Abbey Organ Chronicles: The Pipes Arrive!

The 64-rank Holtkamp organ in Saint John’s Abbey and University Church is being expanded by master organ builder Martin Pasi to about 115 ranks. Yesterday was a momentous day in Collegeville – the truck with all the new pipework arrived. (Almost all… some of it is still in the abbey Woodworking Shop where it was produced locally. The biggest 32 foot pedal woods, for example.)

Here are some photos of the work and fun, as the monks and their helpers came out in numbers to spend a full day unloading.

The biiiiig truck backs up to the church.
That’s Prior Brad Jenniges OSB in black – with abbey formation director (Fr. John Meoska OSB), a scripture scholar (Fr. Michael Patella OSB), and a campus chaplain (Fr. Nick Kleespie OSB). There’s an Austrian in the truck.
An abbot and a blogger.
Fr. Bob Koopman OSB pitches in – he’s the director of the organ project, the guy who raised $1.2 million to make this happen.
Organ prof Dr. Kim Kasling, and Novice Felix.
Br. Jeremy Welter OSB, a junior monk, does his share.
Today Br. Jacob Berns OSB is moving pipes. Soon, he’ll be making music with them from the console.
That’s Martin Pasi in the middle, and Fr. Mike Peterson OSB in red.
From above.
Some of the pipes are painted gray – because they’ll be visible on either side of the red screen in front of the current pipes.
From above.
Uh, something’s different in the church decor.
Architect Marcel Breuer wanted the altar to be central…

You’re probably wondering: timeline is that it may well be playable by Christmas, or early in the new year. We’re scheduling the main dedication recital (Stephen Tharp) for September 2020 to make sure everything is playable, with a campus community multi-choir blessing in May 2020.

The previous three-manual console is out for expansion so the Holtkamp is not playable. We’ve been well-served by an Allen Digital organ since July 15. (And Fr. Anthony has been enjoying telling friends and visitors that we’ve gone electronic rather than pipe because Pope Francis, pipes felt increasingly like curating a museum, we’re divesting to go to the peripheries, etc.) We expect the new four-manual console will be here in early November, making the Holtkamp playable while the Pasi expansion is installed and voiced.

Photography: Tommy O’Laughlin, CSB/SJU Marketing and Communications, except for Bob Koopman (photo of Abbot John Klassen OSB and Anthony Ruff OSB).


  1. Would itinerant grad students ever be allowed to play it, if they were passing through Collegeville sometime next year?

  2. Love all the captions! The Austrian in the truck is Markus Morscher, a most extraordinary cabinet maker who has been with Pasi since the beginning. He can tell you every measurement of every part of every organ they’ve built down to the millimeter. From a family of several generations of cabinet makers. His work is impeccable. Hope he and the monks get to know each other!

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