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Organ renovation is completed at Luverne church

Steve Odland and Lorraine Olson sit at the newly restored organ at Luverne's Grace Lutheran Church.

LUVERNE -- After 48 years, members of Grace Lutheran Church, Luverne, have finished the restoration and expansion of their 1964 Moller pipe organ.

The church added 549 exposed pipes to the existing 1051 enclosed pipes,

When the organ was installed, the pipes for two of the manual keyboards -- the great and the choir -- were shared to cut costs.

In the rebuilt organ, the pipes for the great keyboard have been given their own unenclosed pipework and placed across two wind chests in the front of the church.

The newly installed pipes were custom-made in Germany. The largest is 9 feet long; the smallest is about the length and width of a pencil.

Of the new pipes, 16 are white oak, 26 are aluminum, and the remaining are a lead and tin alloy called spotted metal.

In addition to expanding the organ, many of its components needed replacing or updating.

The organ is now completely modernized with functions never imagined when it was first built. In one example, hundreds of copper wires were replaced with a single 2.2 mm fiber-optic cable.

"It has functions like a transposer if a soloist wants to sing a piece in a different key," said Steve Odland, parishioner and organist. "You can even record a whole song, walk away and then listen to it's played back. The organ will also be a lot more reliable."

The renovation and expansion project started in September. Tuning and adjustment of the pipes is still taking place and will be completed by Sunday.

"Each pipe needs to be tuned and revoiced individually," Odland explained. "Voicing the pipes ensures that they all blend together and no one sound stands out from the rest."

The organ renovation has been on the church's project list for years and was initiated after a memorial gift and successful fundraising campaign.

Adding the exposed pipes has been a dream of Lorraine Olson, an advocate of the organ renovation project and Grace Lutheran's only organist for 61 years.

"I have looked forward to this for years," Olson said.

"I remember when I started taking piano lessons from Lorraine, she had drawings in her kitchen cupboard for someday adding exposed pipes," Odland added.

Previously, all of the pipes had been enclosed behind a curtain in the front of the sanctuary.

"The exposed pipes add beauty to the front of the church," Olson said. "It is a dream come true."

To celebrate the completion of the organ renovation and expansion, the church will host a non-denominational hymn festival at 3 p.m. Sunday. The event is free and open to the public; coffee and refreshments will follow.

Hymn festivals are part of the Lutheran tradition. Grace Lutheran has had smaller hymn festivals for the congregation in the past, but this will be its largest.

Dr. John Ferguson, previously of St. Olaf College, Northfield, will be leading the hymn festival. Ferguson was an organ professor of Odland's and is internationally known for leading these events.

Ferguson developed Sunday's program, which includes traditional hymns such as "A Might Fortress is Our God" and "Praise to the Lord," as well as hymns with African and Native American influence.

"The program is more than just an organ recital," Odland said. "It involves everyone singing together. We'll have the choir, a violinist, trumpeter and flautist. It will be a combination of readings, solo pieces and congregational hymns."

The Grace Lutheran Choir will also perform two pieces arranged and published by Ferguson.

According to the American Choral Directors Association of Minnesota (ACDA) website, Ferguson is a renowned church musician and well known as a leader of congregational song.

He retired from St. Olaf College,in 2012 after 29 years directing the church music-organ program, teaching organ and conducting the St. Olaf Cantorei.

A week ago, he was awarded the F. Melius Christiansen Lifetime Achievement Award by the ACDA. He has degrees from Oberlin College, Kent State and the Eastman School of Music.

Each year, Ferguson leads numerous hymn sings and festivals across the United States for congregational and professional gatherings. He has led events at the National Cathedral in Washington, and abroad in Norway and Korea.

Ferguson is also the author of numerous books, and he has published many choral and organ scores. His festivals are ecumenical and draw from the rich traditions and styles within Christian church.

"I encourage everyone to check it out, even though they may not have been to a hymn festival before," Odland said. "It will combine many elements including choral music, solo organ music, singing of all those attending and reflective readings, all selected by Dr. Ferguson, into a great Thanksgiving experience. It's a wonderful way to spend your Sunday afternoon."

Alyson Buschena
Alyson joined the Daily Globe newsroom staff after spending a year in Latin America. A native of Fulda and graduate of the University of Northwestern, she has a bachelor's degree in English with a dual concentration in Literature and Writing and a minor in Spanish. At the Daily Globe, Alyson covers the crime beat as well as Pipestone and Murray counties, community news and feature stories. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, reading, and cooking. More of Alyson's writing can be found at
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