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Don’t lament what people say you can’t do. Restore a pipe organ!

Many people lament the beautiful things made by past generations that could be returned to their former beauty if funding existed. How often do you hear people say we don’t manufacture things like we once did in the USA? This is a story that flies in the face of those two beliefs.

Today’s society is not what it once was, that is neither a good thing or a bad thing. It is only a different thing.

The internet: social media and media sharing sites allow for communicating with people around the world with specialized interests – unthinkable years ago.


US Manufacturing: We don’t produce goods in this country like we once did, but there is an industry in the USA that still does – and they are the best in the world. They build timeless instruments that last generations in a world that considers a 3 year old iPhone an antique. No it isn’t Steinway – don’t give John Paulson any ideas.


This is about the Pipe Organ at Our Lady of Refuge Church in Brooklyn, NY. Built in the summer and fall of 1933 in St. Louis Missouri and shipped to Brooklyn right after New Year’s in 1934 it was installed in the newly built church.


Joe Vitacco and Our Lady of Refuge’s parish priest, Fr. Michael Perry, worked for the past 6 years to raise several hundreds of thousands of dollars to restore the church’s historic pipe organ. They did it! It is not a “rich parish” financially – but rich in many other ways. Since the people at the parish did not have the money to pay for the entire restoration of the organ Fr. Perry and Joe used youtube, vimeo, facebook and email to raise the money to pay for all of the work. They have had over 1000 people give money – MANY HAVE NEVER SET FOOT IN BROOKLYN – a lot aren’t Catholic or even churchgoers.


Two Midwestern companies carried out the work: A.R. Schopp’s Sons and Quimby Pipe Organs. Their talented craftsmen spent hundreds of hours renewing the thousands of parts of this pipe organ. One employs about 50 talented cabinetmakers and metalworkers making and repairing organ pipes and components. The other is smaller with similar talents, but has a crew of installers who deliver, set up and tune the pipe organs. These guys would make Bob Vila and This Old House think to start a series called This Old Pipe Organ.


In June the pipe organ, with all of its parts fully renewed, was shipped back to Brooklyn in 2 large trucks. A team of 5 to 8 men worked 10 hours a day 5 1/2 days a week to finish the installation and perfectly tune all 1800 pipes. They finished their work on September 4th. The end results exceeded anyone’s expectations. Watch a Movie of the organ console being delivered to Our Lady of Refuge.


This organ is an artistic treasure that will be shared with Brooklyn as well as the members of the church. It will make Brooklyn a little better for everyone with its music.

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