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St. Andrews Cathedral pipe organ needs players to make it sing

Prince Rupert volunteers who want to practice their playing skills are welcome
Paul Williams rector of St. Andrews Cathedral in Prince Rupert sits in front of the 95-year-old pipe organ on March 5. The church has put out a community call for volunteers to play the instrument to keep it fresh and operational. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

St. Andrews Anglican Cathedral has a glorious old lady who sits alone in the sanctuary just wanting to sing and the church is appealing for assistance.

The callout is being put to the community for anyone who would like to play the pipe organ, even it’s just for practice, to help it stay fresh and operable.

The 95-year-old pipe organ has been silenced with-out an organist since 2017, prior to the passing of the long-term organist, Doreen Risdale last year, Paul Williams rector of St. Andrews told The Northern View.

The grand organ with 54 pipes was shipped out to Prince Rupert from the Quebec instrument maker, Casavant Freres Ltd. in 1926. The original cost is unknown as it was a gift to the church from the Anglican Women’s Auxiliary.

Williams said attempts have been made over the years to find the original cost but to no avail. Recent internet searches show a smaller 30 pipe, 1928 rebuilt model for sale at today’s prices is $550,000 USD including installation.

Back in the day, the church population was booming with congregants and hundreds of tradespeople filled the pews as the town was still young. People’s lives involved attending church a lot more, Jennifer Davies St. Andrews Church lay-cannon and historian said.

The lower portion of the church was built in 1903, with the upper floor and sanctuary being finished around 1912, Davies said. The church was elevated to cathedral status in 1929.

St. Andrews has been looking for an organist for more than 10-years, Davies said. The position, which at one time was paid, is there for the filling to any volunteer who wants to keep up talent and play some music.

“Most churches are not rich,” Davies said. “It was the parishioners who used to keep churches running. People don’t come out now like they used to.”

“We’ve been going through a bit of a mixed-up time and place where we haven’t had anything long term,” Davies said. “I think that makes quite a difference.”

Williams said for anyone who would like to lend a hand or two in practicing their musical skills the parish clergy can be contacted at 250-627-1143.

K-J Millar | Journalist
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