HORICON — New, vibrant sounds are filling the rafters at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Horicon.
The parish acquired a Casavant Freres pipe organ earlier this year from a church in Racine and spent the summer reconstructing it.
Pastoral musician Mike Strock said the search for a replacement organ began last fall.
“The organ that we had was a combination of electronic and pipes and the electronic portion was dying on us, so when the repairman says ‘It’s very hard to get the parts,’ it’s time to start looking,” Strock said.
“We had combined an organ that was built in the late 1990s with something that is 106 years old; that doesn’t always work. The pipes and the casework came from Immaculate Conception in Juneau. The electronic portion is from a company that is no longer in existence; that’s why there are no parts.”
The church started looking around on different databases, along with consulting organ technicians and builders. A brand new organ can cost upward of $450,000, so the decision was made to examine a used instrument.
The Rev. Michael Petrie said Sister Mary Jane Wagner of the School Sisters of St. Francis in Milwaukee is the one who alerted them to the availability of the organ they have now.
“It came from St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Racine,” Petrie said. “The organ was built in 1986, which is new for a pipe organ.”
Petrie said they basically “interviewed” the organ.
“Somebody plays it, you take your organ builder along and he inspects it and then we took our consultant along. He said, ‘You sit and listen to it, you think about your own space, and the builder does measuring to make sure it’s adequate to fill the space as far as sound goes.’”
Strock said the instrument felt right the moment he played it.
Securing funds for the newly purchased organ went quickly.
“It was marvelous,” parishioner Charlotte Pagel said. “I thought it would take us a long time to raise this money but everybody came together. We were really excited and said, ‘Let’s do this.’”
“We started the weekend of Dec. 10 and by Dec. 30 we had all the money,” Strock said.
Petrie said he just told church members that the old organ wouldn’t last forever and they responded with contributions.
“The other thing that really impresses me was all the volunteers,” Pagel said. “The whole congregation just really wanted to be part of it.”
Church members took apart the old organ at Sacred Heart in one day. Dismantling the organ at St. Andrew’s didn’t go quite as fast.
Strock said volunteers traveled to Racine in May and it took four days to remove 1,002 pipes, a few hundred tracker rods, wind reservoirs, the main 600-plus-pound chest, the roller board panels, the frame of the organ case and many other parts.
After parishioners carried all the parts into Sacred Heart Church, reassembly began.
Mark Tennessen and his crew built a deck for the organ to sit on. Then organ builder, Stanton Peters, and his staff at Peters, Wieland & Company took over. It took about 12 weeks to complete the process. If well taken care of, the instrument has a life expectancy of 300 to 400 years.
“The new organ has 1,100 pipes,” Strock said. “The previous organ was 85 percent electric and 15 percent pipe, with only 398 pipes.”
Petrie and Strock both expressed gratitude to their church community for this gift of music.
“The nice thing is we have great musicians who can play it and a congregation that can enjoy it,” Pagel said. “That means a lot to those people sitting in the pews on a Sunday, because we’re all in it together.”