The old pipe organ at Trin ity Episcopal Church was restored over the winter and will be the centerpiece of a concert this Sunday at the historic Oak Bluffs chapel.
The concert begins at 4 p.m.
“Music has always been important at Trinity,” said organist Wesley Brown, who has been playing at the church for 20 years.
The organ dates to the 1960s, although some of its parts are older than that. Major restoration work was last done in 1953 and 1962. Until his death in 2010, Raymond Whalen cared for the organ for more than half a century.
On the recommendation of Jeremy Adams, who has worked on and restored many tracker organs on the Island, the parish engaged the Spencer Organ Company to service and assess the instrument. Mr. Brown said they contracted with the company after some minor repair work that dramatically improved the organ’s performance.
At first the plan was just to have the framework cleaned and shellacked. The coastal climate had done a number on the old machine. Numerous small internal components made from leather and felt needed to be replaced in a process known as re-leathering. Before the restoration, many of the parts had deteriorated to the point where if nothing were done, the organ would have been ruined, Mr. Brown said.
Joseph Rotella, president of Spencer Organ Company, spoke with the Gazette this spring about the work.
“All the pipes came back to our shop in Waltham and got cleaned,” he said. “It was time for things to be reconditioned and restored.” Eventually the restoration was divided into three phases and cost more than $110,000, one of the most expensive projects in the history of the church.
In order to finance the renovation, parishioners began fundraising in the spring of 2011.
Pipe organs produce sound by air vibrations created in the pipes, which a musician controls via three keyboards. The Trinity organ has 530 pipes, made of pine and an alloy of zinc, tin and lead. There is one pipe for each note. The pipes are organized in sets, each one called a rank. The Trinity organ is a 10-rank instrument. The primary reason for the restoration was to repair the mechanical action, which took place in the first phase of the restoration. In any organ, the connection between a key and a pipe valve is called the action, and can either be mechanical or electrical. The second phase involved cleaning and replacing pipes. In the last phase, worn keys were replaced with new ones made of bone, and a combination piston action was installed.
One nice feature of an organ with a mechanical action is that the player can actually feel the opening of the pipe valves and alter the timbre by pressing or releasing a key more slowly or quickly, Mr. Brown explained.
“I am humbled and gratified by [the parish’s] overwhelming generosity,” he said of the project. “I am mostly retired now, but the organ restoration has inspired me to devote a great deal of time to my craft.”
To commemorate the restoration, the 4 p.m. Sunday summer concert will feature three noted Vineyard church organists. In addition to Wesley Brown, Peter R. Boak, organist and choir director at the Federated Church in Edgartown, and L. Garrett Brown, organist and choir director at the United Methodist Church of Martha’s Vineyard, will play.
The church is located at 7 Ocean avenue, next to the Oak Bluffs police station and across from the Steamship Authority. There will be a free will offering.