Music to uplift spirits

Painstaking task: Wood(right) and Faulkner carrying parts of the pipe organ at the Church of the Assumption in Farquhar Street, Penang.

Painstaking task: Wood(right) and Faulkner carrying parts of the pipe organ at the Church of the Assumption in Farquhar Street, Penang.

PARISHIONERS of the Church of the Assumption in Farquhar Street, Penang, will soon be greeted with melodious tunes from its newly restored century-old pipe organ.

The ancient organ, which was shipped to Harrogate in England for a major overhaul in January, has been returned to the church after five months of restoration work, which took three workers about 3,500 hours.

The restoration work on ‘Old Lady’, as it is affectionately known, was undertaken by Peter Wood and Son, a British company specialising in pipe organ building, repairs, restorations, rebuilds and tuning.

Its managing director Mark Wood said all parts of the organ were restored individually at the company’s workshop before being reassembled at the church.

“It will take approximately three weeks to assemble all the parts and another week to tune the organ properly to make sure that all the pipes are working beautifully.

“Three of us – myself and fellow organ builders Nigel Crossley and Mark Faulkner – worked on it every day except on Sundays.

“It was completed on Aug 26 and was shipped to Penang after that, and it reached here just this morning,” he said at the church yesterday.

The organ, made of oak, pine and mahogany, has 640 pipes made of lead and zinc. It was built in 1914 by Morton & Moody of Oakham, England, and set up in the church by The Robinson Piano Co Ltd in June 1916.

Wood said the restoration work on the organ was challenging because its condition was very poor with its termite and rat-infested wood as well as wear and tear of the mechani-cal parts.

“The pipes have been cleaned and tuners atop each pipe were replaced. Most of the original pipes were retained. Some of the ivory keys have been replaced with a synthetic material resembling ivory,” he said.

Church organist Leonard Selva Gurunathan said the organ’s restoration marked an important moment in history in Penang.

“This would also not have been possible if not for our then choirmaster Ian Campbell, who wrote letters to about 30 organ companies in the late 1970s asking for help to repair the organ,” he said.

Parish priest Father Dominic Santhiyagu said the successful restoration of the organ, which he described as a blessing from God, had somehow lifted his burden in a way.

“I am very excited by the return of the organ. All this would not have been possible without the contribution of our donors.”

AirAsiaExpedia donated RM200,000 and Star Publications (M) Bhd RM50,000. There were many other contributors, including Khazanah Nasional’s Think City Sdn Bhd.

Meanwhile, church member Eustace Anthony Nonis, who is also St Joseph’s Home chairman, said the organ, which had more than 2,000 parts, was saved from looters during World War II by then parish priest Father J. Baptiste Souhait.