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Chapel Organ Project

CitadelOrgan project

Summerall Chapel was built in 1936, and at the time of its construction, a 34-rank pipe organ was designed to be worthy of the new magnificent construction. In 1949, six ranks of pipes were added to the organ, and in 1960, a new four-manual console was built. Retaining thirty-six of the existing ranks, 28 new ranks of pipes were added in 1965, making the organ complete with 64 total ranks.

That magnificent organ lasted almost 50 years, and was last played in 1985. An electronic organ was rented for two years while preparations were made to rebuild the pipe organ. Funds were not available, so the decision was made to purchase the electronic organ. As an electronic organ has a useful life span of approximately 20-25 years, the decision was made in 2004 to restore the pipe organ to its original grandeur. Several members of the class of 1963 undertook the effort to get this project started. In 2004, several organ companies were interviewed, and one stood out for its interest in the Summerall Chapel organ, and for organs that they have built and rebuilt. That company – Cornell Zimmer Organ Builders -- located in North Carolina was selected to restore the Summerall Chapel Organ.

Restoration of the organ began in earnest in July 2014 with the removal of all pipes from the north and south pipe chambers. The restoration process was planned in phases as funds became available. Included in Phase 1 was the removal of the pipes, construction and installation of the new console and speaker system, for the digital voiced organ. Phase 2, the installation of Trumpet Militaries, (64 trumpets) was installed above the entrance to the Chapel.  This project was completed in March 2017, and funded by two private donors. Phase 3 and 4, the restoration of the North Chamber, and the installation of the Choir, Great/Pedal pipes is scheduled to be completed by May, 2019. This will be the first time that the original pipes have been played since 1985.  Phase 5 and 6, the restoration and installation of the Swell and Solo division pipes in the South Chamber is scheduled to be completed in 2020, depending on funding.

Once completed, the Summerall Chapel Organ will have over 100 ranks making it the largest pipe organ in Charleston. The newly renovated organ will support the programs at The Citadel for many years to come,  to include our chapel services, weddings, class memorial services,  the very popular Candlelight Christmas Program, as well as special events such as the Spoleto Festival, etc.

For many of our alumni, the beginning of their growth as leaders began while attending services in Summerall Chapel and the sounds of the organ in that magnificent structure. At their January 2015 meeting, the Board of Visitors approved a proposal to add additional recognition for top donors to this project on the south transept wall of the chapel. This signage will complement the existing recognition piece, in this same location, listing major donors to the original organ project from the 1960s. Those who donate $15,000 or more to the organ restoration and wish to be named will be recognized by their name on this piece.

Many thanks to Colonel Mark Bebensee and Mr. Mackay Salley, Citadel `63 for their background and history of the Summerall Chapel Organ and Restoration Project. For more information on this project, to include testimonials and to hear the new console, as well as an update on funds raised so far and a list of donors, OR to make a donation to this project, please visit: organ. You may also contact Mackay Salley, class of 63, at 336-317-2275 for additional information.

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