Such a life enables the practice of what J.S. Bach described as “well-regulated church music” — music of theological and artistic integrity offered to God and as a pastoral act for the benefit of the community.
In the worship life of the college, the organ is an important servant, used in collaboration with St. Olaf’s extensive music program and as a recital and teaching instrument. The organ also invites participation, from choral ensembles, orchestras and bands, and the congregation.
The chapel’s Holtkamp organ incorporates approximately one-half of the pipe work from the former Schlicker organ, originally installed in 1960, which had sustained water damage that jeopardized the longterm reliability of the instrument. Installed in 2006, the main organ in the front includes four manual divisions playable from a three-manual, English-style drawknob console and has 70 ranks totaling 4,105 pipes. Visually the organ is designed to complement and frame the central window, and its base serves as a hard, reflective “shell” for the choir area directly below. With 15 ranks and 963 pipes, the gallery organ retains the existing central cases framing the window and incorporates the console (built in 1990). Thus St. Olaf has a double organ, a large instrument in the front and smaller instrument in the back. The entire instrument can be played from either console. This arrangement enables the flexible placement of choirs and instruments, front and rear. Despite its dual locations, the entire new organ is no larger than the design of the 1960 instrument, which included provision for a one-manual chancel organ that was never installed.
St. Olaf is a place where music is not just taught but experienced, both by music students and the college community. Because of the active worship life on campus, a rich experiential learning — in concert with the global dimension of the college’s mission statement — takes place at St. Olaf. The organ, serving as an instrument for the accompaniment and leadership of song, and as an interpreter of song, is a vital part of that unique worship life.