. Accompanied by organ builder William Czelusniak and two students, he and the students marveled at the beauty of our historic organ.
Those of us who had the privilege of witnessing Nathan’s two-hour examination of our organ were pleased to hear his comments about it – comments we want to share with you:
We also learned from Messrs. Laube and Czelusniak that our Casavant
organ has been chosen by the Organ Historical Society as one of only two organs
in this immediate area (i.e. Amherst, Northampton, and South Hadley) for performances
when the Society has its Annual Convention in Western Massachusetts and the
Berkshires in the summer of 2015. (The other organ is at Mount Holyoke’s
The Arts Committee is pleased to announce an Organ Concert by Mr. Larry Schipull, professor and organist at Mount Holyoke College, on September 15 at South Church at 3:00 p.m. (Free) A reception will follow.
Before Schipull's appointment as Mount Holyoke College organist and associate professor, he was on the faculty of the University of Hong Kong, where he was active as a recitalist and accompanist, with solo appearances in the Hong Kong Arts Festival and the City Hall Silver Jubilee celebrations.
Mr. Schipull has invited a guest organist, Diana Chou from Amherst College, to join him.
In January, 2011, the South Church Trustees appointed an Organ Subcommittee to “evaluate the current and anticipated future status of the organ and the grand piano, to develop options for their repair, replacement, or removal, and to report back to Trustees their recommendations.” The committee engaged Grant Moss and Jonathan Ambrosino as consultants to provide evaluations of the existing Berkshire organ. When the consultants agreed that the estimated cost to repair the existing Berkshire organ ($145,000 to $150,000) exceeded the value of the instrument, the Committee considered the possibilities of replacing the Berkshire organ with a new organ or a rebuilt high-quality older organ. After listening to a demonstration of an electronic organ, the only affordable new organ available, the committee decided to investigate the availability of a Casavant organ that had originally been installed at Saint Ann’s Church in Woonsocket, RI, the oldest Casavant organ in the United States.
Earlier, when the Casavant organ was offered for sale, Mr. Parkman S. Shaw, Jr., of Brookline, Mass, purchased it and made arrangements with Messrs. Czelusniak et Dugal, Inc. of Northampton to remove the instrument so that it could be restored and installed in a church in the greater Boston area. Two Boston sites were considered, but neither proved to be acceptable. The Casavant organ was then put in storage, and Mr. Czelusniak was commissioned to find a new home for it. Fortunately, the size of the Casavant organ was very close to the size of our Berkshire organ, and learning of South Church’s interest in the instrument, Mr. Shaw offered to sell it to our church for $1, with the understanding that Mr. Czelusniak would rebuild and restore it. In September 2011, the Organ Committee recommended to the Trustees that they contract with Messrs. Czelusniak et Dugal, Inc. to rebuild and install the 1896 Casavant organ. The Trustees endorsed this recommendation and the Congregation approved it in January 2012.
In order to support the weight of the new instrument (1 and 1/3 tons), and to accommodate its size, David Cody redesigned and rebuilt portions of the front of our sanctuary. He also crafted a new lectern that was both functional and attractive. During the summer of 2012, William Czelusniak and his crew removed the Berkshire organ and installed the rebuilt Casavant organ. On October 14, 2012, Grant Moss (Smith College Organist and Senior Lecturer) gave the dedicatory recital to a standing-room only audience of more than 300 people, including organists, choir directors, and organ builders from the area and Boston. Mr. Shaw also attended the concert. Critical reaction to the instrument was uniformly positive, and South Church was congratulated for having saved a remarkable, historically important organ. Marilyn Brayne, our Director of Music, is delighted that the Casavant organ allows her to further enhance our worship.
The Organ Committee:
Greg Brooks (2011), David Cody, Alice Morse, Nancy Torrey, Marilyn Brayne (ex officio), Will Bridegam, Chair
Progress on our new organ continues on schedule. Charlene Moran, Co-Chair of the Trustees, and organ builder, William Czelusniak, are shown below signing the contract for the rebuilding and installation of the 1896 Casavant organ.
Removal of our Berkshire organ will begin on Monday, May 28. Our old organ will be put in temporary storage, occupying the same space being vacated by the Casavant organ.Meanwhile, we continue to look for a new home for our Berkshire organ.
Dave Cody will renovate the front of the sanctuary during the month of June while the organ builders continue to work on the Casavant in their Northampton shop. Mr. Czelusniak will have the months of July and August to install our new organ. We have received reports that work on three of the organ’s five wind-chests has been completed; its wooden pipes have been restored; the metal pipes are being sent to specialists for restoration; and work on the two manual keyboards has been completed.
All aspects of the Organ Project remain on schedule. This means that if all continues to go well, we can count on being able to return to our sanctuary for services with our new organ beginning September 9th, and we can look forward to the Dedicatory Organ Concert by Grant Moss on Sunday, October 14, at 3:00 p.m.
Will Bridegam, for the Organ Committee
The 2012 Reconstruction of the 1896 Casavant Organ, Opus 74, by Messrs. Czelusniak et Dugal, Inc., Northampton, MA
The 1896 Casavant Organ’s History
When reconstructed, the 1896 Casavant organ will be the oldest playable Casavant organ in the United States, an instrument of considerable historical importance with exceptional tonal quality and superb craftsmanship. Named the “St. Hyacinthe,” it was built especially for the St. Ann Church and School in Woonsocket, RI, which served primarily the immigrants who worked at the Woonsocket mills. When the St. Ann parish built a larger church in 1918, the parish installed a larger organ in the new church and moved the “St. Hyacinthe” organ to Our Lady of Victories Church, a parish founded in 1909. Eighty-five years later, three Woonsocket churches (All Saints Catholic Community, St. Ann, and Our Lady of Victories) merged. The latter two closed, and All Saints Catholic absorbed the other two congregations. The “St. Hyacinthe” organ was acquired by the St. Ann Arts & Cultural Center, which replaced St. Ann’s Church. It was the Center’s intent to restore the instrument for continued use, but other priorities prevailed. When the Center offered the organ for sale, Mr. Parkman Shaw, of Boston, MA, purchased it and made arrangements with Czelusniak et Dugal, Inc. to document and remove the instrument with all of its pipes and parts so that it could be restored and installed in a church in the greater Boston area. Two Boston sites were considered, but neither proved to be physically, musically, or visually a good fit. The disassembled organ was placed in safe storage until a new home could be found.
When South Church faced the prospect of having to make expensive major repairs to its less-than-satisfactory Berkshire organ in early 2011, the Church’s Organ Committee explored the alternative of purchasing and installing another organ that would be well suited to our sanctuary. With the advice of Grant Moss, the Smith College Organist, and Jonathan Ambrosino, a Boston-based organ construction consultant, the Organ Committee rejected the more expensive option of repairing and rebuilding our Berkshire organ and advocated contracting with Mr. Czelusniak to rebuild the available 1896 Casavant organ, which surprisingly was almost the same size as the existing Berkshire organ. In a special congregational meeting called on November 6, 2011, the congregation voted unanimously to purchase the organ from Mr. Shaw and contract with Messrs. Czelusniak et Dugal, Inc. to rebuild and install the Casavant organ.
Subsequently, Mr. Shaw agreed to sell the organ to South Church for a nominal price of $1 because he was pleased to know that this historic organ would be treasured and preserved by our congregation. The firm of Messrs. Czelusniak et Dugal, Inc. of Northampton, MA, is now in the process of rebuilding the Casavant organ, and will install it in the South Church sanctuary during the summer of 2012.
It is the Organ Committee’s intention to document progress on the reconstruction of the Casavant organ with pictures and to share them with the congregation. The following photos represent the first installment.
The interior organ is being built. The wind reservoirs sit on the floor frame; the wind chest for the Great division sits on top of the structure.
This is the rollerboard for the pedal key action. The jacks showing at the rear interconnect the couplers from the manual keys. (Open wind reservoirs appear behind.)
Fine craftsmanship supplies missing parts.
Organ builders (l-r) Jon Van Houten, Richard M. Frary, Jr., and Bill Czelusniak.
A row of Melodia pipes being cleaned carefully.
New leathers have been applied to all pipe stoppers.
The newly leathered tuning stopper is fitted into the pipe.
Larger Bourdon pipes with nicked languids to make the tone smooth.