It was a celebration of music on Sept. 23 as the College marked the completion of a years-long effort to renovate the Lang Music Building. Nearly 200 students, faculty, staff, and members of the Board of Managers gathered for the event, which featured a plaque unveiling and concert by acclaimed organist Mark Loria ’08 on the newly restored Holtkamp Organ.
The much-needed renovations have brought new life to the nearly 50-year-old building. In addition to the restored Holtkamp Organ, which was inoperable for years, the space now boasts enhanced acoustics and sound-isolating wall, floor, and ceiling systems; a new accessibility ramp in the building’s lobby; full updates of the restrooms; and a new egress pathway outside the concert hall. The space is now more accessible, comfortable, and enjoyable for not only students, faculty, and staff members — but for guests attending performances throughout the year.
“These improvements reflect a community that values the study and performance of music in liberal arts education,” said Associate Professor of Music Lei Ouyang, who serves as the Music Department’s chair. Ouyang also touted the updated Presser Room, where the most visible transformation took place.
“The windows allow for architectural engagement with our location on the edge of the Crum Woods, excellent acoustics, storage for the Balinese Gamelan and Chinese Music Ensemble, and of course a welcome and long overdue space for chamber groups and ensembles to rehearse together,” Ouyang said during her remarks at the dedication.
The $9 million project was made possible through the generosity of Swarthmore community members, led by a $7 million gift from the Lang Fund for the Future. In February 2019, Jane Lang ’67 and Lucy Lang ’03 pledged an additional $1 million if the College could raise $1 million toward the renewal of the building. The challenge was met by 115 donors who committed nearly $1 million to the project, in addition to funding from the Presser Foundation.
At the dedication, Jane Lang ’67 spoke about the importance of the Lang Music Building to her father, Eugene Lang ’38 H’81, and their family.
“I’ve been asked why my father chose to make the music building his first major commitment to Swarthmore,” Lang said. “For a long time, I had no explanation. He was not a musician, not a student of music. I discerned his motivation only in the last years of his life, when he lived with Alzheimer’s,” she said. She described how in his final years, her father was visited by young music students, and that “after each performance by these young people, my father was renewed. His keen analytical mind and probing intellect that were devastated by Alzheimer's, revived. He asked penetrating questions. He became himself again for an hour or two. And so it is that the Lang Music Building is the perfect legacy for my father. It houses his memory — not just the memory of him,” she said.
Following the plaque unveiling, Loria, the principal organist of the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, presented a varied and inspiring program to an enthusiastic crowd.
“I’m deeply honored to have been asked to give this inaugural organ recital in a space that has been so formative in my life as a musician and human being,” said Loria, whose responsibilities with the cathedral include playing for the hundreds of liturgies throughout the year and supporting the various choirs in residence.
“The program itself represented a variety of styles and traditions of organ music, with a particular eye toward the music of composers of color,” he added. “My hope was to showcase the versatility of the new instrument in the rendering of these different styles and how, in spite of its relatively small size, it is up to the task of succeeding in whatever scenario it is called to serve — just like any other Swattie.”