Bond Chapel to become new home for Reneker Organ

Late this fall, Bond Chapel will echo with the sounds of a remarkable musical instrument.

The Reneker Memorial Organ, a baroque-style organ built in 1983, will be moved this summer from 5757 S. University Ave., the current home of the Chicago Theological Seminary, to Bond Chapel.

Bond Chapel will close after graduation in June to accommodate the relocation of the Reneker Organ. The chapel is expected to reopen in December 2012. University organist Thomas Weisflog is planning a 2012-13 inaugural concert series to celebrate the arrival of the instrument in its new location.

“Bond Chapel is a beautiful space that serves as an active center for worship and musical performance on campus,” said Margaret M. Mitchell, dean of the Divinity School and the Shailer Mathews Professor of New Testament and Early Christian Literature. “Moving the magnificent Reneker Organ to Bond Chapel is a fitting way to recognize its legacy and pay lasting tribute to the Reneker family. We look forward to welcoming the community and University to hear this magnificent baroque organ in its new home here on campus.”

The University purchased 5757 S. University in 2008. As part of the purchase, the University agreed to construct a new building for the Seminary in Hyde Park at the southeast corner of Dorchester Avenue and 60th Street. The new Chicago Theological Seminary building, a LEED-compatible green design by Chicago architect Dirk Danker, will provide facilities for current programming as well as expansion.

The Reneker Organ was purchased from CTS separately, after local organ conservator Jeff Weiler, organ curator for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted a study of the instrument and determined it was ideally suited to the organ gallery of Bond Chapel.

Elizabeth Davenport, dean of Rockefeller Memorial Chapel and the University’s director of spiritual life, said the new instrument would play an important role in the spiritual and artistic life of the University. “The Reneker Organ is worthy of a fine home where it will see expanded liturgical and concert use. I am delighted it will stay in Hyde Park in a space so perfectly suited to it, and confident it will be greatly appreciated by our community.”

The Reneker Organ is named for the late Robert W. and Betty C. Reneker, who each had strong ties to both the University of Chicago and CTS. Mr. Reneker, PhB’33, served on the University’s Board of Trustees from 1972-81, and as its chair from 1976-81. He was also was chairman of the Chicago Theological Seminary’s Board of Trustees.

Like her husband, Mrs. Reneker was active in CTS throughout her life, serving twice as its interim president and on the board of trustees. At the University, she was a member of the visiting committees of the College, Regenstein Library and the Divinity School (of which she was a lifetime member).  She also served on the University’s Women’s Board.

Weisflog said the new organ would complement the recently restored E.M. Skinner organ in Rockefeller Chapel. The Rockefeller Chapel organ, with its full, orchestral sound, is ideal for Romantic organ literature, while the pure, articulate tone of the smaller Reneker organ is more suitable for Baroque compositions.

“We are privileged to have two such extraordinary instruments at the University of Chicago,” Weisflog said.

More information about the upcoming organ concerts on campus will be made available at rockefeller.uchicago.edu.

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Bond Chapel

Bond Chapel this fall will welcome the Baroque-style Reneker Memorial Organ, which previously had been housed at the Chicago Theological Seminary.

Courtesy of University of Chicago Divinity School

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Susan Allen
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News Office, University Communications
sjallen1@uchicago.edu
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