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St. Mary's Anglican Church, Windsor, Ontario

Background

St. Mary's Anglican Church of Windsor, Ontario was built in 1904 by three brothers wishing to honor the memory of their parents, the wealthy distillery owner Hiram Walker and his wife, Mary. It is set upon an elegant green landscape, reminiscent of an old English village. When built, the church housed a Karn pipe organ which served its congregation for many decades. In 1967, the pipe organ was rebuilt by the Principal Pipe Organ Company of Woodstock, Ontario. But by 1994, it was clear to the 200 or more families who comprise the membership of St. Mary's that their pipe organ was in need of extensive repair and considerable upgrading. After researching alternatives, the congregants decided that in order to maintain the full sound and quality of their music program, they would have to commit to a restoration project to modernize their instrument.

Scope of the Rebuild Project

In 1995, Pole & Kingham Pipe Organ Company of Chatham, Ontario, began its restoration of St. Mary's pipe organ. Pole & Kingham has been restoring pipe organs since its establishment in 1979. The project, which was done in two stages over a period of one and a half years, included:

  • Converting the console to solid state switching;

  • Installing a MIDI interface system;

  • Equipping the console with a MIDI compatible digital sequencer and sound module to record performances using organ and synthesized sounds;

  • Installing all new windchests;

  • Replacing the Baroque trumpet with an English trumpet;

  • Cleaning and rescaling all pipes;

  • Installation of additional pipes.

Because the enhancements increased the size of their pipe organ, St. Mary's needed to prepare the chamber which was to house the restored instrument. The Reverend Canon John Riddle applied his skills as a handyman and his innate abilities for carpentry to clean, plaster, put up drywall and paint.

Showcasing the Music

Program Reverend Riddle says, "It was very important to our church that the high standards set for our music program be maintained. Wayne Cornwall, our organist, is a wonderful musician and is still discovering the tremendous versatility MIDI offers. That versatility is essential to serving the needs of our parishioners. We can offer a variety of both traditional and contemporary music to suit the different tastes of our membership. The improvements have added considerably to the range of music we can do and we are all still learning about our pipe organ's enhanced capabilities."

Donald Pole adds his voice to Reverend Riddle's, saying, "Now that we have seen and heard the flexibility and ease of MIDI, we recommend it to church organ committees regularly. St. Mary's choice of technology has given their organist unprecedented flexibility and range."

Other Highlights

Fundraisers within the church provided the resources to restore the pipe organ. Through large and small contributions, the congregation has shown its commitment to preserving and modernizing their instrument.

In the Fall, there will be a concert to celebrate the restored pipe organ. Wayne Cornwall, the church organist and a member of the Royal Canadian College of Organists, will perform along with a guest organist, Sandra Young Tangjerd. The concert is scheduled for September 22, 1998 at St. Mary's Anglican Church in Windsor.

The Reverend Canon John C. Riddle may be reached at St. Mary's Anglican Church, 1983 St. Mary's Gate, Walkerville, Windsor, Ontario. Tel: 519/253-5221; Fax: 519/253-8274.

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