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The Business of Organs at CCC

By Christopher Wells, Director of Music

How exciting it must have been in 1928 when the church opened it’s doors for the first time as a beacon of spirituality, art, education, and community. Thanks be to God for our glorious worship space!

My office happens to be the only office in the historic 1928 part of the building. Approximately 10’x15’, it now allows me easy access to my other office (the choir room).  However, it was originally the sole Sunday School classroom – an adorable, custom, oak-enclosed blackboard still hangs on the wall.  The choir room, too, is a perfect space for training 18-20 choristers, but not quite as suitable for an adult choir of 40 singers.  Much of this was reconsidered as a part of the 1930’s building extension, but in 2018 we are once more bursting at the seams.

With a building development, we envision greater flexibility and space to strengthen our existing programs and grow into a more complete, intergenerational music program. We envision more rooms for breakout into smaller group rehearsals, a large meeting space to hold fellowship events for the entire music program, and even some storage space so we can purchase a set of timpani! Additionally, we envision climate-controlled spaces to protect our instruments from extreme temperatures and humidity.

Then there’s the business of the organs at Christ Church.  The organ in St. Dunstan’s Chapel has not sounded in many years and is beyond repair.  One glance in that organ chamber tells the entire story – this instrument is ready for retirement. More complex, however, is the organ in the main church. The organ was refurbished in the 1990s, and much of that work is exquisite. The issues here are threefold:

  1. 1) While preparations were made, the last organ project was not completed. For example, the “Antiphonal Organ” (organ at the back of the church) was envisioned,but never built. The drawknobs exist at the console.
  2. 2) Some work on the instrument falls within the spectrum of partially successful to complete failure. An example here, is a new set of pipes added in 1997 are collapsing from their own weight.  They currently do not play.
  3. 3) Wearing parts, mechanisms, and technology that warrants attention and upgrades. A final example: the felt bushings on the pedalboard are worn thin causing squeaking and friction.

An explanation of an instrument with over 5,000 pipes and [literally] millions of parts is not possible in the confines of this article.  Two identical forums will be held on Thursday September 20 at 7:00PM and Sunday September 23 at 11:30AM to allow parishioners the opportunity to fully understand the issues concerning the organs at Christ Church Cranbrook. These forums will take place in the Sanctuary.

We envisage time when these instruments perform to their fullest capacity.  All instruments need maintenance from time to time. But when more than a third of the pipes are not operating, and the focus is taken away from making music, a substantial new path is required. For us, this is a wonderful opportunity to address and enhance the music we make at this beautiful church.