Fr. Shayne Craig sits next to the 30-year-old Casavant pipe organ installed in the chapel of St. Joseph Seminary in January.

WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER

Fr. Shayne Craig sits next to the 30-year-old Casavant pipe organ installed in the chapel of St. Joseph Seminary in January.

February 6, 2012
CHRIS MILLER
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

When it came time to build the new St. Joseph 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 Father 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.

"We've had some big churches that have already closed, and they don't know what to do with the organs," said Tremblay.

"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 Tremblay anticipated having it fully installed by Jan. 30.

"This is a small instrument for us," he said. "Now the market is more concentrated on bigger organs for concert halls, like you have here at the Winspear Centre."

EXCELLENT PRICE

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 they could afford to purchase a new one.

Fabien Tremblay and Sebastien Kardos spent two weeks installing a Casavant pipe organ in the chapel of St. Joseph Seminary.

WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER

Fabien Tremblay and Sebastien Kardos spent two weeks installing a Casavant pipe organ in the chapel of St. Joseph Seminary.

"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.

Kardos' skill of manipulating an organ pipe to make its proper sound is known as voicing. His craft involves both a musical background and technical skill.

Each pipe must be made to play with the correct onset of sound, sustained tone and volume. Voicing is a detailed task, and his critical adjustments take many hours.

"Voicing means the speech, the colour and the tone. Tuning is maybe 10 per cent of our work, and everything else is voicing. I am like a sound technician," said Kardos.

This all-important and demanding process assures that the organ's voice has maximum impact, both dramatic and subtle, in the seminary chapel.

When the voicing process is complete, the individual pipes unite to form a beautiful musical instrument.

Their collective voices create the beauty and majesty of sound that can only be produced by the pipe organ.


Letter to the Editor - 12/19/11