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Organ Restoration Fund

Organ Restoration Fund

Facts & Figures
• The organ was built in 1961 and installed by Casavant Frères of St. Hyacinthe, Quebec as their Opus 2660.
• The new instrument was featured in an inaugural concert on March 4, 1962, performed by MAPC's Organist George Markey, the church's Oratorio Choir (now the Saint Andrew Chorale), and an orchestra of students from The Juilliard School.
• The organ's original cost was $86,240. Its replacement value today is $1.340,000.
• The organ contains 4,194 pipes. Only 154 pipes are visible; the remainder are concealed behind the screen above the chancel.
• The pipes inside the organ chamber are arranged into divisions on three levels, with some pipes placed as high as 40 feet above the sanctuary floor.
• The organ was last overhauled ("releathered") in 1977. Materials available at that time were expected to last no more than 30 years: we are now into year 35!

What's wrong with the organ? - It sounds fine to me!
While the organ might sound fine to the listener, it is on the verge of mechanical failure. For the past several years, mechanical problems have been repaired where possible. For the most part these problems have only been observed by the organists who play the instrument, requiring judicious use of stops that have dead notes, or are in danger of ciphering (continuing to sound after the organist releases the note)! Half of our organ technician's 6-hour monthly visits are spent "patching" leather pouches that have failed and replacing worn components. There is now evidence that problems are spreading to parts of the organ that cannot be repaired without major sections of the instrument being removed.

Why do we need to spend more money now?
Organ work that occurred in 2000 as a result of the Fund for Renewal capital campaign, during which the sanctuary was beautifully renovated, was limited to the provision of a new, moveable console (where the organist plays), the addition of three visible ranks of pipes mounted on the oak screen, two digital (electronic) stops, and the replacement of the controls between the console and the windchests with a computerized, MIDI-compatible switching system. No replacement or refurbishment of the organ's mechanism was undertaken at that time.

What needs to be done?
Every few decades an organ with electro-pneumatic action needs to be "releathered." There are thousands of tiny leather membranes that are located in the windchests on which the pipes sit. These windchests contain complex "actions" so that each pipe and each stop can be controlled at will by the organist. Each one of these leather "pouches," many of which are set into removable "pouch boards" that are disintegrating and needs to be replaced. The organ contains over 700 reed pipes and, due to their peculiar construction, they require minute attention when an organ is tuned. Nearly all of the reed pipes in the organ are 50 years old and have had five decades of constant use! These pipes need to be refurbished, with essential repairs to the tuning scrolls, and new reed "tongues" that will improve their tone and tuning stability. A few of the larger reed pipes, which have been collapsing due to their weight, need to be replaced. One rarely-used set of pipes will be replaced with a new Clarinet stop, providing a more useful voice in the organist's palate of resources.

All pipes and surfaces in the organ chamber need to be cleaned. Although parts of the instrument were removed or protected during the Fund for Renewal renovations, plaster and other dust made their way into the organ. Compounded with typical urban pollutants, the organ has become very dirty, hastening mechanical and tuning problems.

During the refurbishment process, all but the largest mahogany and zinc pipes will need to be removed and individually cleaned on the church premises. Scaffolding will be erected in the chancel, and certain panels of the organ screen will be removed during the process. The organ will be unplayable for about five months while the refurbishment takes place. Once the pipes and mechanism are replaced, all 4,000 pipes will be voiced and regulated.  The work will be carried out by the original builders, Casavant Frères of St. Hyacinthe, Quebec. All of the removable mechanisms and nearly 1,000 pipes will be shipped for restoration work in Canada, while the remaining 3,000 pipes will be cleaned onsite in MAPC’s sanctuary.

The Cost
The entire organ refurbishment, scaffolding, and related professional fees will cost approximately $300,000.

Join us in our commitment to see MAPC’s Casavant pipe organ enter its second half-century fully renewed. Please consider making a donation in support of the organ’s restoration! Gifts of any amount are necessary as we invest in the process of our majestic instrument's rejuvenation. You may follow this link to make an online gift to the Casavant Organ Restoration Fund. For further information about the organ project, or to make a pledge or gift of appreciated securities, please contact MAPC's Director of Music and Organist, Dr. Andrew Henderson, at 212-288-8920 or Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent provided by law.

© 2015