Feast of Music Inaugurates New Organ at Ricks

Print Share

    It was a four-day feast of organ and choral performances to delight the aural palate. There were two concerts and a recital on an imposing new organ, as well as three performances by one of the world’s leading choral groups.

    The occasion was the dedication, during the first week in November, of the Keith Martindale Stefan Memorial Organ in the Eliza R. Snow Center for the Performing Arts at Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho. The organ is already acclaimed as one of the great musical treasures of the Church.

    The organ was dedicated Sunday, November 6, by Elder L. Tom Perry of the Council of the Twelve immediately after the Salt Lake Tabernacle Choir presented its weekly nationwide radio broadcast from the Snow Center’s Barrus Concert Hall.

    In the dedicatory prayer, Elder L. Tom Perry invoked a blessing on the organ, an impressive new teaching tool for the college, that it might be “played to increase our talents as sons and daughters of God.”

    “May the sounds of this organ touch hearts and souls,” he prayed, so that those who hear its music might understand and enjoy “the finer things of life” and know that “these finer things will endure, that they are the thread of life eternal.”

    “Music has a special place in all of our hearts,” Elder Perry said in comments during the dedication service. “The quality and quantity of good music that will come to the Church and the world as a result of this organ make it truly worth the sacrifices that have been made to obtain it.”

    The eighty-rank, four-keyboard organ was purchased entirely through donations from music lovers who wanted it built, said Darwin Wolford, organist, composer, and Ricks College professor of music. He was one of several persons who energetically bent their efforts to raising and obtaining funds for the organ. One observer commented that the instrument was “loved into existence.”

    A major portion of the cost was contributed by George and Lilas Stefan of Los Angeles, along with their son Vance, in memory of a younger son, Keith, a promising young LDS musician and returned missionary who died of Hodgkins’ Disease in 1977. But there were scores of other donors who gave amounts ranging from a few dollars to substantial sums.

    Brother Wolford was the organist Thursday, November 3, in a dedicatory concert that also featured the Ricks College A Cappella Choir and Concert Chorale. Internationally known organist Ted Alan Worth of San Francisco played in an Inaugural Concert on Friday evening, and the Tabernacle Choir performed in two public concerts Saturday evening. Sunday evening, after the weekly choir broadcast and dedicatory service, Ricks student Heidi Hales performed in a recital as the first representative of many students who will receive training on the organ.

    The organ provided accompaniment for the Tabernacle Choir during its broadcast. Tabernacle organist John Longworth praised its distinctive sound, a result, he said, of both the tonal philosophy of the builder and the “ingenious blending of pipes and electronically generated tones.”

    The organ was custom crafted by the Fratelli Ruffatti company of Padua, Italy. Unlike many modern organs, the Ruffatti is capable of doing justice to modern, Baroque, and Romantic organ literature, Brother Wolford said. The instrument’s “unique combination of delicacy and brilliance, lyricism and strength,” he commented, “characterizes every instrument built by this family of artisans.”

    The Tabernacle Choir performed its weekly radio broadcast from the Ricks College Center for the Performing Arts prior to the November dedication of the college’s new organ. (Photography by Rod Boam.)