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Delores Bruch will play a concert on the 19th-century organ at St. Mary's Oct. 25

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Organist Delores Bruch from the University of Iowa School of Music will play a solo recital at 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25 on the historic 19th-century organ at St. Mary's Church, 220 E. Jefferson St. in Iowa City.

The organ was completed for St. Mary's in 1883 by the Moline Organ Company of Moline, Ill. Related through its early employees to the important English organ-building firm of Henry Willis, what came to be known as the Moline Company existed under several names from 1865 into the early years of the 20th century. The St. Mary's instrument is especially important as the only extant three-manual organ built by the Moline Company.

It is also important historically because the organ has survived in virtually its original form, with its original tracker action -- that is, a mechanical connection between the keyboard and the organ pipes. Many of the older instruments were converted to electric action in the 20th century. The tracker action is considered superior because of its simplicity and because it gives the performer a more direct connection with the instrument.

The organ was restored to its original condition by Michael Quimby of Warrensburg, Mo. over the past 18 years. Surprisingly, this was the first serious overhaul the organ had ever received. Before the restoration was completed, it was featured at the 1986 national convention of the Organ Historical Society, which was held in eastern Iowa.

"The Moline company made fine instruments," Bruch explained. "They insisted on the finest quality throughout the organ, which makes their instruments especially good. They designed each instrument as an individual, with its own characteristics and tailored to the specific church where it was installed, something not always true of organ builders."

"I believe the organ at St. Mary's is particularly suited to the French repertoire," she added. "Some other Moline instruments seem to me to work better with German or English hymns and literature. But I'll play works from all three countries on my program in order for the audience to hear the variety of possibilities in this large instrument."

Bruch's program will feature works, principally from the 19th century, by composers who were associated with outstanding organs and churches during their careers. They will be: English composer Herbert Howells; German composers Ernst Friedrich Eduard Richter, Johann Christian Heinrich Rinck and Max Reger; and French composers Felix-Alexandre Guilmant, Olivier Messiaen and Cesar Franck.

Bruch has been a member of the UI faculty since 1979, teaching courses in organ literature, church music and related topics. She has also served as associate dean for the UI College of Liberal Arts. Her concert activities take her to many parts of the United States, Canada, Europe and Mexico, and she is an active member of the American Guild of Organists, Organ Historical Society and the Hymn Society of America. She is currently contributing editor of the journal of the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians. She often performs on historic organs and for many years was senior organist at Zion Lutheran Church in Iowa City, home of the distinguished Stevens/Moore organ from 1853/1976.

Bruch has performed in Riverside Church in New York City; the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, Norway; the Church of Magdalen in Tlatelulco and other locations in Mexico; and at professional conferences of the American Guild of Organists, the Organ Historical Society and other professional groups.

Bruch's long-standing interest in historic organs led to UI fellowships in 1980 and 1982 for study in Italy, Germany and the Netherlands, and in 1983 she received a grant from the International Research and Exchanges Board to study in the German Democratic Republic. Her work with historic Mexican organs was supported in 1997 by a UI International Travel Grant. Since then she has returned to Mexico to teach workshops and a course for the UI on "Historic Organs in Mexican Colonial Culture," and she continues her study of historic organs in the life and liturgy of village churches and cathedrals during Spain's rule of present-day Mexico and the U.S. Southwest.