A Historic Norfolk Organ
The first recorded pipe organ in Norfolk was at Christ Church. Subsequently, Christ Church had fine organs made by top builders of the day, including Thomas Hall, Henry Erben, and Hook & Hastings. Austin Organ opus 619 served the Parish in the current building for many years, replacing an organ that was destroyed by a church fire shortly after the church was built. Non-speaking façade pipes remain in the back of the church from the old Austin organ.
The current organ, situated high up in chambers on both sides of the divided chancel, was built in 1963 by the French-Canadian firm Casavant Frères and subsequently rebuilt and enlarged in 1996 by Orgues Létourneau.
In 2017, Foley-Baker, Inc of Tolland, CT was engaged to rebuild and restore the great organ. The work consisted of tonally unifying the organ, expanding and reconfiguring the organ chambers to ease accessibility, and adding more foundation tone to support the instrument. With 76 ranks and over 4,200 pipes, the pipe organ at Christ and St. Luke’s is one of the largest in the Hampton Roads region, and is frequently played by visiting concert artists. The work was completed by Palm Sunday 2019.
Why was this work being done? “The organ sounds fine to me!” To the casual listener, the organ might sound perfectly acceptable, but a closer inspection will yield some surprising and troubling results. Heavy and constant use, over-crowding in the organ chambers, and huge swings in temperature and humidity have taken their toll on the complex instrument. More and more pipes are being silenced and no longer functional. Regular maintenance is very difficult to perform. Some pipes have completely collapsed from their own weight. Our Casavant organ was built in 1963 and has faithfully served our Parish for over 50 years. A complete overhaul was necessary to ensure that our organ will last another 50 years or more!
Now that the organ has been restored, the change is immediately noticeable. Listeners have commented on the warmth of the organ and how the sound envelopes you without being overbearing. Thank you to all our supporters and to Foley-Baker for making this pipe dream a reality!
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Organ Removal Process
On January 23, 2018, the crew from Foley-Baker arrived at Christ and St. Luke’s to start dismantling our great pipe organ, and thus taking the next step in what has been a four-year process. It took 7 men and 14 full days to safely disassemble and pack all 3,500 pipes, supporting wires, racks, chests, reservoirs, blowers, steel supports, casework, and console. Two truckloads took these parts back to the shop in Connecticut, where they will be cleaned, repaired, restored, and in some cases, replaced with new components. We expect to see the organ return in phases later this year. Director of Music Kevin Kwan offers special thanks to the wonderful team from Foley-Baker who were professional and courteous during the whole process, accommodating the church’s worship schedule.
This time lapse video shows the entire removal process. During these two weeks, normal services were held in the church, including five Sunday services, two Thursday morning services, and one wedding.