Dowd Memorial Chapel, BoysTown, NE

About the Organs

Beginning in 1940 with the completion of Dowd Memorial Chapel, The Reuter Organ Company of Lawrence, Kansas has enjoyed an historic musical relationship with Girls and Boys Town. With the 1940 installation of a modest 2 manual organ with 12 stops in the Gallery at a cost of $3,200.00, Reuter has had the opportunity to build or expand instruments for this magnificent house of worship in 1948, 1951, 1960 and 2000.

Dowd Memorial Chapel has played a significant role in church music in America. Under the direction of Monsignor Schmitt, Dowd Chapel hosted for many years the famous summer Institute of Music. Through the Institute many of the 20th Century’s most influential composers, organists, theologians and conductors gathered yearly at Boys Town. Noted personalities of the era included Jean Langlais, Roger Wagner, Flor Peeters, Paul Manz, and Myron Roberts to name a few. Flor Peeters is memorialized as having been instrumental in the design of the 1960 Reuter organ. The 1960 instrument contained 60 ranks in the Gallery and 6 ranks in the Chancel.

Following the architectural and acoustical renovation of Dowd Chapel in 1995, discussions regarding the future of the organ began. After decades of extensive use, the console and mechanical switching of the organs were beginning to fail. The portion of the organs’ original 1940’s vintage leather was in need of repair. It was decided by The Reverend Val J. Peter, Girls and Boys Town Executive Director and David R. Salmen, Regional Representative of the Reuter Organ Company, that the existing instruments should be comprehensively restored and updated to ensure their service for future generations.

Beginning in the spring of 2000, the Salmen Organ Company of South Dakota began the painstaking task of the restoration work. While 9 technicians spent most of the summer at Dowd Chapel releathering, cleaning and rewiring the organs, craftsmen at the Reuter Organ Company were creating the organs’ new consoles and pipework. Significant musical additions were included in this project. Of particular note are the inclusion of new solo voices such as the 8’ Hohlflute, 8’ Clarinet, 8’ Tromba, 8’ English Horn, 8’ Hautbois and 8’ Festival Trumpet. The organ’s existing Choir and Pedal reeds were cleaned and revoiced in the Reuter shop. The instruments feature micro-processor based switching and memory systems allowing for multiple memory levels, transposer, MIDI interface and digital record/playback. The 3 manual Gallery console is crafted in quarter-sawn white oak and walnut with bone and rosewood surfaced keyboards and an electrically adjustable bench.

The technicians working on the site restoration included: Roger Banks, Ken DeJong, Bill and Kris Harris, Mark Langdon, Doug and Suzi McCord, Jay Mickelson and David Salmen. The tonal finishing was done by Roger Banks and David Salmen.

It is only fitting that the Reuter Organs be blessed of the Feast of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary as She is the patron saint of this Chapel. November 21st is also the Eve of the Feast of St. Cecelia, patron saint of music.

Boys Town History notes

Dowd Memorial Chapel completed ~ 1940. Gift of Miss Mary A. Dowd of NYC. Cost was $178,000 including the first organ contract. The chapel is of gothic design 69 x 179 with a 45’ ceiling. The original ceiling was of cork – later painted – later replaced.

Original Reuter, opus #615, was sold for $3,100 – factory had priced this 11 rank 2 manual gallery organ for $3,199 – according to letter dated 5/27/40 from Frank Green to factory, Frank lowered the price to $3,100 and gave up his total commission to win sale as there was no more money available from the architect and donor. Wick’s had come in with a bid of $2,999 seeing that the project was moving slowly. Wallace Kimball had offered to give an organ – Miss Dowd would not have a gift from Kimball’s as “then the chapel would have to be named Dowd Kimball Memorial chapel.

9/29/40 contract for $20,423 for 2 2 manual organs and console with 17 ranks. Console and blower from existing gallery organ were taken in on trade. All existing pipework and chestwork kept. Great is now to be placed in what is now known as the choir location. Had apparently been located near the Swell. (I am questioning the date of this contract).

10/2/51 dedicatory program notes from #940, played by Mario Salvador. This organ includes a three manual console for the gallery, with apparently the existing 2 manual chancel console retained. 24 ranks in the gallery, 7 in the chancel. Reuter avoids referring to this as an expansion. It is called a new organ. (This contract is missing).

4/14/58 a contract was signed for completely rebuilding the Reuter pipe organ for the sum of $56,493 – installation began in January of 1960 with Jack Sievert as foreman. Another 3 manual console was installed with the addition of exposed Greats, Pedal and Positive as is presently found. There were no changes to the Chancel. The organ is now known as opus #1288.

In the late 1960’s Bill Stephens installs the Great 8’ Trumpet for Reuter. Much of the new 1960’s chests are releathered due to sap pine being used for pouch boards.

In 1981, the Great Trumpet and the Swell Trompette and Clarion were revoiced by ROC. David and Cheryl reinstalled them as they left the factory to return to SD.

Many notable organists of the time concertized and gave master classes at Boy’s Town. These include Flor Peeters (there is a plaque in the chapel indicating that he was involved in the design of the 1960 organ), Jean Langlais, Fernando Germani, Anton Heiler, Michael Schneider, David Craighead, Paul Manz, Mario Salvador, Claire Coci.

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