St. Andrew Catholic Church, Richmond, IN

 

A New Brain

for an Old Organ

 

Last fall,  we received a request to examine the pipe organ in historic St. Andrews Catholic Church in Richmond, IN.  The church had been struck by lightning, and the 15-year-old control system on the church's 1947 Wicks pipe organ had been badly damaged.

 

St. Andrews is typical of the beautiful worship edifices built in the early twentieth century.  As is the case with many of these buildings, the beautiful architecture is matched by a lively acoustic that is perfect for organ music.

 

The Wicks organ appears to contain tonal material from a previous instrument, and many of the pipes are quite fine.

 

Instead of trying to repair the old control system, we recommended a rebuild of the console, and complete replacement of the controls systems with a Peterson ICS4000 Integrated System.  Installing the new system allowed us to remove all vestiges of the original Wicks mechanical relays (the presence of which may have contributed to the lightning damage), as well as the previously-installed solid state equipment, and to replace it with a new, compact, and much more functional system. 

 

The new Peterson system carries a 10-year warranty against the kind of damage the ruined the old system, and, perhaps more importantly, can be quickly repaired in the unlikely event that damage should occur.  We are also able to easily reconfigure the new system to accommodate changes when the remainder of the organ is finally renovated.

 

Among the features of the new system are plenty of memory levels for all the church's several organists, programmable crescendo and tutti functions, full MIDI interface, and built-in record/playback capability.

 

There remain a number of mechanical and tonal challenges to be faced to bring this organ up into good condition, but St. Andrews has taken a very major step along that road!

 

Update:  Two years after this project was completed, St. Andrews was again the victim of a lightning strike!  This can happen when you're the tallest building around!  This time, despite minor damage elsewhere, the ICS4000 system came through unscathed.  We simply replaced one of the Ethernet hubs ($40 at Staples), and rebooted the other two.  Amazing!

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