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Articles

July 22, 2015

Specialists from Andover Organ Company have been busy this season in the choir loft of St. Mary’s Church attending to a complex restoration of our historic 1892 pipe organ.

Andover began work on the Woodberry & Harris Opus 100 organ after this year’s Easter services. Their latest phase in the restoration involves the “re-leathering” of a large wind reservoir—a bellows-like apparatus with poplar wood case and leather liner—designed to bring air to more than 2,400 pipes.

Wooden trackers, the linkages between the pipes and keyboard console, have been removed from under the floor. There are approximately 900 trackers, some as long as 13 feet, and arranged in 13 sets. These pine wood pieces will be replaced with bass wood trackers.

Many components will be cleaned and repaired in Andover’s workshop. The team will also readjust pieces in the console, replace chipped keys, and install nuts, bushings, and felt washers.

One of the Parish’s most ambitious programs, the Organ Restoration Project will ensure that this beautiful instrument continues to enrich our community into the next century. We are grateful for your contributions to this effort!

Jeffrey Proctor

For articles, pictures, and music samples, please visit the Restoring St. Mary’s Pipe Organ section of stmarystcatherine.org.

March 13, 2015

What is it like to play a pipe organ?

Sounds from the Woodberry & Harris Opus 100 tracker organ are heard well beyond the stained glass windows and granite walls of St. Mary’s Church. A professional organist must approach this intricate and integral device with respect. After all, the instrument has been played for more than a century.

“The technology in general is of a different generation,” says Daniel Sauceda, Parish music director and organist.

On a modern electric pipe organ, keys signal a blower to send pressurized air through a set of pipes. On the Church’s 1892 tracker organ, the blower is the only electrical component, but linked to every key and pedal to trigger any of 2,501 pipes. Some of the pipes are the size of pencils, and some are the size of cannons. Architects designed the pipes to straddle the enormous stained glass window in the back of the church.

Sauceda views the instrument as an early kind of synthesizer. Thanks to the variety of pipes and linkages, the organ can approximate the soft octaves of a flute, the boast of a trumpet, or the pulse of an oboe or clarinet. He says there is more for to think about when using “all the colors of the organ” when compared to playing a piano.

An experienced organist will harness the qualities of such an instrument, but also expect different organs to respond in different ways. On the Woodberry & Harris, the keys feel heavier because of older, non-adjustable pieces. “No two organs are exactly alike, that can play exactly the same, that can do the same things,” Sauceda explains.

Soon the instrument will undergo an extensive restoration by Andover Organ Company. When the project is complete, the rich and robust sounds of St. Mary’s cherished pipe organ will draw the admiration of churchgoers for years to come.

Visit the Restoration section above to learn more.

Jeffrey Proctor

May 29, 2015

How do you restore a pipe organ?

Andover Organ Company is in the business of saving history. Thanks to their skill in restoring and rebuilding organs, the group has brought some 450 instruments from the 18th and 19th centuries back to life. For more than a hundred years, St. Mary’s churchgoers have enjoyed the rich sounds of our 1892 Woodberry & Harris tracker organ. Recently contracted by the Parish, Andover will ensure that this historic pipe organ plays well into the next century.

For Andover’s Ben Mague and colleagues Fay and John Morlock, restoring the Woodberry & Harris is an almost surgical process. The first step, Mague says, is to “get our heads around the scope of the project” and dismantle the organ in a sensible sequence. They must remove an array of trackers, the wooden linkages that join the console to the pipes. There are approximately 900 of them, some as long as 13 feet, and arranged in 13 sets. These pine wood pieces will be replaced with bass wood trackers.

The team is also working on a pair of wind reservoirs, large poplar boxes that serve as the lungs of the organ. The reservoirs are fed by an electric blower and hold a volume of air for more than 2,000 pipes. The bellows-like apparatus in each reservoir will be replaced with new adhesives and leather liners.

The work doesn’t end here. Andover will repair and readjust pieces in the console, replace chipped keys, and install nuts, bushings, and felt washers.

Fay Morlock remarks that the organ builders “were clearly proud of their craftsmanship” and had an attention to detail toward this unique instrument. The reservoirs, for example, were weighted with 140 bricks as a kind of ballast. To keep organ components free of masonry dust and debris, each brick was wrapped in newspaper.

The tracker organ was unique in a period before the advent of electricity, with complex features that have always required a professional’s careful attention. “Each organ has its own personality,” Mague says. By the end of Andover’s project, the instrument will still retain that personality, with a crisper response and ease of use. The rich and robust sounds of this cherished pipe organ will draw the admiration of listeners for years to come.

Jeffrey Proctor

To learn more about the Woodberry & Harris restoration project, hear music samples, or make a donation, please visit our Organ Restoration section.