The restoration of the St. Peter Canisius 1936 Moller Opus 5688 pipe organ to St. Raphael’s
St. Raphael’s story is one of “re-use”. The parish started worshiping in a converted barn, and later, built a “new” church. “New” in the sense that most of the guts are new construction, but actually “old” in the sense that much of the church building has been re-used from other churches that have closed and/or been demolished. For example, the facade, yet-to-be-constructed bell towers, some windows, and other smaller elements of the church were from St. John of God in Chicago, and were dismantled piece by piece and reconstructed. Many of the pews, the altars, and windows came from St. Peter Canisius, also in Chicago. Still many elements come from many other churches.
St. Raphael was gifted the Medinah Temple Organ by Mayor Daley and the City of Chicago. The idea was to install this very large, one-of-a-kind organ in the choir loft. In fact, the choir loft was built specifically to hold the immense weight of this instrument.
Unfortunately, the cost of putting this instrument back together is just too high, and it remains in storage. We currently use an old digital organ, which works OK in our wonderful acoustics, but it is starting to show its age. In mid-2019, it was decided we would try to find some kind of pipe organ, even if a small one, to install in the church. This would act as a demonstration for how a real pipe organ would sound in our space.
Costs and Help
Pipe organs are not cheap! Even new, small instruments can run upwards of 6 figures. The reason for this is: labor. Pipe organs are comprised of thousands of parts, many of which require hours and hours of dedicated work.
As my first large-scale project, and being this is the parish where I am music director, I decided to take on this project as my gift, only charging a modest markup on parts and pieces which require industry-involvement to order.
We already had some elements of the St. Peter Canisius Moller pipe organ in our possession, but many items were still left behind. We got together a group of hard-working volunteers to retrieve it, and other remaining useful elements, from St. Peter’s.
St. Peter’s organ was in a chamber, or a large dedicated room for housing the organ and its components. It didn’t have any outside decoration. We just so happened to find for sale a beautiful wooden facade from a former Catholic Church in Oconomowoc, WI. So, our faithful volunteers took the trip up north to retrieve the facade, and other remaining elements from that organ.
We have a lot of work yet to do. Future volunteer opportunities include: paint-stripping, painting, assembly, and cleaning. Work days will be announced in the bulletin.
As the project progresses along, more pages will be added and updated, showing completed work, how it was done, and the work yet to come.