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The Jardine Pipe Organ 
at the Shrine Church of
Saint Anthony of Padua

You would have to agree with me when I say that St. Anthony’s is truly a beautiful church.  I think anyone who enters our church for the first time must take a moment to catch their breath at the sight.  When I came to St. Anthony’s in September of 2004, I was delighted to find that one of the great treasures of our church, the pipe organ, was not only still intact, but had been maintained by previous pastors.  So many churches have let their pipe organs fall into disrepair, only to be presented with enormous bills to repair them, and have decided to remove the pipe organs in favor of less aesthetic but more economical electronic organs.  Electronic organs are not only inferior sound wise, they have a life span of 25 years (compared to hundreds of years for pipe organs).  However, because of the workmanship and craft needed to construct and maintain a pipe organ, pipe organs can be very expensive.

Please note that I do know something about the topic.  I started studying classical organ at the age of 13, and went all the way through music school (St. Pius X School of Liturgical Music at Manhattanville College, Purchase, NY) and graduate school (Boston University School of Fine Arts).  I also studied privately with several organ teachers, and to this day, still direct music for our Franciscan province.  I directed choirs, taught college courses, and worked as an organist in several churches in my seminary days.  I also had the occasion to play St. Anthony’s pipe organ many times during that time, for ordinations and profession of vows.

Our pipe organ was built around 1888 (along with the church) as opus 933 by George Jardine and Sons Organ Company of New York.  The organ at that time was a three-manual (keyboard) tracker action (mechanical).  The instrument was considered from the beginning to be both historic and grand.

In the 1950’s, a major overhaul was made to the organ.  Although this work in the long run preserved the organ, some compromises were made.  A rebuilt electro-pneumatic console was added, reducing the manuals from three to two, and other parts of the organ were changed.

During the years, for the most part, the church kept up with repairs and tuning of the instrument.  In more recent years, major work has taken place to keep our organ not only functional but in top condition.  In the past few months, major work has been done on the organ console.  Since it was in need of great repair, the organ console has been completely rebuilt,  preserving only the outer cabinet.  It is now a state-of-the-art modern organ console, consisting of new keyboards, a new pedal board, expression pedals and keyboard and foot pistons.  It is also MIDI compatible (Musical Instrument Digital Interface), which allows it to play other digital musical instruments, such as keyboards and synthesizers.  This has been done by our current organ builders, John Klauder Organ Company.

One of the great parts of all this is that the console has been relocated to the main church level, in the front of the baptismal side of the church, and is attached to the organ pipes (which remain in the upper loft) through an Ethernet connection.  We did have the option of going completely wireless, with Bluetooth technology, but I was a little concerned about the newness of Bluetooth, and possible interference from other wireless sources.  Our console is also on casters, which make it completely mobile.  The new location of the console also makes it easier for choir members, who will not need to hike up to the upper loft to sing.

Many people don’t realize the great treasure we have in our Jardine Pipe Organ.  It is definitely the most precious and expensive piece of equipment we have in our church, being valued in the upper hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Certainly, such a treasure has been handed down to us for almost 120 years, and we have a great obligation to see that it is not only preserved, but enjoyed, for generations to come.

Fr. Joseph F. Lorenzo, O.F.M.

For more information on our pipe organ, visit the American Guild of Organists website: CLICK HERE

Shrine Church of St. Anthony of Padua
Staffed by the Franciscan Friars (Order of Friars Minor), Province of the Immaculate Conception