* August 2015 (3): Loads happening now but most excitingly and importantly, it is with great delight and pride that we announced on Sunday that every penny of €253,000 that we set out to raise to pay for the ongoing Organ Restoration has been raised. Book Sales, Bake Sales, Garden Open Days, Coffee Mornings, Dinner Parties, Filling jars with pennies, guessing how many pennies were in the filled jar, matching adult and baby photos, concerts, sponsoring pipes, baby welcoming services, donations big and small, donated Dublin Bus change receipts, carol singing, computer lessons and repairs, music lessons – and that’s just the things this correspondent can remember off the top of his head. The congregation from chairperson to occasional attenders got stuck in and supported the project through to the very end and we thank you all for every thing you did and every cent you raised (or helped raise). The word was well and truly spread and we can relax now that the money is safely in the bank account. There will be more fundraising for a few more very important projects next year but for now, celebrate.
The organ project continues with pipes now being installed and voiced on the Great manual.
* August 2015 (2): It was some delight for the organist to arrive into church last Saturday to find the led lights of the digital display of the pistons to be on and working. How these operate may require some training. It seems terribly complicated to him but will certainly make the performance of music with more complicated registrations much easier. Pipes are being brought in every couple of days and the task of tuning and voicing them onsite is continuing apace. We now know that the full restoration of the organ will not be finished by Culture Night as hoped – one has to be patient and allow for unforseen circumstances in this game – but anyone who comes that night will be treated to two mini-recitals on the organ at whatever stage it is at at that stage. Trevor Crowe will also talk about the work he has performed and what he is yet to do. The dedication of the newly restored organ will be on Sunday December 6th at a service in the morning and a recital at 3pm.
* August 2015: The choir manual is now complete. The swell manual is now complete except for the reeds. It is advised to leave reeds till the end as they are more fragile pipes and will need the most careful tuning – best to do that once. The swell box – the mechanism to open doors covering over the pipes on the swell manual thus making it easier to make them louder or softer – has been installed and is working like a dream. A few of the stops on the great and pedal organ have now been installed but have not been tuned yet and this correspondent has not heard them in action. The general effect of playing the organ at this stage is of a much more reliable and smooth-running organ and the sounds are as beautiful as you would expect from a Trevor Crowe organ restoration. The smoothness of the action is very much due to the churches’ decision to convert to an electronic action. This in no way affects how the sound is created – it just affects how the messages are processed behind, and communicated from the keyboard. Another benefit of this new action is a highly sophisticated digital piston setup allowing the organist a large bank of combinations of sounds to work with, a benefit which will really come into its own during recitals. We look forward to formally turning the organ on September 18th – there will still be a little bit to do at that stage – and dedicating it fully complete on Sunday 6th December. Both events will be free and all are warmly invited to join us at either or both.
* April 2015: With the entire Choir organ, four stops of the Swell organ, and half of one stop of the pedals working (but with all couplers functioning), it was very exciting for the congregation of our church when the organist Josh Johnston turned on the organ and accompanied an entire service on Easter Sunday 5th April 2015. There’s obviously a way to go yet until the job is complete with some pipes proving tricky and slowing the project down considerably. That said, progress has been made and the pipes that are returning from Trevor Crowe’s workshop in Kildare are sounding lovely. The stops are being regulated and tuned in line with what’s already installed as the organ builder works. There will be final tuning of the whole organ during August and September and the plan is to turn it on officially for two mini-recitals on Culture Night Friday 18th September 2015, six months ahead of schedule. Sunday 5th December 2015 has been chosen as a day of rededication for the restored pipe organ with a special service in the morning followed by a recital performed by various musicians at 3pm.
* November 2014: The Pipe Up scheme allowing friends and supporters of the church to sponsor individual organ pipes for themselves or in honour of beloved friends has fired up peoples’ imaginations and raised €7,000 for the Organ Fund. There are still plenty of pipes to be sponsored – feel free to join in the fun. Pipes to suit every budget from €40 to €400. For more information, hover on the word “Restoration” above and click on “Pipe Up”. We would like to send out our deep gratitude to all who have sponsored pipes so far.
A Wine Tasting (in aid of the Organ Restoration Fund) will happen in the church on Thursday 13th November at 8pm. Presented by Shane Murphy of La Rousse Wines, the plan is to have a fun evening of wine, music and meeting up with old and new friends. Tickets are priced at €45 and can be purchased online by clicking on the Paypal button below.
* October 2014: With the Choir manual and three stops of the Swell manual completely finished, the organ was turned on for a short improvisation after the silent meditation for the October 19th Harvest service. As more stops are voiced, positioned, tuned and regulated, the organ will go back to being silent to allow this work happen and for the pipes to acclimatise to the environment before turning it on for worship sometime around April 2015. The full work won’t actually be finished at that point – it is liable to continue through to September or even October 2015 but there will be enough completed at that point to allow the organist play to accompany services, allowing him time to get used to the newly restored instrument gradually as the instrument develops. At the end of the pipe voicing process, the 104-year old electrical blower will be decommissioned and replaced and the newly restored organ will be re-dedicated. It has been a great treat to hear the progress of the early stages of this ambitious project and we look forward to hearing more in April.
* July 2014: During June, the organbuilder, his team and the team of sub-contractors from England who built the new consoles, soundboards, pedalboard and supplied and customised the electrical circuitry, moved into the church for 2 1/2 intensive to install what they had spent the previous year or so lovingly preparing. The upshot of this is that we now have a completed organ with everything but the pipes. As there are 1600 + plus pipes, this means there is still quite a lot of work to be done. The work done so far looks very beautiful but the proof of the pudding will be when the first sets of pipes are re-installed over the coming months and we are in a position to turn the organ on early in the new year of 2015. Even then, the full set of pipes will not be finished and the organ will gradually return to full life over the following six months. We hope to have a fully restored organ by September 2015. If this happens to schedule, and that is always a big if with projects of this size, we would like to re-dedicate the newly restored organ just before Christmas 2015.
* January 19th 2014: Spring Journey 2014 announced. A season of 3 concerts featuring some of Ireland’s best musicians designed to take away the Winter blues and raise some money for the Organ at the same time. See the events page for more info.
* January 5th 2014: Trevor Crowe and his team started the exciting task of dismantling the 1911 JW Walker pipe organ ahead of its restoration and upgrade. All usable pipes will be restored and put back in or, in some cases where stops are being retired, restored and revoiced. In one case, dummy pipes (pipes which didn’t play) which were up there for aesthetic purposes are being converted into “speaking pipes” to accomodate one of the new stops that is being fitted. The soundboard is at the end of its tether and is now non-servicable but owes us nothing. It will be replaced. Various other parts (such as the pedal board) are being replaced to allow for standard specifications on modern organs. We are taking the opportunity to remove radiators installed within the organ to allow space within the organ to voice extra pipes (actually the organ was built around the radiators). This and various other necessary jobs will take place in the church over the next few months while the pipes and bellows are being restored, and the soundboards and parts are being prepared.
* In December 2013 the congregation were told that the fundraising for the Organ Restoration Project had reached €156,000. This means that we are now counting in tens of thousands instead of hundreds of thousands. Happy New Year.
* On September 20th during Culture Night which the church opened for for the second year in a row, the Organ Fundraising Committee launched Pipe Up, an opportunity for congregation members and friends to sponsor pipes of the new organ. With pipes ranging from €40 to €400, there’s a pipe there to suit everyone’s budget, and with 1629 pipes to be made or restored, there’s plenty to go around. More details here.
* Click here for a download of the Pipe Up leaflet in hard copy.
Organ Restoration Fund – Background
The pipe organ in the Unitarian Church on St. Stephens’ Green turned 100 years old in 2011. It was built by J.W. Walker in 1911 and is agreed by experts and musicians to be a very fine musical instrument of its time. Through 100 years and 6 organists, its 3 manuals and pedals have accompanied hymns and choir anthems, played at weddings and been the host to many organ recitals, reflecting the mood of its ministers and congregation through music. Apart from a cleaning job in 1953 and some tonal alterations in the 1980’s, it has not missed a Sundays’ worship. It is remarkable that it has held up so well under so much pressure.
It is an extraordinarily accomplished musical instrument of its time but daily it shows the signs of lack of attention – sometimes notes sound when they shouldn’t, sometimes the notes don’t come out at all. Without a proper restoration, the organ will become completely unusable.
The church have signed a contract with Irish organ-builder Trevor Crowe to do this restoration work between April 2013 and December 2015, as well as making some judicial tonal alterations to provide us with an efficient and musically balanced instrument for recital and worship use. The full specs of the project are here.
So the pipe organ at the Unitarian Church needs you. It will cost €250,000 to restore the organ and we have 3 years to raise this amount. The church are doing well but there is still plenty of road to cover.
If you would like to contribute to the Organ Fund, please click on the button below and donate using Paypal.
How else can you help ? Here are some ideas
* Attend music, poetry and theatre events at the church
* Set up a standing order to the appeal. Forms available to download by clicking on the links or from the church at the address below. Return to address on form.
* Consider leaving money to the appeal in your will.
With your help, we can once again have an organ to fill the church with music for many years to come.