Saturday, June 5, 2010

Mystery Solved

A week and a half ago there appeared on either side of the chancel window (above the reredos) in St. Michael's Cathedral these large mysterious items.  They are draped in maroon veils (the same colour as the wall) and hanging from small black crosses.  I have tinkered with the colour levels in the above photo to make them more visible, hence the graininess.

They are new speakers for the organ.


  1. I'm confused... this "organ"... is it an electronic synthesizer? Otherwise, why does it need speakers?

  2. For 17 years, the pipe organ in the loft has been unused. It's condition is poor, leathers rotted and dirt in the pipes; and the loft itself is below fire and building code standards so an electronic organ is located behind the Blessed Sacrament Altar of Repose. The current speakers are on the walls on either side and not terribly attractive.

  3. Technically speaking, most organs of thist ype are not a synthesizer, in that the sound is not synthezsized. Instead, the sound is usually made by recording each individual pipe of another organ, or other organs. Therefore the organ is not a synthesizer, it is a recording.

  4. I remember tuning and servicing the old pipe organ in the choir loft until the early 1990's. Once every two weeks we'd visit and *try* to tune the organ.
    It was old (1888) and completely worn-out.

    The organ is the last of it's kind. It was made by Canada's largest builder of the 19th century and there's virtually nothing left of their work anywhere in Canada.

    Beside the organ in a large chamber a curious device exists. It's a water powered 'blower' for the organ, installed in 1888. City water supply was piped-up the church tower and alternately filled and emptied a hydraulic cylinder-this imparted the motion required to pump the huge organ bellows to supply "wind" for the organ without the use of electricity or manpower what soever. Most downtown churches originally had these--but none now have the complete machine which appears to have been last used in 1913--the date the "new" electric organ blower was built. It would be costly to restore the old appliance and to the best of my knowledge there are none used anywhere in the world. If the will was there, it could be rebuilt. The "spent" water, btw, went down a drain and back to the lake. It was turned "on" by opening a valve placed outside the chamber. Last time I visited the loft, the unique valve was still in place--I never dared turn it......

    Despite the futility of tuning pipes that were so dirty they couldn't hold their pitch, the organ sounded wonderful in the rich acoustic space that is St. Michael's Cathedral. A "temporary" electronic organ for a few decades is a small price to pay for having the ability to make a good, long term decision concerning the pipe organ.
    There is, of course, a glorious window in the tower that generations of organ tuners and choristers have enjoyed viewing. The window has not been seen from the nave since the organ was installed 122 years ago.....