Friday, March 2, 2012

Houston Memorial Chapel organ helps son revisit his family and company's past

Lynchburg is not a natural stopping place for most people driving from Charlotte, N.C., to Norfolk, Va. In fact, it is two hours out of the way.

But Chris Holtkamp made it an important detour on his business trip on Friday. This was his first chance to finally see the pipe organ in Houston Memorial Chapel at Randolph College.

“It’s an organ I have never had the opportunity to see nor to hear, but I have always wanted to,” he said.

Holtkamp is the president of Holtkamp Organ Company, the family company that designed and built the organ. His father, Walter Holtkamp Jr., was president of the company in 1969, when Houston Memorial Chapel was built and the organ was installed.

Holtkamp said he remembers traveling to New York once when his father went to meet with architects to discuss the organ. He also has seen a striking picture that shows the organ as well as the chapel’s stained glass window above the organ.

“It’s so absolutely magnificent, and the chapel is visually magnificent,” he said. “You can’t take that in through a picture.”

Unlike many modern organs that conceal most of their pipes in wooden framework, the organ in the chapel has most of its pipes revealed. “Every single pipe has not just a musical function, but also an architectural function, in its shape and its size,” he said.