Antique pipe organ finds new home in Enniskeane church
IT WILL cost them an estimated €40,000 – but, after nearly 150 years, the people of Enniskeane finally have a traditional pipe organ in their parish church.
The instrument, which would come with a €250,000 price tag if purchased as new, was originally in the Sisters of Mercy Convent in Clonakilty, which closed down in 2008.
Whether it was coincidence or providence – Enniskeane parish priest Fr Tom Hayes believes it was the latter – the 134-year-old organ was spotted by Enniskeane resident and accomplished musician Pádraig O’Donovan following the closure of the convent.
Committed to finding a new home for the organ, Pádraig is now installing it in Enniskeane parish church following refurbishment.
The major costs of the project constitute the purchase of new organ components, the upgrading of existing components and labour costs, as well as preparing the church itself to accommodate the organ, Fr Hayes explained.
The upstairs gallery of the Church of the Immaculate Conception, which first opened its doors in 1871, has had to be renovated and specially reinforced to accommodate the three-and-a-half ton instrument.
‘We are basically raising money to help offset the cost, both of repairs to the organ and of refurbishing the gallery – in all about €40,000,’ said Fr Hayes.
The organ replaces the smaller electric organ, which has been in the church for some 30 years:
‘The old organ is nearing the end of its life-span,’ he said, adding that although it had been customary to install an organ when the church was originally dedicated for worship in 1871, the people of the parish did not have enough money left over from the construction of the church to pay for one at the time. However, a few years later the Sisters of Mercy in Clonakilty commissioned a pipe organ for their new convent.
Built in London, the organ was transported to Clonakilty where it was installed and blessed in 1878 in the convent chapel – but now it has been moved to Enniskeane, where parishioners and friends of the Enniskeane and Desertserges parish are being invited to make history by sponsoring one of the organ’s 622 pipes as part of the 2012 pipe organ sponsorship programme.
‘Basically, we're inviting people from the parish and beyond to sponsor a pipe by dedicating a pipe to themselves or to a loved one for €30’, said Fr Hayes.
The initiative, which will raise an estimated €18,000, will help pay for the work on the organ and on the church – further funds will be raised over time, and Fr Hayes is also investigating the possibility of securing grant aid.
‘This is very much a heritage project – we're preserving part of the heritage of West Cork,’ he said.
Significant work has been involved in the renovation of the instrument – the fabric of the organ has been restored to its original condition, while its timber panels have been stripped and restored.
The main bellows has been rebuilt in England (it will store and pump 40 cubic feet of air) and the pipes have been ‘re-voiced’ by specialists in Belfast. The organ’s decorative stencilling has been re-done in Clonakilty, while its installation in Enniskeane is in the hands of Pádraig O’Donovan.
‘In a way what this organ is doing is bringing to completion the vision and ideas of the people who originally built Enniskeane Church in the years after the famine.’
Those who are interested can sponsor the pipe online by visiting the parish’s new website, which went live just one week ago.‘The main body of the organ was installed in the past few weeks and it is a very good fit for the church,’ said Fr Hayes, who added that the instrument would be extremely useful to the three excellent choirs in the parish, and the many parishioners who were musically gifted.
‘The organ will be a very significant asset to the parish for services and worship in the coming years. It will complement the performances of the choirs,’ he said, adding that the instrument would provide a very different sound to its electronic predecessor.
‘The organ will have a wider range of sound. It is more powerful and people will really notice a difference.’
Originally the organ was powered by a 175kg bellows filled with air by a hand pump which had a long lever worked by one of the sisters while the organ was played! Air is now supplied to the organ bellows by an electric blower and the air to each of the pipes is also controlled by electric switches since the 1980s. All of these electrical components have since been upgraded.
Those who are extremely musical may even be able to distinguish which note is being played through which pipe, says Fr Hayes – and people who are musically gifted and who have sponsored a pipe may even identify their ‘own’ pipe, and their ‘own’ note, because each of the 622 pipes has a unique note.
To sponsor a pipe visit www.enniskeaneparish.ie and either print off, complete and post the sponsorship form or use the online donation facility.
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