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Recital on two organs to honor Alice Loewen Kreider’s legacy at Bethel

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by Erin Bradley

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College organ instructor Rosi Penner Kaufman will pay tribute to a woman who deeply influenced the college’s organ program.

Kaufman will give a recital Dec. 1 at 4 p.m., starting in the Administration Building chapel, in honor of the life and teaching of Alice Loewen Kreider, who died a little over a year ago. The recital is free and open to the public.

Kaufman will be playing selections from Loewen Kreider’s repertoire, on two different organs linked to her.

“Alice was an organist at Bethel College Mennonite Church and several other places in town,” Kaufman said. “She taught organ, and played for worship services, here [at Bethel].

“She and her [first] husband, Esko Loewen, spent several years in Amsterdam, so she studied organ in a variety of places. She really was pretty influential in teaching keyboard players in this area and in the Mennonite church.”

For the Dec. 1 recital, Kaufman has chosen pieces that Loewen Kreider played at Bethel. Loewen Kreider’s daughters and Kauffman Museum helped Kaufman get recital programs and sheet music.

“I thought it was important to play things that she obviously spent time with, literature that she enjoyed,” Kaufman said.

“I am learning her repertoire. She had amazing fingers – it is hard music.”

Unlike the usual recital, this one will take place on two different organs in two different campus venues.

It begins in the Ad Building chapel, where Kaufman has tentatively planned to play “Praeludium in E minor” by Nicolaus Bruhns, “Kommst du nun, Jesu, vom Himmel herunter”  by J.S. Bach, “Foundation,” a hymn arrangement by J. Harold Moyer, professor emeritus of music who died earlier this month, and “Dankspsalm” by Max Reger.

At the conclusion of this part of the program, the audience will be asked migrate across the street to Kauffman Museum for the second part of the concert, which will be played on the Teschemacher-Deknatel-van der Smissen cabinet organ in the museum auditorium.

Here, Kaufman plans to play “Lobt Gott, ihr Christen, allzugleich” by Georg Friedrich Kauffmann, “Gelobet seist du, Jesus Christ”  by Johann Pachelbel and “Allein Gott in der Hoh sei Her” by J.S. Bach.

Kaufman will also tell the story of the Teschemacher-Deknatel-van der Smissen organ and Loewen’s role in “ensuring its viability for future generations.”

Loewen Kreider was a major donor for both the Dobson pipe organ in the chapel and the Kauffman Museum organ, and had a special interest in the latter. It was built in 1750 by master organ builder Jacob Teschemacher in what is now Wuppertal, Germany, and given to the college in the early 20th century.

In the 1980s, Alice and Esko Loewen took steps to bring the organ, which had sat unused for years, back to life. They researched its provenance, received estimates on repair and restoration, did some basic repairs and got the organ playing again.

Mennonite pastor Johannes Deknatel of Amsterdam had the organ built to use in his home for chamber music and to accompany singing. As such, it represents one of the earliest musical instruments used regularly in Mennonite circles.

The organ was completely restored in 2007 by the Noack Organ Company of Georgetown, Mass., and is the only Teschemacher organ in North America.

“The organ was shipped to Massachusetts and completely redone, a historically sensitive restoration,” Kaufman said. “I know Alice was a major contributor to that as well.”

The Loewens got the first estimate from the Noack Company and started a fund toward what would be a major, expensive project.

“It is such a special instrument,” Kaufman said. “[The owner of Noack] took a special interest in it. He’s older and has kind of retired now, but he took it on as his pet project and personally did most of the work on it. It’s a remarkable thing that he has done for us.”

In 1985, when the Loewens first contacted Noack, Kauffman Museum did not have the funds necessary for the restoration.

“But thanks in part to Alice’s generosity,” Kaufman said, “the [restoration] fund grew, and when the museum approached the company again 2007, it honored the bid from 20 years earlier.”

The Dec. 1 program will conclude with a reception. “I’d especially like to invite people who studied with Alice to this recital, for a time to remember her, the importance of her teaching and how many people she touched,” Kaufman said.

Bethel College is the only private college in Kansas listed in the 2012-13 analysis of premier colleges and universities in the United States and ranks in the top five “Best Baccalaureate Colleges” in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2012-13. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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