Across the ocean, in Hamburg Germany, work is underway in the von Beckerath shop to create some new pipes for our Johnson & Son pipe organ.
Over the course of 2014, the session commissioned reports on the state of our 141 year-old organ. The most recent was from the Odell Organ Company of East Haddam, CT. The firm, now over a century and a half old, was building organs at the same time as the Johnson company, and therefore possesses special expertise in instruments of this vintage. After reviewing Odell’s findings at their October meeting, the session decided to allocate funds to correct some immediate issues with the organ; these funds are to be spent over the next three years. The larger issues, which will require special fundraising, will be addressed in the future.
After reviewing bids for the near-term work, the von Beckerath firm was selected. They are fabricating new pipes to replace three sets of pipes that have been added over the history of the organ. Unfortunately, the old additions were not in keeping with the true character of the organ and, in the case of two of the sets of pipes, were undersized for the room. The new pipes will add a lushness and beauty to these three important voices that is now lacking.
We will follow the progress of the new pipework here. The first step is to procure the tin and lead that will be melted and mixed to create the proper alloy for making the new pipes. Beckerath uses only the purest tin from Indonesia. This is a photo of the tin ingots at the shop, ready to be melted:
Once the correct proportion of tin and lead have been melted together, a single sheet of the alloy is created on the casting table. Here we see the molten alloy being rapidly spread across the long table:
After the sheet cools, it is planed down to the exact thickness needed in a drum planer. These sheets of varying correct thickness are then left to cure before the pipe maker starts to cut them into smaller pieces that will become our pipes.
Next month, we will follow the pipe creation process and watch these metal sheets begin to take on new, musical forms.