Pipe organ unique in Canada

Rozsa Centre

Author

Tokie Brideaux

When planning was underway in 1996 for the Rozsa Centre, one of the items the University of Calgary saw as a critical component of the concert hall was a pipe organ. Now, 10 years later, and thanks to the generosity of some remarkable Calgarians, audiences and performers alike can share the music of a unique new instrument.

Commissioned in 2001, and completed in July, the organ will be heard for the first time in performance beginning on September 22 during a special nine-day inaugural festival and symposium.

The organ has been named the Ronald B. Bond Bach Organ in honour of outgoing provost and vice-president (academic) Dr. Ron Bond in recognition of his 33 years of service to the university.

The instrument was constructed by world-renowned German organ builder Jürgen Ahrend Orgelbau. A team from the Ahrend workshop, led by Hendrik Ahrend, was on site in Calgary last month to install, voice and tune the instrument. This organ is one of only four in North America designed by the Ahrend workshop, and is the only instrument of its kind in Canada.

The tonal design and specifications of the organ are consistent with the 17-century north German organs that Jürgen Ahrend was commissioned to renovate following WWII. As such, it is a unique musical window into the much loved world of Baroque organ music as it was heard in the time of Bach and Buxtehude.

Neil Cockburn, who was recently appointed the University of Calgary’s Cantos Music Foundation Organ Scholar, is leading the plans for the inaugural festival and organ studies at the university. 

“There is nothing like this in Calgary and the instrument will play an important part in the musical life of our city, as well as with the students, faculty and guest artists who perform here,” says Cockburn.

The total cost to purchase and install the instrument was $1.2 million—$1 million of which came from private donations, including substantial gifts from the estates of Ruth Somerville and Doris Kennedy, and a $500,000 gift from an anonymous donor.

“These remarkable donations demonstrate the commitment and support our community has for the arts and for music at the University of Calgary,” says Faculty of Fine Arts Dean Ann Calvert. “Their generosity will live on through the music of a timeless instrument.”