At the heart of the entire project was a desire for an instrument that wouldn’t “blow away visitors and parishoners.” For years there many people who commented that the instrument was too loud.
When Jacquelin Rochette visted the Mission in his consultation meeting, he suggested that perhaps the organ was out of balance for today’s listeners. At the time, he said, when we built this organ (he remembers building this organ well) the style of the classical organ was treble heavy. All the pipework operates under extra pressure to give it brilliance, he said. He suggested giving more foundation (and at a later date, more stops with richness) as well as retooling the serious offending pipes, the mixture and trompette en chamade, to have them add brightness without taking over.
After agreeing upon a proposal for the entire scope of work, phase 1 was initiated in June 2013 to implement the tweaks Jacquelin suggested. And so Casavant voicers Alain and Sebastian came the last week of June for 7 days. They cleaned and swabbed 977 pipes in sweltering humidity, as well as scaled the outside of the case to get at the facade pipes! They spent hours meticulously retooling the mixture (244 pipes for one stop!), as well as broadening the base foundation stops. They had to scale back the trompette because there aren’t any other smaller reeds to support is huge Spanish style sound.
The actual volume for the mixture and chamade, Alain had said, is actually just right. The problem was the lack of support from lower stops making them top heavy! Unfortunately, the only solution was to painstakingly hammer and glue each individual pipe (300 total for both!) until balance was achieved.
The full extent of the outdated computer technology was revealed when the 32′ resultant was installed. 8 notes did not work! The only solution was to order a new board, which is almost 2 feet square (!), and have it shipped from England. Unfortunately, they don’t keep a steady supply of these boards anymore and it had to be special ordered.
Last, but certainly not least, was the addition of a new handcrafted bench backing. This was important because Tiffany had no where to “stand at ease” when not playing and had to be in playing position for all masses (ouch!). Now she can sit back when not playing yet be within striking distance of the organ.
Artisan voicers Alain and Sebastien finished their work and the next week the organ was in continuous use by Bach Festival soloist Andrew Arthur, who has said the changes that were made were extraordinary. The Renovation Team is excited to continue the next two stages but first we need your help!