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St. Joseph's Church, Chicago, Illinois

Background

(Chicago, IL) St. Joseph's Church will celebrate the installation of its majestic pipe organ on October 18, 1998, more than 15 years since the church's steeple collapsed, sending several large pieces of stone from the tower through the roof and into the organ. Over 4,000 hours of work over the course of the past year by Evanston-based Bradford Organ Company, and the generous support of a Chicago-area benefactor, reclaimed this king of instruments for the St. Joseph's congregation and the Near Northside neighborhood which it serves.

Bradford Organ Company, a firm which builds new pipe organs and specializes in the restoration of high quality older instruments, restored the beautiful case and facade of St. Joseph's original organ. Bradford then installed a different pipe organ inside that case: a Hutchings organ originally built for a church in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1892. This makes St. Joseph's pipe organ one of the rare remnants of the highly regarded 19th Century Hutchings firm, and the only restored Hutchings in Chicago. The instrument has 1,681 pipes and utilizes the Peterson electronic controls used in many modern pipe organs.

Roger Fisher, a retired businessman of Ivanhoe, Illinois and the benefactor of the pipe organ restoration is a former student of the church's pastor, Father Sebastian Lewis. Fisher explains that his relationship with Father Lewis goes back 47 years to his student days at St. Bede Academy in Peru, Illinois, but that his involvement with the pipe organ began as soon as he saw it. "Father Sebastian has always been an inspiration to me --- he was in the forefront of many movements long before they became fashionable. A few years ago I went to a Founders Day mass at St Joseph's. I was awed by the beauty of the sanctuary, but when I went up to take communion I saw the choir loft and organ and wondered why they didn't work. When you look at that organ you KNOW that it belongs in that church. I wanted to help save that pipe organ."

Father Sebastian Lewis, O.S.B. has served the congregation of St. Joseph's since January 1, 1960 and has been very active in various educational efforts and community service programs, including the Archdiocesan Office of Urban Affairs. Father Lewis indicates that the restored pipe organ will be used in regular services, and other ceremonies such as weddings and recitals.

Roger Stanley will be the performing organist at the pipe organ dedication ceremony in October, which will be open to the public. The entrance to St. Joseph's Church is located on Orleans two blocks south of Division.

Scope of the Rebuild Project

Before the Renovation: The organ's chests and pipework had been destroyed under a collapsed roof. Its case had been severely damaged, but was capable of restoration. Its detached console was dilapidated but was left undamaged by the event.

After the Renovation: The case was fully restored, including restenciling of its original Victorian facade pipes. The broken organ chests and pipework were discarded and replaced with an 1892 Hutchings organ of 27 ranks, which was moved to Chicago from its original home in Cambridge, MA and fully restored. St. Jospeh's own organ console will be used to play the Hutchings: it was refinished and fitted with a Peterson solid state relay and a Peterson 32-level combination action.

Father Sebastian Lewis, St. Joseph's Church, can be reached at 312 - 787 - 7174.

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