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HANFORD — Repairing its historic 108-year-old organ is no longer a pipe dream for the Episcopal Church of the Saviour.

Built in 1911, one year after the church was constructed, the church’s pipe organ is getting some much-needed care.  

“The options were that we either fix [the organ] or we play it until it fails and replace it with a modern digital instrument. We chose to stay with the pipe organ. It’s historical,” former Junior Warden Marty Martin said.

While still playable, it was estimated that without the repairs, the pipe organ would only have a year or two left before failing completely.

Martin said that the mechanisms needing replacement, the primary valves and leather bellows, are original parts. For context, the organ was built a few years before the start of World War I. William Howard Taft was the President of the United States at the time and it’s possible that veterans of the Civil War have heard the organ’s beautifully rich sounds.

The maintenance has been necessary since the 1960s, as these parts have a life of about 50 years.

With the repairs coming to a finish in the coming days, repairman Joe Lambarena of Porterville-based Villemin Pipe Organ Co. said that the sounds of the organ will fill the church for another half century, at least.

“It depends on the quality of the material you use. Some people don’t want to use the proper material so they’ll cut corners and try to use something else and then 15 or 20 years down the line, the leather is failing. But there’s no reason that this won’t run for another 50 or 60 years,” Lambarena said.

Lambarena works on the historic organs all across the country, recently working to repair an organ in Missouri that was originally built in the first few years of the 1900s.  He has also worked on the organ at the historic Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.  It was Lambarena’s boss who first spotted the need for the repairs to the the leathers and primaries — back in the ‘60s.

Ahead of schedule, the organ work will be completed next week. The instrument’s new, healthier sound will make its official debut during morning services on Sunday, Feb. 17, though Martin said it’s possible that church-goers will be treated to a “practice run” as soon as tomorrow.

The repairs come with a hefty $13,000 bill. The church is accepting donations to help cover the costs of preserving the historic organ.

“We had the money in the bank for a while and we’ve finally approved it to be done, but we’d love to replace that money in case anything else in the future needs to be repaired or replaced,” he said.

There are currently only a handful of these organs still in operation in Hanford.

A full organ recital led by the church’s dedicated organist, Tyrell McKenzie is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 14.

The Episcopal Church of the Saviour is located at 519 N. Douty St., Hanford. For more information, visit  www.saviourweb.com.

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