Fr. Shayne Craig sits next to the 30-year-old Casavant pipe organ installed in the chapel of Edmonton’s St. Joseph’s Seminary in January. Photo by Chris Miller

The future is now for pipe organ at St. Joseph’s Seminary

By  Chris Miller, Canadian Catholic News
  • February 3, 2012

EDMONTON - When it came time to build the new St. Joseph’s Seminary, cutting expenses was a must. To save money, a pipe organ for the seminary chapel was left as a project for the future.

“We priced out how much an organ would be, and it’s a lot of money,” said Fr. Shayne Craig, seminary rector.

“For a new pipe organ, for the size we would want in the chapel, we were being quoted a price of $500,000.”

A wall to the right of the altar was reserved for the day when a pipe organ could be purchased. Seminary administrators never anticipated the wait would be so brief.

Casavant Organs, said Craig, keeps track of all the organs it sells and when it heard last summer of a Mormon church with an organ in Orleans, Ont., that was closing, it let the Edmonton seminary know.

Fabien Tremblay, an organ technician with Casavant Freres, a Quebec firm, said many Quebec churches have closed over the past 20 or 30 years “and they don’t know what to do with the organs. Some church committees decide to sell their organs to another church. When you have a lot of churches closing, then the market is full of old organs.”

The organ arrived at the seminary Jan. 17 and it was to be fully installed by Jan. 30.

Craig said the organ is in excellent shape and came at an excellent price, which he would not reveal. The seminary jumped at the chance to buy it, knowing that it would be at least 25 years before it could afford to purchase a new one.

“The organ was originally a honey oak, and they were able to refinish it with a mahogany finish that matches our chapel. Now it looks like it was made for our chapel — it’s just beautiful,” said Craig.

When they examined the wall where the organ was to be inset, they discovered that the metal beams framing the space for the future organ were almost identical to the size of the organ they were considering.

Tremblay’s job is specialized and requires knowledge of both woodworking and music. About 75 per cent of the instrument is made of wood, and the rest is lead and tin.

“When we’re talking about organs, the sound of the pipes is what we call speech. It has to speak easily and naturally without noise and without scratch,” said Tremblay.

Working alongside Tremblay was Sebastien Kardos, a voicer with Casavant Freres. The duo physically installed the pipe organ and completed the meticulous task of final tonal regulation for all 522 pipes in the instrument.

(Western Catholic Reporter)

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