A Wartburg professor records an album in honor of the organ

WAVERLY, Iowa (AP) — Karen Black pulled out all the stops to honor the 25th anniversary of the Wartburg Chapel Dobsonian organ. The Wartburg College organ professor has recorded and released a new album, “Ein feste Burg”.

The album includes seven works that celebrate the organ, designed by Lynn Dobson and built and installed in 1996 by Dobson Organ Builders in Lake City, a highly respected organ builder who designed and installed organs nationwide. It also honors Wartburg’s heritage as an institution of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and as a college founded by German immigrants.

“It’s the organ I play every day. This is where I teach organ lessons, where we have worship. This has been my home for 25 years,” said Black, who is Rudi Inselmann organ professor at Wartburg College. She teaches organ and church music, music theory and auditory skills. She is organist for the weekday chapel and Sunday services and conducts the Kantorei choral ensemble and the Handbell Choir.

Black told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier that she was impressed with the quality of the Dobsonian organ every time she sat down to play it.

“I think it’s a combination of a really wonderful builder, Lyn Dobson, both on the build side and the musical side, and it’s a wonderful instrument to play. The action – the feel of the keys under your fingers – and it’s easy to play, coupled with wonderful acoustics in the chapel that allow the sound to flourish in the space,” she explained.

Until last year, the idea of ​​recording an album with his already busy schedule seemed like a pipe dream. “I’ve wanted to record this album for a long time. It was a very time consuming project and I set a firm 25th anniversary deadline to commemorate the installation.


The challenge, according to Black, was to reduce the secular value of the organ repertoire. “I didn’t want to record too many of the top 10 organ songs that have been recorded a million times by a million people. I wanted to find less recognizable pieces, like the very pretty Telemann Trio Sonata.

Other works on the album include a 2002 composition by Pamela Decker commissioned by Wartburg College and pieces from the Bach Circle. Bach was born in Eisenach, Germany, home to medieval Wartburg Castle. “And he was baptized at the church where our Wartburg College musical groups are going to perform,” Black noted. “I wanted to reflect our heritage, but also show that the organ, like our college, is alive for today’s students by reflecting a broader view of organ music and composition.”

With encouragement from his colleagues, Black also included one of his own compositions on the album, “Reflections”, which uses the college loyalty song as the musical melody. The recording took place over a period of several days in the chapel with Black playing the Dobsonian organ.

As a child, Black learned to play the piano. When she was 16, the church she attended in Minnesota installed a pipe organ, and the church organist offered her lessons. “That’s how I fell in love with the organ. It was the sound. It can be very quiet or as loud as a symphony orchestra. Then there is the wide range of literature from early musical history to pieces written for the organ today. The organ covers all human expression,” she explained.

Black is an active recitalist and clinician and has performed in the United States and abroad, including Germany at Wittenburg Castle Church and St. George’s Church in Eisenach. She is Regional Councilor North-Central of the AGO and has published works for choir and organ with Augsburg Fortress.

She received her Bachelor of Music in Church Music from St. Olaf College in Minnesota, and her Masters of Music and Ph.D. from Indiana University. Prior to coming to Wartburg, Black held positions as music director at Lutheran and Roman Catholic churches in Minneapolis, and as associate director at Trinity Episcopal Church in Indianapolis.

CDs are $15 and can be purchased from Sarah Bouska, Wartburg Music Touring, Camp and Promotion Manager, by emailing [email protected] CDs can also be purchased at the Wartburg store, located in the Saemann Student Center on the Wartburg campus. The album will be available to stream on Spotify, iTunes and YouTube this month.

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