Bastyr University Chapel Gets New Addition

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

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The organ is on loan for a year, with the potential of becoming permanent fixture.

Organ installers and president standing around new organ for chapel

It is the focal point of the University. A sanctuary of both beauty and perfect acoustics. The Bastyr University Chapel, built in 1958 as part of the original St. Thomas Seminary grounds, is home to 31 handcrafted stained glass windows, and terrazzo floors. But within this chapel is a new addition that is 563 pounds and has an ivory feel.

For the next year, a Rodgers 4589 Organ will amplify the beautiful sights and sounds in the chapel while it is on loan to the University – and if Bastyr University President Daniel K. Church, PhD, has his way, it will be here to stay.

Long Awaited Arrival

Since taking the helm as president of Bastyr University in 2005, President Church has dreamed of hearing the breathtaking sounds of a pipe organ echo through the playing organ in a chapel

“The architecture of the chapel was designed to have an organ,” he said. “The room deserves it and the acoustics are spectacular.”

The acoustics are also the reason the Rodgers Organ Company, based in Hillsboro, Oregon, agreed to loan the organ to the University for one year at no cost. The company’s only request is that the organ and the chapel be used as a demonstration site for potential customers to see the organ in action.

Lasting Legacy

The five-story European-style chapel was designed by Don Van Wieringen, a young new architect whose first assignment was to create a chapel for the St. Thomas Seminary. The archbishop at the time requested that the chapel be created with a Byzantine style – tall, long and acoustically perfect. More than a half-century later his workmanship is still as breathtaking as the day it was built.

When the two massive copper doors are opened to the chapel, your eyes are greeted with thousands of different colors and designs. Marble, quartz, granite, and glass chips combined produce the “speckled” look created with terrazzo floors. Wooden pews, mosaic art pieces and marble columns help to capture the room’s true beauty.

From Hollywood to “I Do”

The chapel is sought after by groups from around the state and nation for the room’s perfect acoustics and incredible detailing.

Music from many big screen movies has been recorded in the chapel because of its amazing sound quality. Topping the list of over a hundred movie scores: Brokeback Mountain, Now and Then, The Matrix Reloaded and Mr. Holland’s Opus. Even Grammy Award-winning musician Dave Matthews has recorded the orchestral track of his album Some Devil in the chapel.

With picture perfect wooden pews, tall ceilings and high golden altar at the center of the room, the chapel is a popular location for wedding ceremonies. Each year more than 50 vows are exchanged inside the chapel, adding to a list of over 1,000 wedding ceremonies conducted at Bastyr.

With the addition of the organ, the chapel can accommodate many more choral concerts and will receive a lot of attention during wedding ceremonies in the future.

Future Plans

President Church hopes to see a series of Friday concerts put on during lunch, open for students, faculty and the community as well as offering a different sound during the annual Christmas concert which he and his wife host.

“It is amazing, absolutely amazing. A really fabulous asset to the chapel and the University,” he says.

Since the organ is on loan to the University, the president's goal is to raise enough money to purchase the organ when the year is up. In the fall the University will hold a concert to showcase the organ. Hector Olivera, an internationally acclaimed organist who has sold out Benaroya Hall, will play at the special concert and perform songs specially tailored to the organ.