Chris Benninghoff | January 31, 2017
Twelve years of planning and artisanship came to a glorious conclusion Friday, Jan. 20, when Craig Cramer performed “Le Mystère de Noël” by Auguste Fauchard on the Basilica of the Sacred Heart’s majestic new pipe organ. “It’s what people have been waiting for,” says Andrew McShane, director of music at the Basilica, of the concert.
The Wayne and Diana Murdy Family Organ has been ensconced in its new home at the Basilica since October and played twice a day since then. The dedication ceremony marked the project’s official completion.
John Rosenthal and Patti Olive, members of the congregation, are among those celebrating. “My musical experience has just been listening and singing in the choir,” says Patti Olive, “but to me, the new organ’s clarity of sound is really phenomenal.” She and her husband, Dave, have attended Mass at the Basilica for nine years. She also serves as a tour guide for the church and coordinates its 11:30 a.m. daily Mass. On Sundays, both she and her husband help at Mass. John Rosenthal grew up attending Mass at the Basilica. He and his wife, Mary, were married there, and all three of their children were baptized there. The couple remain part of a close-knit group of regular attendees and are among several who, he says, “absolutely love music.” The rich sounds produced by the vast number of pipes in the new organ fills the Basilica as never before and enthralls them. “We are a church of symbols,” he notes, from its stained glass windows to paintings and statuary. The new organ now takes center stage, supporting worshippers’ voices raised to God.
The instrument was constructed by Paul Fritts & Company Organ Builders of Tacoma, Washington, the same master craftsmen who built the two-manual, 35-stop organ installed in 2004 in the Reyes Organ and Choral Hall at the new DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. Cramer, a professor of organ, served on the committee that selected the firm. When that 13-year project was done, Cramer’s late wife, Gail Walton, then the Basilica’s director of music, stepped forward to spearhead the drive for a new organ for the church. The Rev. Peter Rocca, C.S.C., the Basilica’s rector and himself a trained organist, deserves a lot of credit for moving the work ahead, says Cramer.