Friday, June 13, 2014

The end is possibly a little bit near and will come eventually

I've never been much for apocalyptic doom. Nevertheless, I hear it is a good way to get people's attention.

If you don't do this very important thing right away WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!!

Push that button a little too hard or too often, though, and things tend to backfire.

But here's the situation:

Two weeks ago on this blog I announced the organ renovation project at Faith church this summer. I told how the electronic relay system wasn't doing its job and was started to cause some real problems with notes that wouldn't play in addition to the chronic problem we've had getting replacement parts when the circuit boards that control some of the functions in the console get burned out (one nearly every year). Last week I mentioned that this was going to cost money, and that if you wished to donate to the fund now rather than waiting for the Autumnal Capital Project to start, we wouldn't mind that at all. (Call the church office)

Now before I get to the good stuff, all the exciting new features that digitizing the console will bring to the organ, let's take a walk on the dire side of things. What happens if we don't do this fix now?

Organists can tell you any number of sad stories about churches that have lost their pipe organs, either through neglect, or just not wanting organ music anymore. They do cost a lot to maintain, and for some folks they just aren't worth it. The reason we are even able to get replacement parts for the circuit cards when they stop working is because somewhere another organ has been demolished and we are getting the part from it.  Our organ builder stopped making new parts decades ago.

But I have a personal story to relate. You may have heard pastor Brad talk about the church he had to close right out of seminary. Well, I nearly had to "close" an organ. When I left the organ at my church in Baltimore was still playable but major problems were starting to surface. The church itself was in trouble though as of this writing they are still open. We thought it might close ten years ago. One thing was evident: there wasn't any money to do major repairs to the organ. A couple of years after my move to Illinois, the organ developed too many problems and couldn't be played anymore. Now it just sits there and nobody uses it. A mighty voice has fallen silent.

This makes me personally aware of what might happen eventually if an organ isn't taken care of when it needs to be. And, once in a while, it needs more than a simple tuning and the occasional adjustment. Several years ago the folks at the Buzard organ company warned us that eventually the organ might cease to function properly. The question was how eventually. After a little scare this Christmas when three dead notes developed in the same week, I proposed to Doug that we get the Buzard organ company to submit their proposal with estimate now. After that the organ behaved itself for about a month, but with a record number of phantom dead notes developing this semester, some during Sunday services, I am wondering just how borrowed our time was. I am also particularly glad we are taking action now rather than waiting for the organ to stop working and THEN try to sound the alarm, raise funds, all the while having a non-functioning organ for a year or two while we get our ducks in a row and the organ is repaired.

One way to illustrate this problem might be with last week's offertory.  What you won't hear are the twenty minutes before this recording I spent in frustration trying to coax one of the recalcitrant notes to life before they finally began to work properly. If you want to hear what a passage can sound like with a very important note missing, here is a blog from last Christmas.

It's not pretty. So how concerned should you be? Well, you shouldn't. We are taking care of the problems this summer, possibly just in time. We might have been able to risk another year with an increasingly frustrated organist as issues kept developing without warning. Instead, without needing to preach that the sky is falling, without histrionics, we're doing what Doug and I agreed needed to be done: taking care of the problem once and for all rather than continuing as we had been for the last decade or so: to put band-aids on it and hope we could keep going for a few more years. The necessary committees agreed to the proposal. They should all be congratulated for being so proactive. As a result we will have a healthy, magnificent instrument to help lead worship at Faith for years to come.

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