Previous Organ Notes

Organ Notes – Arrow on May 8, 2016 – From the Music Director

What a wonderful concert we had on April 24!

Approximately three hundred people came to hear the great music performed by the Stonegate Brass Quintet. Along with the concert, there were displays of organ pipes as well as tours of the current organ. Many questions were asked and hopefully answered.

Here are some Fun Facts about the proposed pipe organ for St. Giles:

  • 2,893 pipes:
  • 983 pipes reused and refurbished from the existing organ,
  • 376 pipes reused and refurbished from the Priory organ at Dominican University,
  • 1,534 new pipes.
  • Pipes range in size from… a pencil, to a sixteen foot streetlight pole.
  • The organ will take up 8,500 cubic feet in three locations.
  • There are hundreds of thousands of parts.

To be continued…

Sue Kaszynski, Music Director


Organ Notes – Arrow on April 17, 2016 – From the Music Director

Here are some frequently asked questions that have come my way:

“Do we really need an organ? Can’t we just use the piano?” – We have a beautiful piano that is perfect for a lot of our repertoire. It is especially good for contemporary music and intimate gatherings. The organ offers other possibilities for large and festive occasions. The piano cannot support those needs because its sound is not big enough.

“Why not purchase a digital organ? Wouldn’t it be less expensive?” – While digital organs are a possibility, they are not necessarily a wise long term investment. Digital organs use sampled sounds from pipe organs, but they lack the breath and vibration of a true pipe organ. The digital organ sound comes from speakers. A worship space such as ours would require MANY speakers which could be an eyesore. A digital organ is also like a computer. It can only be upgraded so many times before the technology becomes obsolete.

“Can the organ project be completed in stages?” – Yes! The first phase would be to remove and refurbish our old pipes as well as the pipes from the Priory organ, allowing the builders to complete the installation of the console and pipes in the front of church. The second phase would be the installation of pipes on the back wall of church. Staging the work helps us financially. We only pay for one stage at a time. The organ would be functional upon completion of the first phase, but not able to produce the complete sound.

“How much does a pipe cost?” – That question is very hard to answer since pipes come in various sizes. The smallest is the size of a pencil, while others are very wide and reach sixteen feet in height.

At our concert next weekend, we will have a display of pipes for you to see. We hope you can join us for this free brass concert, Amazing Space, next Sunday, April 24 at 2:30 pm. Come, enjoy and be inspired!

Sue Kaszynski, Music Director


Organ Notes – Arrow on April 10, 2016 – From the Music Director

ORGAN TRANSPLANT – Good news! Our friends at Dominican University have offered us their pipe organ from the Priory Chapel! That chapel was recently decommissioned and will be used for other purposes, while the beautiful chapel on the main campus will continue to serve all of the University’s liturgical needs.

The Priory Chapel is much smaller than our church, so the organ cannot give us enough sound to fill our space. However, we will be able to use many of the pipes in our configuration. The pipes from the Priory and the reusable pipes from our current organ will constitute fifty percent of the new, rebuilt organ.

We are so grateful to Dominican University for their generosity and friendship.

Many people from our parish and neighborhood have attended Mass at the Priory Chapel. How beautiful to know that the sounds of that chapel will continue in our own beautiful space. This year marks the 800th anniversary of the Dominican Order. Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa founded and staffed St. Giles School for seventy-five years. Many of us attended Fenwick or Trinity (including me.) Dominicans have been such an important part of the fabric of our lives in Oak Park and River Forest. How wonderful to have that spirit be a part of our Amazing Space as well. Thank you, Dominican University.

Sue Kaszynski, Music Director


Organ Notes – Arrow on March 20, 2016 – From the Music Director

In 1949, St. Giles purchased a new organ built by the Kilgen Organ Company of St. Louis, Missouri for $25,000. It consisted of 2,000 pipes and two consoles: one behind the altar where the organist sits and plays and another in the choir loft room behind our St. Joseph statue. To help the sound travel, an echo chamber was built over the baptistery in the areas hidden by the beautifully carved wooden grillwork. Fast forward forty plus years, when the organ was in need of repair and someone was called in to do the work. Some repairs were made, but hundreds of pipes and both consoles, were inexplicably taken as barter for the work, leaving us with an incomplete instrument. Now twenty-five years later, what is left of our organ is near collapse and the power of music in our magnificent sacred space is dramatically minimized.

In 2009, a group of dedicated volunteer parishioners formed a committee to explore solutions. For the next three years, the committee learned a lot about church organs by reading books and articles and visiting churches and builders’ workshops. The goal was to contact various types of builders who design pipe organs, electronic organs, and a hybrid combination of both to learn what the options were for our unique and beautiful building. The committee interviewed six builders from across the country and Canada.

In 2014, the organ was added to the list of repairs and renovations in our Shared Cup Capital Campaign. Many other areas of the campus required attention first, but the organ is still in need. While many parishioners dedicated their funds to this project, more is still needed before we can begin. You can easily be part of this effort by donating via check made payable to St. Giles Parish, designating “Shared Cup – Organ” in the memo line.

It’s hard to imagine how moving and inspiring the sound of a pipe organ can be. But we all know the compelling, emotional impact of music, from powerful movie soundtracks to concerts at Orchestra Hall. On Sunday, April 24, at 2:30 pm, we will host a concert by the Stongate Brass Quintet. You will have the opportunity to hear the magnificent sound that wind pipes can produce with just five instruments in our amazing space. Imagine what a good organ will sound like with 2,000 pipes. Come and be inspired!

Sue Kaszynski, Music Director


Organ Notes – Arrow on March 13, 2016 – From the Music Director

CLICK HERE to see some pictures of damaged and missing pipes, a hole in the floor of the pipe chamber, and old wiring.

Next week I will share more information about what we have done so far.

Follow us on this page for more information in the future. Feel free to submit any questions that you might have by using the online form on this page.

Sue Kaszynski, Music Director


Organ Notes – Arrow on March 6, 2016 – From the Music Director

One cannot argue the importance of music in Catholic liturgy. Sung prayer is woven throughout the entire Mass. Before the priest even recites the Opening Prayer, we sing. The following statement is from the recent document, Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship, written by the United States Catholic Bishops regarding the role of music in the Catholic Church:

“87. Among all other instruments which are suitable for divine worship, the organ is accorded pride of place because of its capacity to sustain the singing of a large gathered assembly, due to both its size and its ability to give resonance to the fullness of human sentiments, from joy to sadness, from praise to lamentation. Likewise, the manifold possibilities of the organ in some way remind us of the immensity and the magnificence of God.”

“88. Pipe organs also play an important evangelical role in the Church outreach to the wider community in sacred concerts, music series, and other musical and cultural programs. For all these reasons, the place of the organ should be taken into account from the outset in the planning process for the building or renovation of churches.”

The organ is the primary instrument of choice because it alone is capable of orchestral sound required to support congregational singing in such a large space. It is capable of expressing the gentlest whisper of the Spirit as well as the jubilation of the Resurrection. Sadly, the St. Giles organ can no longer support the congregation or herald the glory of God. The piano is a beautiful instrument with expressive capacity, but it is limited in its breadth and depth. Even with amplification, it cannot fill our space.

Our organ is failing. It is rarely heard because mechanical issues are occurring with greater frequency. Over the next weeks, we will continue to clarify the issues and offer solutions. In the meantime, please consult this St. Giles webpage where you will find a convenient form for submitting your questions to me.

Sue Kaszynski, Music Director


Organ Notes – Arrow on February 28, 2016 – From the Music Director

Last week, in Father Carl’s Corner, he shared his concern about our pipe organ. A few years ago, a small group of parishioners and I began to do some research regarding the declining condition of our organ.

Here is what we discovered:

  • The original 1949 installation was poorly designed. In fact, some of the installation is unstable and dangerous. The chambers are so small that technicians cannot access them to make proper repairs. There are holes in the flooring and the electric wiring is not up to code.
  • There are a lot of missing parts. Over twenty years ago, an attempt was made to repair the organ. The company that did the work took many of our best pipes and even took our original console (the part where we sit and play) and replaced it with an old electronic console. Over one third of the organ does not work or is missing – that means hundreds of pipes! The pipes that remain are bent or damaged from improper handling or careless tuning.
  • The organ is under pitch. Other instruments, such as trumpets and flutes which are used for weddings, funerals, holidays and special occasions are finding it increasingly difficult to tune to our organ. The sound is often unpleasant because of unsteady wind pressure caused by poor workmanship.

The organ is barely functioning. Much of the organ does not work at all, and the parts that do work are beginning to fail as well. Because of all the missing parts and the poor installation, it would not be cost effective or possible to simply restore the organ. Our only option is to rebuild, redesign and replace it.

To be continued…