It’s a great organ, Charlie Brown: Halloween concert set

Campus & Community Music

October 27, 2021

The official blessing/dedication ceremony held Sept. 18-19 provided a great opportunity to showcase the newly-expanded pipe organ in the Saint John’s Abbey and University Church.

But that was a more formal occasion.

On the evening of Oct. 29, students and members of the public will have the opportunity to experience the enhanced power of the instrument in a more relaxed setting, while getting into the Halloween spirit at the same time.

And you don’t even need to wear a costume, though wearing a mask will be required to attend the event due to COVID-19 protocols.

Renowned jazz-pianist and composer George Maurer ’88, acclaimed Chicago-based pianist Matt Haider ’08 and longtime SJU music professor Fr. Robert Koopmann, OSB are among the performers who will be featured as part of “The Great Pumpkin Concert,” which will begin at 9 p.m.

The show is free and open to anyone who would like to attend. It will feature Koopmann, Haider and others playing the organ – which was recently expanded under the direction of renowned organ designer Martin Pasi .

The project entailed adding nearly 3,000 new pipes to the instrument, which was built by Walter Holtkamp Sr. and dates back to when the church (designed by famed architect Marcel Breuer) was dedicated in 1961.

“We did the blessing and dedication (in September), but this will be a different kind of music,” Koopmann said. “I will be doing Bach’s ‘Toccata in D-Minor,’ which is the ‘Ba Ba Bum’ piece that everyone associates with the organ and with being sort of spooky and scary.

“Matt will be playing ‘Stars and Stripes Forever’, (Queen’s) ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ a Beatles fanfare piece and others.

“So it will be fun to do soething a little different than we’ve done before.”

Maurer will be performing with his jazz ensemble and plans to feature some of his original compositions, as well as selections from the Peanuts special “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” including “Linus and Lucy” and “The Great Pumpkin Waltz.”

“I won’t be playing the organ,” Maurer said with a laugh. “I don’t know how to play that huge thing.

“But this is a nice chance to help get the organ showcased. It will be fun to be up there and play some selections that fit in with the fall and Halloween theme.”

In all, the concert is expected to last around an hour-and-15 minutes. And Koopmann is hoping for a large student turnout.

Following the expansion, the organ now boasts over 6,000 pipes in all. Some of the new ones are the size of pencils while others are nearly 850 pounds. A number of them – including wooden ones so large a slim adult can fit inside – were built on-campus in Collegeville in the Abbey’s woodworking shop.

It all adds up to a far more roaring volume, and a vastly increased fullness and richness of tone.

“This is a great chance to show our students what this instrument is capable of now,” he said. “We haven’t really had any events like this here – at least not for a long time.  So this is going to be very exciting.”

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