A Traditional Organ for Tomorrow
Organ Installation Update (October, 2019)
To date, a tremendous amount has been accomplished towards the completion of organ. Beginning in mid-September, Karl Wilhelm assisted both by a technical crew from the Muller Organ Company of Columbus, Ohio as well as several members of our staff began assembly of the floor frames--the foundation, really--as well as the exterior white oak cases. Several weeks of work resulted in the completion of the cases, the installation of the 'wind chests' (the boxes filled with compressed air that all pipes sit on) and the connection of the delicate mechanism which links the keys to the valves allowing the air to enter the pipes which is a network of hundreds of levers, wires and springs.
As there are literally tens of thousands of pieces to this instrument, it probably isn't a surprise that the process of erecting an instrument such as this takes many months. It is a good indication of the even greater amount of time necessary to both design and build a machine such as this in the first place. One of the things which makes this instrument unique amongst all other instruments in the region is the extremely traditional methods which Karl Wilhem and his workmen employ in the construction process. The entire casework is fit together with mortise and tenon and literally locks itself into place piece by piece through the aid of gravity, The precision necessary to engineer such immense pieces of cabinetry is astonishing and a work of art in and of itself.
Once the mechanical linkage between the keys and wind chests is completed, the work will continue on to the installation of the stop mechanism. The large white knobs on either side of the keyboard are the 'stops' and, when engaged turn on various rows or families of tone within the instrument (all 2,670 pipes belong to one or another of 58 'ranks' or groups of pipes).
Above the wind chest and connected to these knobs are large, delicate 'sliders' which were developed in Western European organ building beginning in the late Gothic period at a time when all of the pipes of the organ simultaneously sounded. The function of these laterally moving sliders with corresponding holes for each pipe was to "stop" the air from entering whenever the slider holes were not positioned under the pipe. Thus, the origin of the term 'stop'. Above these sliders are installed 'top boards' which the pipes actually sit on, as well as 'rack boards' which hold the pipes in place.
Once all of this mechanism is assembled, the blower (the only electrical component in our new organ--a modern replacement of the bellows pumpers of former centuries!) is turned on, the entire assembly checked for air leaks, and the holes which will hold the pipes will all be 'blown out' to remove dirt before for the pipes are put in place. Once we get closer to the point of putting in the pipes, we will give additional updates to explain some of the specific and unique aspects of the work yet to be done with these all important parts of our remarkable new instrument.
The Oratory has launched a fundraising effort for $400,000. In addition to the actual purchase of the instrument, there are additional costs associated with the infrastructure to correct substantial existing problems. This fundraising effort includes the necessary updates to the electrical and lighting in the gallery, restoration and extensive repairs to the original 1908 choir loft floor, and improvements to the existing infrastructure which the removal of the existing organ will make possible.
An important sponsorship program was announced in August 2019 which gives donors an opportunity to sponsor one of the 2,670 pipes comprising the new organ.