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St. Valentine Catholic Church, Peru, IL

Background

The original pipe organ in St. Valentine Catholic Church was a tubular-pneumatic Hinners instrument, circa 1920. The organ was built in a case which wrapped around the base of the bell tower masonry work in the balcony and featured an attractive facade across the archway in the center of the bell tower. Early in the life of the instrument, the pipe organ was remodeled by the Wicks Organ Company of Highland, IL. This work included removing all of the tubular pneumatic windchests and building new, proprietary Direct-Electric(R) windchests for the original pipework, including electrifying the facades.

Unfortunately, in the years beginning with the early 1970s, several amateurish repairs and modifications were made to the fifty year old instrument by unqualified persons which resulted in improper wiring, an unprofessional appearance within the organ, and an ill-conceived winding system. By the early 1990s, serious damage to most of the pipework had occurred due to improper handling, and not a single stop functioned properly!

Scope of the Rebuild Project

After considering various options, the pastor of Saint Valentine's Church called upon Richard Schneider of Schneider Pipe Organs, Inc., based in Kenney, IL, to complete a rebuild project that would become the firm's "OPUS XX".

The renovation program began with rewiring the organ and the console, installing a new Peterson Diode Matrix relay system, and replacing the aging key contacts. Budgetary limitations required that the original Kilgen "tripper" combination action would be retained and adapted to the organ's new specification. This was accomplished in part by reconfiguring the manual to pedal couplers as illuminated reversible pistons, in order to allow for a more complete Pedal stoplist than would have been otherwise possible. Existing music rack and pedalboard lights were replaced with updated units and connect independently of the blower control circuit. All improper A.C. wiring and loose connections were also corrected using appropriate installation methods and materials.

The Wicks windchests serving the Swell and Great divisions were completely refinished and rebuilt. The stoplist of the instrument was redesigned to accommodate the existing windchests and a newly-built windchest in the center section to replace the existing facade chest. This allowed for the inclusion of a new Principal Chorus in the instrument. Previously, the organ had consisted of only two flute ranks and two string ranks per division, but reconfiguration of the existing windchests and the rewiring the instrument permitted the addition of desirable mutations and other registers.

The existing casework had been refinished many years earlier with green "antiquing", and the non-speaking facade pipes had been finished with white paint and gold flecking which, according to Richard Schneider, resembled Formica(R) countertops from the 1960's! In addition to reconfiguring the instrument, it was decided that the facade would be modified to include all speaking pipes; the casework was stripped and refinished in a light stain and lacquer finish; and chimes were installed in the organ.

The project also included substantial improvements to the pipework. All reused stops in the instrument were carefully inspected and any required repairs were made. The regulation and speech of the pipes were then adjusted to blend well together and with the intention of improving upon the voicing that had been completed decades earlier .

Other Highlights

Although this instrument enjoys an ideal location in terms of gallery placement on the long axis of the Nave, some minor problems still needed to be remedied. The main existing windchests were located below the Impost (the wooden member upon which feet of the facade pipes stand) and thus the interior pipes spoke directly into it. This problem was further magnified in the Swell Division because the opening of the Swell Box faces West. Consequently, these windchests were raised, and swell shades facing the Nave were installed.

A requirement of the installation was to permit viewing of the windows behind the central facade. Consequently, the new facade layout placed the largest pipes of the 8' Diapason on either side of the two "string bass towers". Replacement pipes were built for the String basses in the two towers. Pipes in the central facade are the tin trebles for the 8' Prestant stop. One other benefit incurred during the project was that great improvements to the egress of sound were made possible by the removal of the air conditioner air-handling unit above the pipework.

Richard Schneider, President and CEO of Schneider Pipe Organs, Inc.,
can be reached at 41-43 Johnston St./ P.O. Box 137, Kenney, IL 61749-0137;
Voice: (217) 944-2454; Fax (217) 944-2527; email arp@schneiderpipeorgans.com .
The firm's web site is at http://www.schneiderpipeorgans.com.

To link directly to photos of this organ shown on the Schneider Pipe Organs web site, visit http://www.schneiderpipeorgans.com/Peru/photos.

Questions, Comments, Concerns
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