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Chapel Organ Project

CitadelOrgan project Chapel Organ Project

Summerall Chapel was built in 1936, and at the time of its construction, a 34-rank pipe organ was designed to be worthy of the new magnificent construction. In 1949, six ranks of pipes were added to the organ, and in 1960, a new four-manual console was built. Retaining thirty-six of the existing ranks, 28 new ranks of pipes were added in 1965, making the organ complete with 64 total ranks.

That magnificent organ lasted almost 50 years, and was last played in 1985. An electronic organ was rented for two years while preparations were made to rebuild the pipe organ. Funds were not available, so the decision was made to purchase the electronic organ. As an electronic organ has a useful life span of approximately 20-25 years, the decision was made in 2004 to restore the pipe organ to its original grandeur. Several members of the class of 1963 undertook the effort to get this project started. In 2004, several organ companies were interviewed, and one stood out for its interest in the Summerall Chapel organ, and for organs that they have built and rebuilt. That company – Cornell Zimmer Organ Builders -- located in North Carolina was selected to restore the Summerall Chapel Organ.

Restoration of the organ began in earnest in July 2014 with the removal of all pipes from the north and south pipe chambers. At that time construction and installation of the new console and speaker system, for the digital voiced organ was completed. Following in 2017, the Trumpet Militaries, (64 trumpets) was installed above the Chapel entrance. Funded by two private donors, it is a most stable and splendid addition to the instrument. The North Chamber now houses the Choir Division under expression, the Great Division and much of the Pedal Division. To complete the North Chamber, the installation of the Reed Division of the Choir is scheduled for the Fall of 2020. These ranks are in the process of being voiced. Since original pipes are included in these divisions, it is the 1st time they have been played since 1985.  

The Swell Division and the Solo Division are nearing completion and will be installed in early 2021. They will be located in the South Chamber with the final remaining pedal stops. There are 7 ranks in the Antiphonal Organ. At the present time they will remain digital. Competition is expected in mid 2021.

Once completed, the Summerall Chapel Organ will have near 100 ranks making it the largest pipe organ in Charleston and one of the largest pipe organs in the state. The stop list is very extensive and includes a Harp. This stop is tuned wooden bars that are struck by padded hammers. The texture and color of this instrument will be spectacular. When one thinks of over 100 ranks you immediately think loud. Yes it can be loud. But the real beauty is in combining the ranks in small groups to product many, many diverse and ethereal sounds. The newly renovated organ will support the programs at The Citadel for many years to come, to include our chapel services, weddings, class memorial services, the very popular Candlelight Christmas Program, as well as special events such as the Spoleto Festival.

For many of our alumni, the beginning of their growth as leaders began while attending services in Summerall Chapel and the sounds of the organ in that magnificent structure. At their January 2015 meeting, the Board of Visitors approved a proposal to add additional recognition for top donors to this project on the south transept wall of the chapel. This signage will complement the existing recognition piece, in this same location, listing major donors to the original organ project from the 1960s. Those who donate $15,000 or more to the organ restoration and wish to be named will be recognized by their name on this piece.

Many thanks to Colonel Mark Bebensee and Mr. Mackay Salley, Citadel `63 for their background and history of the Summerall Chapel Organ and Restoration Project. For more information on this project, to include testimonials and to hear the new console, as well as an update on funds raised so far and a list of donors, OR to make a donation to this project, please visit: http://foundation.citadel.edu/chapel organ. You may also contact Mackay Salley, class of 63, at 336-317-2275 for additional information.

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