History of the LC Pipe Organ & Grand Piano

  • The LC Pipe Organ

    Installed 1924 -- Renovated 1979 -- Upgraded 2002

    In the early 1920s, Lewis and Clark students held fundraisers to purchase a new four-manual, 34-rank orchestral pipe organ for the school's auditorium. The school board supported their efforts with matching funds. The Austin Organ Company of Hartford, Connecticut, was contracted to install the instrument in 1924 at a cost of $26,000. At that time, it was the largest civic auditorium organ west of the Mississippi River with approximately 2,375 pipes.

    The new instrument was the community's largest and best pipe organ and students wanted the organ to be a memorial to the Spokane men who died in the First World War. Recitals by school faculty and other community musicians were frequent at the school. According to Stan Faubion, former LC faculty member, organ students from throughout the Inland Empire came to LC for the opportunity to play the instrument. Reports in the school newspapers indicate the organ was frequently used for accompanying the school's choir and other ensembles. It was play to rave reviews by world-renowned organist Louis Vierne in March 1927.

    In 1998, the Spokane Public Schools Board of Directors decided to include the organ in the major renovation of Lewis and Clark. Before the work began, the LC Booster Club contacted Rita Stoess, dean of the Spokane Chapter of the American Guild of Organists and an alumnus of LC. Several members of the chapter presented the board with suggestions for upgrading the instrument in conjunction with the restoration. Among the current improvements: the acoustics in the auditorium were greatly enhanced, the pipe chambers moved forward for better sound dispersion and security, and the old console upgraded with solid-state key action and a computerized stop action, including 99 presets. The organ has also been "prepared" for future upgrades.

    The guiding principal of the restoration was to retain as much of the original instrument's character as possible, while including improvements that would make the instrument suitable for accompanying the school's choir and other ensembles. Washington Church Organ was the prime contractor for the recent restoration. The organ was completely removed from the building during the renovation of the school. All 200 plus pipes, wind chests, the blower, etc., were stored in the basement of the Holley-Mason Building, the temporary home of LC during the two-year renovation process.

    The organ was reinstalled, pipe-by-pipe and piece-by-piece, following the opening of the new school in August, 2001. The "new" instrument retains its original tonal quality with the addition of modern technology making the instrument more user-friendly.

    the Spokane Chapter of the American Guild of Organists is grateful to the citizens of Spokane and in particular the Spokane Public Schools Board of Directors for including funding for the organ as part of the renovation of Lewis and Clark High School.

    Songs from the 1979 Re-dedication of the Austin Pipe Organ Concert (click on a song, and it will open in Windows Media Player)

    By Rita Stoess, Dean of the Spokane Chapter of the American Guild of Organists & LC alumni

    The LC Grand Piano

    The Steinway "D" nine foot concert grand piano was built in 1911 and shipped to Sherman and Clay in Spokane for the opening of the new Lewis and Clark High School in April 1912. The following excerpt was taken from the Lewis and Clark Journal, May 1912, written by a senior of the class of 1912:

    "There is our Auditorium. We are proud of it, especially so when we remember that as martyr-freshmen we stood in the rear of the old one on many occasions. the one now provides over fifteen hundred seats. The hall is a model of simplicity. The stage is the center of attraction, and well it may be. It is unusually large and is supplied with four drop curtains, the principal one of which is the generous gift of Mr. August Paulsen.

    When the occasion demands the stage displays a large concert grand piano purchased at a cost of sixteen hundred fifty dollars. Last year's football squad gave five hundred toward the payment of the piano, and the Dedicatory concert receipts went towards the further payment of the beautiful instrument.

    The citizens of Spokane have turned this beautiful school over to us and said: 'Take it, use it, see that you make it serve you to your full capacity for receiving its service.' "

    In the early 1960s, Lewis and Clark music educators determined that the piano was too large for the stage and as there was not an adequate place for its storage, they "loaned" the piano to the choral program at Sacajawea. It remained in the choir room at Sacajawea until 1999 when it was refurbished and brought home in 2001.

    Researched by Nancy Compau, Spokane Public Library, Northwest Room, and Kathleen Blair, music teacher at Lewis and Clark