Organ donors help Scarborough church bring Bach music

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SCARBOROUGH — Efforts to refurbish a 61-year-old organ are nearing completion, and the church where it is housed is planning a concert to celebrate.

Blue Point Congregational Church raised $36,000 during a year-long fundraising effort to repair the 1,550-pipe organ.

The instrument was built by the Austin Organ Co. in Hartford, Connecticut, and was designed by longtime church organist Harold Snow of F.H. Snow Canning Co. in Pine Point.

The church will host a free concert featuring organist George Bozeman Nov. 19 at 3 p.m. to thank the public for donations.

The organ will be also played during the church’s Sunday service at 9:30 a.m. and at weddings and funerals.

Everett Henry, assistant organist at the church, said Bozeman is designing the concert to “to really show off the organ.”

“Bozeman has been in regular contact to make sure the pieces he will be playing will work with the organ,” Henry said.

The concert will feature some of the major works of Johann Sebastian Bach.

Henry said the organ suffered the effects of more than 50 years of salty air and corrosion.

Nancy Landsman, who serves as music director, organist, chorus accompanist and choir director, is also looking forward to playing the organ at the church again. She said because of its deterioration, the organ’s sound had been compromised.

“The sound was not as bright or brilliant as it will be again, as it once was,” she said.

Landsman said aside from curtains being removed, people won’t see a physical difference. But they will hear the difference.

During the restoration, Landsman said the church has been using a digital Clavanova piano.

The church hired Nick Orso of Nick Orso Organ Service in Portland to refurbish the organ. He’s been working full time on the project since May and expects to be done by the end of the month.

Orso, who has been repairing organs for 45 years, said the 61-year-old instrument is relativity new in terms of pipe organs, but each of the organ’s pipes had to be removed and cleaned.

Constant expanding and contracting caused cracks along some of the pipe seams, which also had to be repaired.

Orso used a compressor to blow off dust inside and out, hand-washed each pipe and, prior to installing, removed and dusted them again.

He said organs and their pipes are still made by hand, and repairing them is still predominately done by hand like it was 200 years ago.

He said not much has changed in the last few centuries, other than the addition of keying systems.

“This is the way it’s always been done,” Orso said as he inspected and dusted off a pipe before laying it back down in a tray, ready to be installed.

The pipes are made from different materials; the larger ones are made from zinc and the smaller pipes are made from tin and lead. Some of the larger pipes are made of wood and are more rectangular in shape.

Orso compared the organ to an orchestra and the organ player to a conductor. He said the various pipes mimic instruments, which are called “ranks.” The Blue Point organ has 24 ranks.
During the nearly six-month process, Orso also replaced copper wiring that was corroded, magnets, and the leather on the expansion boards.

“Without the repair to the expansion boards, it will not properly function – the air will not flow through the pipes to produce the correct tone, Landsman said.

Orso said the sound quality diminishes slowly over time so it may be hard to tell the difference, but the refurbishing will “bring it back to its brilliance and clarity that you really only heard back in the first years of its life.”

The final step will be to “regulate the pipes to make sure they all have the same volume and timbre,” Orso said.

“There is something heavenly and beautiful about (organ music),” Landsman said. “The sound enriches the spiritual experience.”

Melanie Sochan can be reached at 781-3661 ext.106 or msochan@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @melaniesochan.

Nick Orso inspects an organ pipe at Blue Point Congregational Church in Scarborough prior to dusting it. Orso was hired to refurbish the church’s 61-year-old Austin organ.

Repaired and cleaned organ pipes are stacked on pews at Blue Point Congregational Church in Scarborough prior to being installed. The church raised $36,000 to refurbish its 61-year-old Austin organ.

Organ pipes lay in boxes at Blue Point Congregational Church in Scarborough prior to being installed. The church raised $36,000 to refurbish its 61-year-old Austin organ.

Organ pipes can be seen through the arches in the sanctuary at Blue Point Congregational Church in Scarborough. The church raised $36,000 to refurbish the 61-year-old Austin organ.

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  • Sue Hartman

    Reading this article, I’m reminded of the 1861 George Stevens tracker organ restoration done by Dana Hull – helped by a number of volunteers – in 1983 at the Congregational Church in Cumberland, U.C.C.