Kgn Par­ish Church tar­gets $1.7 mil­lion to re­pair mu­si­cal in­stru­ment

Jamaica Gleaner - - AVENUE - Mel Cooke/Gleaner Writer

AS THE State pushes to re­store the old city from the wa­ter­front north­wards, where King Street meets South Pa­rade, a church op­er­a­tion has be­gun to ex­tend the life of an in­stru­ment which in par t sym­bol­ises an­other re­newal of the cap­i­tal - its re­build­ing af­ter the dev­as­tat­ing 1907 earth­quake.

The Henry Wills & Sons pipe organ was built in 1910, re­plac­ing the one built by Sa­muel Green, which was de­stroyed by the earth­quake.

Dwight McBean, who tunes and ser­vices the pipe organ at the Kingston Par­ish Church, told The Gleaner that “the mech­a­nism in­side the organ is now old. It needs up­grad­ing and re­place­ment with t he new tech­nol­ogy that is avail­able for pipe or­gans to­day.”


One of the is­sues is that some of the stops — utilised to mod­u­late the organ’s sound — are stuck open and oth­ers can’t open at all, leav­ing the in­stru­ment at the church, which hosts many of­fi­cial func­tions, not only op­er­at­ing well be­low its mu­si­cal best, but tee­ter­ing on the edge of ter­mi­nal de­cline.

An­other prob­lem he iden­ti­fies is caused by the church’s lo­ca­tion in the bustling busi­ness district and trans­porta­tion hub.

“The ex­haust from the mo­tor ve­hi­cles clogs the organ’s air­ways,” McBean said.

Al­though the cer­ti­fied organ tuner and ser­vice provider pulls out and cleans the worst af­fected pipes there are thou­sands of them, well be­yond what he is able to do.

The to­tal cost for re­pairs, about £10,000 (ap­prox­i­mately J$1.7 mil­lion), is also far be­yond the Kingston Par­ish Church’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties and so McBean has ar­ranged the first of a series of fundrais­ers to­wards the organ’s restora­tion at the church on Good Fri­day, March 30.

The event fea­tures the Kingston Par­ish Church’s or­gan­ist, Archie Dunkley, The Ec­u­meni­cal Cho­rale, pi­anists Mickel Gor­don and Stephen Shaw-Naar, the Mona Cam­pus Male Cho­rus, Mu­si­cal Apos­tles Steel Band, soloists June Thomp­son Law­son, and Ca­role Reid and vi­o­lin­ist Steven Wood ham. Ironic ally, the church’s ex­cel­lent acous­tics helped

make it eas­ier for the per­form­ers to agree to par­tic­i­pate — but the organ’s lim­i­ta­tions led to not only a sin­gle or­gan­ist on the line-up, but Dunkley’s play­ing be­ing re­stricted to what it can han­dle. “The organ chose for us, we did not choose f or the organ,” McBean quipped.

So al­though the organ still func­tions for con­gre­ga­tions to sing along to, played as it is in­tended for solo per­for­mances it is woe­fully in­ad­e­quate and, if left unat­tended, will even­tu­ally grind to a halt like pipe or­gans at other churches McBean, who is cer­ti­fied and the maker ’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the Caribbean af­ter five years of train­ing in Eng­land, has seen. He en­vi­sions three stages of re­pairs — one each on the con­sole’s two key­boards and the pipes, with fundrais­ing geared to­wards each and the organ en­joy­ing con­tin­ued (if re­duced), func­tion­al­ity as the restora­tion is done.

While the es­ti­mated re­pair bill is high, it is only 10 per cent of the es­ti­mated cost of cus­tombuild­ing a new one for the space, as all pipe or­gans are done in­di­vid­u­ally. There is also the op­tion of putting i n an elec tronic organ, how­ever, McBean said, not only does it not sound the same, but the ser­vice life is only 15 years be­fore prob­lems arise. “It is 108 years old and, with care, can last an­other 108 years,” McBean said about the pipe organ at the Kingston Par­ish Church.

Dwight McBean plays the pipe organ at the Kingston Par­ish Church, South Pa­rade, Kingston.

TOP: Dwight McBean, pipe or­gan­ist, tuner and ser­vice provider, at the Kingston Par­ish Church. RIGHT: Dwight McBean

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