A Legacy of Music
The Belin Chapel was a long-awaited addition to the HBU campus. From its initial beginnings, a grand pipe organ was part of the vision for this worship space. So intentional was HBU toward this end, the University consulted an organ builder for advice about foundational, electrical, structural, and acoustical considerations before walls were even built. Our dream was not only to support congregational song with the majestic sounds of a pipe organ, but also to equip our keyboard students with skills that would allow them to serve churches in this capacity.
Thanks to the generous donation of Sherry and Jim Smith, our vision and dreams have become a reality. During the summer of 2009, a 57-stop, 58-rank pipe organ (3,261 pipes) was installed in the Morris Cultural Arts Center’s Belin Chapel. This tremendous gift to HBU has resulted in the realization of many goals:
- Worship services are accompanied by the glorious sounds of our new instrument. As a University family, when we lift our voices in praise, offer prayers of thanksgiving or listen to music by the great masters, we are lifted higher with the sounds of this instrument. Not only does the instrument bring attention to our University through its magnificent sound, but the façade of the organ adds beauty to the chapel.
- Our nation suffers from a shortage of trained organists. Although HBU has had an organ program, it has been difficult to recruit organ students without a concert instrument on campus. As a Christian university in Houston, our commitment to training church musicians has been strong. With our new instrument, we now serve as a training ground for a new group of organ students. In addition to learning the organ masterworks, students complete courses that promote their skills as church musicians. In addition to our own HBU students, we teach local church musicians on our campus in this new teaching space.
- Our students benefit from an instrument that is used to support choral, vocal and instrumental works in the chapel. No longer confined to piano accompaniment, we are able to offer organ accompaniment for many of our performances.
- HBU continues to reach out to our community. Organ recitals by students, faculty and guest artists engage individuals not related to the University. Students, faculty, staff, alumni, University friends and our community enjoy the chapel and organ for weddings and other events.
HBU considered several different organ builders before deciding to contract with Orgues Létourneau Limitée located in Saint-Hyacinthe, Québec. One of the leading organ builders in North America, Létourneau has been producing fine quality instruments for many years. An excellent example of their work is the superb installation at St. John the Divine in Houston.
Through the generous gift of Sherry and Jim Smith, generations of students, faculty, staff, alumni and University friends will celebrate God’s love and grace through inspired organ music. Over the decades, many students will graduate and lead in worship from organ consoles around the country. Pipe organs that are 400 and 500 years old remind us of the enduring quality of this legacy of music.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Rhonda Furr, D.M.A.
Organ Professor and Consultant