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Organs of Spain Day 7 | Pipe Organs in Burgos

On Day Seven of the Pipe Dreams Tour of Pipe Organs in Spain, we had bags out at 7am and the bus was rolling to Burgos at 9am. Burgos was founded 854 AD, it is a city of about 200,000 with 20,000 people living in the city. There are a large number of building remaining from the medieval age. It was also the birth place of El Cid.

We arrived a few hours before our appointment to see the organs so there was time to explore the city, which I found wonderful. Also there was a search for Wifi with some bandwidth, the NH Calderon hotel chain has awful internet service, so getting these photos posted has been a challenge – video has been nearly impossible. The best upload speed I had was at a truck stop in the middle of nowhere in Spain. Getting back to the tour now.

The first organ we saw was in the Capilla de San Enrique and dates from the 17th century and is single manual 7 to 5 rank instrument. Grenzing beautifully restored the organ in 1999. Juan de la Rubia beautifully demonstrated the organ for the group with improvisations, he also demonstrated for us a modulation from F Major to F# Major in meantone – that was enough to curdle milk! Mario d’Amico from Grenzing told us about restoration. Mario explained to us that it was commonplace with little organs built at that time to us pipes and parts from other organs. He also pointed out that the windchest must have been originally made for a smaller organ, as the wind channels are not big enough for the current instrument. Juan de la Rubia must have the skills of a surgeon. This is clearly evident by the very fine soldering seen in the repaired organ pipes. Though the organ has a single keyboard it is split so melodies can be soloed out in the right hand. The instrument though small in size has a great deal of power.

We next moved to the cathedral’s choir here are two pipe organs facing each other. The Epistle and Gospel organ, so named because before Vatican II the Epistle was read from the right side of the altar and the book of the gospel was moved to the left side of the altar. The Epistle Organ was built in 1883 by Hermanos Roques and the Gospel Organ in 1806 by Juan Manuel de Betolaza. I have to say I was not too impressed sound of these organs. The cathedral is visually stunning and beautifully restored. One can hope that the Grenzing Organ Firm will get to restore these organs. The choir stalls are exquisitely carved with scenes from the life of Christ. I have included numerous photos of the choir stalls because of their beauty.

The final church of the day was the Church of la Merced. The church has a small Cavaille-Coll from 1905. The organ met a very unfortunate fate, but then met Mario d’Amico from the Grenzing organbuilding firm. In April of 2001 the main altar of the church caught fire. This was one of the large carved wood altars that are in almost all of the churches in Spain. The fire started at night and it was not discovered until it was too late. The fire got so hot that it the stone vault ceiling in the front of the church collapsed causing extreme heat to be blasted at the organ for a short period of time. The result was the façade pipes shattered at the tops but many of the lower sections were intact but filled with lead. To preserve as much of the original voicing of the Cavaille-Coll the pipes were opened up, the melted lead removed and new tops soldered on. The pipes in the Swell were protected. The folks at Gernzing are to be complimented for their fine pipe making skills in making these very difficult repairs as shown in the video explanation by Mario.


Mario D’Amico of Gerhar Grenzing talks about restoring the fire damaged Cavaillé-Coll Pipe Organ in Burgos from Joe Vitacco on Vimeo.

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