By Andrew Caster
Angwin is surrounded by natural beauty, but perhaps the most spectacular object on the grounds of Pacific Union College is its pipe organ.
Thousands of churchgoers have heard its beautiful tones ring out at various services and concerts.
It is an integral part of the college’s identity and should be treasured as such. Built in Austria in 1980, the Rieger Orgelbau organ was too large to be shipped over in one piece. Instead, it was shipped over in pieces and assembled and installed in 1981. Its mechanical key action, 59 stops, 85 ranks, and 4,745 pipes make it one of the larger tracker organs in the United States. It has developed an international reputation for a well-rounded, adaptable, and magnificent sound. Performances from many prestigious organists, as well as several recordings, have been made on the organ. However, these complicated instruments require meticulous and timely maintenance. When costly organ maintenance is neglected, the presence of ciphers (unintentional or stuck notes) increases dramatically. Professional organist Hans Uwe Hielscher, a regular performer at the college, ranted about the condition of the instrument at his most recent recital in February. In fact, he had to adjust the program because of these ciphers, which did not allow certain parts of the music to be played to their fullest extent. He even cut and replaced one piece entirely because he felt that he could not adequately perform it on the Rieger organ in its current state. Hielscher also made a call to the community and the college’s administration to perform the necessary maintenance on the one-and-a-half million-dollar instrument.
PUC’s Rieger organ is the college’s most breathtaking man-made object and should be treated with the respect and admiration that it deserves. The necessary maintenance that can be taken to undo the deterioration of the instrument and preserve it for future generations should be a top priority for the college administration and the community that is blessed by it. While expensive, it is a necessary expenditure in preserving the atmosphere of our beloved church. A restoration fund has already been started, but it is expected to take several years to reach the goal and perform the maintenance. Please contact the PUC music department if you wish to contribute to the organ fund and keep its beautiful sound functional for years to come.