Grand piece of mu­si­cal his­tory plays on

Mu­seum Christ­mas con­cert fea­tures re­stored or­gan

The Observer (Sarnia) - - FRONT PAGE - PAUL MORDEN

Af­ter driv­ing two hours from his home in Baden, near Kitch­ener, on a sum­mer day in 2014, Rodney Jantzi stood in the chapel at the Moore Mu­seum in Moore­town look­ing at some­thing com­pletely unique.

Jantzi is a “com­puter guy” and church or­gan­ist who re­stores reed or­gans as a hobby.

He had been sent a pho­to­graph of the 1881 Do­min­ion reed or­gan in the mu­seum’s Trin­ity St. Clair Chapel and made the day trip there with his wife to have a look.

“I know a lot of reed or­gans,’ Jantzi said.

“In my opin­ion, it is one of the grand­est reed or­gans sur­viv­ing to­day, that was made by a Cana­dian man­u­fac­turer.”

It was made at a fac­tory in Bow­manville, Ont., in 1881 and shipped to the Mount Zion Pres­by­te­rian Church in Ridgetown. Just be­fore the turn of the cen­tury, it was sold to St. An­drew’s Pres­by­te­rian Church in Moore­town and used there un­til around the late 1950s.

Af­ter that, it was loaned to the Oil Mu­seum of Canada in Oil Springs and then given to the Moore Mu­seum when it opened in 1975.

The his­toric chapel where it sits now was re­opened to the pub­lic at the mu­seum site in about 2000.

Jantzi said he had never seen an­other or­gan like the one in Moore­town.

“I be­lieve it’s one of a kind.”

The wooden large up­per sec­tion of the or­gan is in­tri­cately carved and dec­o­rated, al­though it doesn’t have any­thing to do with mak­ing mu­sic.

“It has ab­so­lutely no pur­pose, other than eye candy,” Jantzi said.

The or­gan still looked grand that first day he saw it, but Jantzi said he was dis­ap­pointed to dis­cover it barely made a sound.

“It was his­tory you can’t hear,” he said.

So, the next day, he of­fered to re­store it at no cost to the mu­seum.

Ap­prox­i­mately a year later, the mu­seum de­liv­ered the lower half of the or­gan, the part that makes mu­sic, to Jantzi’s work­shop in Baden, and he went to work on a project that ended up tak­ing ap­prox­i­mately 220 hours to com­plete.

The in­side of the or­gan, he dis­cov­ered, was in “de­plorable” con­di­tion, Jantzi said.

A pre­vi­ous restora­tion used mod­ern parts that, over time, caused prob­lems.

Jantzi “painstak­ingly” re­moved the mod­ern pieces and re­placed them with au­then­tic wools, leathers and other orig­i­nal ma­te­ri­als, in­clud­ing an­tique screws.

“Every­thing was brought back to orig­i­nal­ity, as it should have been,” he said.

“No­body re­ally re­mem­bered what it sounded like, so now it’s like his­tory you can see and hear.”

He com­pleted the restora­tion in early 2016 and the or­gan was re­turned to the mu­seum’s chapel, a 1919 build­ing that had been Trin­ity Angli­can Church in Moore­town.

“It’s a per­fect fit, for an in­stru­ment like that,” Jantzi said.

Cu­ra­tor Laurie Ma­son said that when the Moore Mu­seum hosted a sum­mer con­cert in the chapel a year ago to wel­come the or­gan back, sev­eral in the au­di­ence sug­gested hold­ing a Christ­mas con­cert.

That’s now set for Nov. 24, 7 p.m., in the chapel.

There are just 80 seats avail­able, and tick­ets, $20 adults and $10 for chil­dren, are be­ing sold at the mu­seum. They can be or­dered by calling 519-867-2020.

Ma­son said the pre­vi­ous con­cert was a full house. “We def­i­nitely rec­om­mend peo­ple buy their tick­ets ahead of time.”

Jantzi trav­elled back to the mu­seum about a month ago to do some touch up main­te­nance on the or­gan.

“Gen­er­ally, it’s hold­ing up very well, and should be good for the con­cert,” he said.

He will be play­ing the or­gan that evening, along with lo­cal or­gan­ist Jeff Sear­son.

“It’s a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence al­to­gether,” Jantzi said about play­ing a reed or­gan.

“There’s no in­stru­ment like it.” Jantzi is still an or­gan­ist at the church where he be­gan play­ing as a teenager, and he has played reed or­gan for tele­vi­sion sound­tracks, in­clud­ing an episode of the show Hell on Wheels.

His restora­tion hobby be­gan nearly a decade ago with a reed or­gan that had been in a Lutheran church his wife’s fam­ily at­tended near Kirk­land Lake.

“I’ve been hooked ever since,” he said.

So, far he has re­stored ap­prox­i­mately 15, doc­u­ment­ing the projects on a web­site, www.rod­ney­jantzi.com.

He said there was an in­ter­est­ing mo­ment as the project for the mu­seum was fin­ish­ing and he found him­self com­plet­ing the fi­nal tun­ing on Jan. 17, 2016.

He hap­pened to no­tice the orig­i­nal man­u­fac­tur­ing date recorded on a spot just above where the key­board sits.

“The tuner wrote the date, when he com­pleted it,” Jantzi said.

“It was Jan. 17, 1881.”

By chance, his restora­tion work had been com­pleted ex­actly 135 years to the day the or­gan com­pany fin­ished build­ing it.

PAUL MORDEN/THE OB­SERVER

David Pat­ten­den, a vol­un­teer and a board mem­ber with the Moore Mu­seum, stands next to its re­stored 1881 Do­min­ion reed or­gan in the mu­seum's Trin­ity St. Clair Chapel. The mu­seum is host­ing a Christ­mas or­gan con­cert Nov. 24, 7 p.m. Tick­ets, $20 for adults and $10 for chil­dren, are avail­able from the mu­seum in Moore­town.

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