The final cosmetic touches in our beautifully refurbished Nave will be finished this week, including the complete cleaning, reassembling, and re-tuning of our Wicks organ, which has been encased in plastic since June 2019.
Meanwhile, the organist is working from home.
Everything in my being wants to "run down to the church to practice," as has been my Saturday afternoon routine for decades in my life. But then the terms COVID-19, social distancing, physical distancing, and stay-home-order crop up.
In June 2019 when we last worshiped in the Nave, the organ console was tightly wrapped in heavy sheet plastic, and a wooden-framed sealed-plastic cover was constructed for the organ facade.
Even with these precautions, we knew that construction dust and plaster dust would seep into the organ chamber, which itself is much like a large, secret room behind the pipes that we see.
Behind the visual pipes are three large chambers containing almost 2000 individual pipes, made of both metal and wood. The largest pipe is 16' tall, rising 8' and bending via a mitred joint, and continuing 8' back down, giving the 16' total feet that the air in that pipe needs to travel.
The smallest pipes are about the size of a No. 2 pencil, sitting in rows and rows atop wind chests. These tiny, skinny pipes held in place by mounted horizontal boards with holed, resembling peg-board upon which you might hang tools in your garage.
The largest of the pipes sit on the floor and have their own individual “vacuum cleaner hoses” to deliver the air from the organ blower (in its own room within the organ chamber) to the bottom of each pipe. The pipes that you see in the facade also have their own hoses that supply the air.
Given the amount of HVAC duct work, attic insulating, asbestos removing, plastering, and sawing that the Nave has experienced in the past ten months, we can only imagine the amount of dust that has accumulated in the organ chamber.
Which is why Mr. Koziel has been vacuuming for the past two weeks.
Our organ technician Greg Koziel, who was already our organ technician even before his wife Dr. Ellen Koziel joined our music staff a few years ago, has decades of experience and is one of the most well-respected organ technicians in the mid-south.
Before Greg could begin vacuuming and cleaning, he had to remove each pipe of the Great division of the organ (which is actually two separate divisions, an enclosed Great and an unenclosed Great) and carefully lay the pipes in long wooden and cardboard trays for temporary storage and protection.
The Linkous construction crew could then safely repair the wall and ceiling leak on the inside west wall of the organ chamber, from a leak with which we have dealt for over ten years.
Greg then returned all the pipes to Great division and started vacuuming and cleaning, a slow, meticulous, tedious process.
I do not have the patience to be an organ technician, bless my heart.
Thank goodness there are people like Mr. Koziel who do!
He then moved to the enclosed Swell division, which is behind the very center of the facade, and continued the dust removal. A long walk-board extends out over the Swell division pipes, which is why organ technicians need to be slender and sure-footed.
Again, not me, bless my heart.
The chamber to the right contains the Pedal division and the Festival Trumpet, affectionately known as the "Hosanna Horn." These trumpet pipes are mounted against the east chamber wall and have their own separate high wind pressure.
More vacuuming, sweeping, and cleaning for Greg.
At some point in the next week or so, you will hear the organ via livestream, video clip, or posted audio recording. The minute I am allowed, I will don my mask, grab my organ music and canvas organ shoes tote bag, and sneak down to the church.
I will sit at the console, with my container of sanitized wipes, and reprise the glissando and tone-clusters improvisation that I performed on the Choir Room piano a couple of weeks ago.
To assist Mr. Koziel, my job then becomes playing the organ as much as possible and using each stop on the organ to help make sure all the construction dust is blown out of all the pipes.
During online virtual parish staff meeting this morning, the Rector said that blowing out the pipes has never been an issue for me, bless my heart.
Later this week, raise your den windows at home, or sit out on the deck, and you will probably be able to hear me!
Photo Credit: Cindy Putnam McMillion