Trinity’s organ ‘re-voiced’

Published 10:38 am Wednesday, May 10, 2006

By By ANDY HAMILTON / Niles Daily Star
NILES - It only took Bob Gregory and his crew two days to de-construct the 1700-piece puzzle that is Trinity Episcopal Church's organ.
One-by-one, they slid the organ pipes out from their wooden support racks and carried them to the church hallway.
Nearly 30 foam-lined boxes called ranks were each loaded with 61 metal organ pipes. Gregory's task was to load all the pieces that required cleaning into the ranks and safely drive them back in a rental truck to the Schantz Organ Co. factory in Orrville, Ohio.
The tiny metal plate on the organ indicates the council was installed by Schantz in 1953. The previous instrument used by the church was a Hooks and Hastings pipe organ. It was added in 1873 and for 80 years was used to lead Trinity's Sunday hymns.
Music was not the organ's only use, though. It became tradition for people confirmed in the church to carve their name or initials into the organ's paneling.
Trinity's office administrator Rhonda Baker's claim that the tradition was started by Ring Lardner is supported by the giant block ‘RL' etched into the wood. Another nearby section of the paneling was where Ring's sister, Lena, carved her full name.
Instead of trashing the organ when it was time to replace it, the church removed the large wood panels to cover the wall of the newest organ's swell room.
Gregory said the common belief is that the organ itself produces the sound heard in the church.
The swell rests on the ground level of the church. Sitting directly on top is the grate. The choir is also above but to the side of the other two rooms. All three look, smell and feel like attics and are filled with the wood mounts that hold the organ pipes.
The sound that bellows from each area is controlled at the organ. Three rows of keys produce the pitch that is sent on a 12-volt current to the rooms. Three large pedals adjust the volume of the pipes by opening and closing large wooden blinds on the outer faces of the swell and choir rooms.
Gregory was able to explain exactly how the organ worked. But, making the pipes sing, he said, was not a part of his job description.
Somebody's also has to inspect the new organ before it leaves the Schantz factory. That was the job of Gregory's father, Carl.
The organ pieces at Trinity were especially clean compared to other jobs Gregory has been on, he said, and should only take around a month to have them “re-voiced.”
Until then, Trinity Church, which is the oldest existing church structure in Niles, will rely on a regular modern piano to lead the Sunday worships.