A pipe organ in peril

The front of the postcard I designed

The front of the postcard I designed

The poster I designed. Click to enlarge.

The poster I designed. Click to enlarge.

A pipe organ in peril — that’s only one of the many projects I’m working on these days. The organ in question is the 1961 Æolian-Skinner organ at St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Honolulu, which after “the stress of six decades of heavy, continuous use and various assaults ranging from a leaking roof to termites, the organ is in serious disrepair.  Due to roof leaks in 2006, 549 pipes are unplayable.  The entire Positiv division, due to severe water damage to the windchest, is completely unplayable and the chest is so badly damaged that it is not practical to rebuild it.  A recent inspection found an additional 166 silent notes in other parts of the organ. This number increases weekly and is kept somewhat under control by constant repair of the most critical notes one-by-one.

Look at all the termite droppings!

Look at all the termite droppings!

This situation is both artistically and economically untenable. It is grossly expensive to repair notes one-by-one, and it is frustrating for an organist when practice time must be devoted to finding ways around constantly changing idiosyncrasies. Electrical problems in the termite-ridden console cause not only additional dead notes, but even notes to play at random on their own. Often a note will hang on after the key is released. Sometimes multitudes of notes play at once, and random non-musical sounds (“pops, bangs, explosions and whistles”) come from the speakers. The organ remains playable only though frequent and expensive repair of the most critical failures one by one.” 

(The above was culled from a number of sources.) So far I have designed an organ poster for display in the Cathedral, organ postcards to be mailed in December, and a number of ads to be placed in concert programs. I have also compiled a complete descriptive article about the Cathedral and the organ to be submitted for publication in a national magazine devoted to the pipe organ. You can find more information on the Cathedral’s website. There is also a Facebook page which I created which you can view and comment on here: www.facebook.com/cathedralofstandreworgan.

Well, guess what, I am playing this organ several times in December which included last night’s Wednesday Evensong (December 9), two upcoming Sunday morning Eucharists at St. Andrew’s Cathedral (December 13), and Iolani School’s annual Christmas concert on December 18. It means always having a Plan B in case I find another dead note here and there during my practice sessions, which means I have to change the stops I have chosen.

Tonight's Christmas party menu

Tonight’s Christmas party menu

Besides my organ gigs, I am involved in a number of holiday parties including one tonight for my condo given by the homeowners association. I designed the flyers advertising the event, 25 custom-printed name tags for the volunteers, and tickets for attendees to redeem for a food plate.

On Sunday, I am hosting a party for all the people who live on my floor. It’s something my husband Carl and I did every year since we moved here in 2004, and I am continuing the tradition. I am fixing a honey lime-glazed salmon, green beans almondine, tropical fruit salad, parmesan tomatoes, and apple crisp for dessert. (Sorry, it’s nigh impossible to crash our party since we live in Fort Knox!)

Here was last year’s invitation:

My Christmas party last year.

My Christmas party last year.

All this — before I leave for California to spend the holidays with my family!




About Katherine Crosier

In addition to playing the organ I am interested in documenting life's special moments through journaling, scrapbooking, photography and slideshow production. My family just groans.
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9 Responses to A pipe organ in peril

  1. John Alexander says:

    I’m glad to get more details of the sorry state of the marvelous organ at St. Andrew’s Cathedral. How awful it is!! Worse than I’d thought… Thanks for the info.

    Kathy, you mentioned that the ‘Iolani Chorus and Hokuloa Singers’ concert is December 19; it’s actually on Friday, December 18. I’m sure you knew that, but your typing fingers got away from you…

    See you soon! -j*

  2. Roger Barton says:

    I had no idea the St. Andrews organ was in such bad shape. I know it got a new console while John McCreary was still alive, because the old console ended up in the shop of a local organbuilder, to be rehabbed and installed here in Oklahoma. I suppose I assumed that all the other work had been done as part of the same project! Bless you for spearheading the overhaul effort!

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  4. Tom says:

    You sure those are termites? Have you actually seen the termites? Does the rest of the church have termite damage? How could you have termite damage in the organ, but not the rest of the church. You sure it’s not cockroaches? All that black stuff looks like cockroach excrement. And you can see chewing on the surface of the wood, which would be cockroaches vs termites. Termites make little tunnels into the wood. Do you see any of that? I don’t see any mouse droppings, but they love to chew on wood and love the insides of organs. You need to get a pest control person to take a look at it. And you need to do something to remedy the pest problem to stop further damage. Looks like there might be a theater organ society chapter https://www.atos.org/node/431 Appear to be maintaining the Hilo Palace Theater organ. Maybe a member might come by and look at the organ for you. At least somebody could get a shop vac and vacuum all the crud out of it. And try and get rid of whatever the pests are.

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