The Advocate (2), April 2006

The Advocate
Volume 160, No. 16
April 19 to 25, 2006
Instrument of Peace
St. Joseph’s Church dedicates organ


By Jason Gabak
The aisles and pews of St. Joseph’s Church were overflowing as literally hundreds packed into every inch of the church to catch a glimpse of the new organ for Monday night’s dedication and inaugural ceremony.

“I didn’t want to miss this,” Nancy Baranello, a parishioner of St. Joseph’s, said. “This is really an event. I didn’t think I would see so many people here. This is something really big for us. We’ve watched it be a work in progress for so long and now to see it and it is so beautiful is really the culmination for us.”

This night has been a long time coming. In 2001 the church purchased a Casavant Freres 21 stop organ Opus 69, the first organ by this builder to be imported to the United States, from St. Louis in Oswego. Sadly, the organ was in a state of disrepair and much of it had to be scrapped, but what could be salvaged became the backbone of a new organ, Lewtak Pipe Organ, Opus 1.

The new creation was truly a labor of love as Tomasz Lewtak, musical director for the church, spent four years, nearly 15,000 man hours rebuilding the organ. Lewtak, who has spent his life involved with the instrument, receiving two master’s degrees in organ performance as well as minoring in organ building while attending the Academy of Music in Katowice, Poland, said that while it wasn’t an easy job it was well worth the time and effort.

“It took a long time,” Lewtak said. “It took many months, but I am relieved that there are no glitches and everything worked. I am very relieved and that makes it all very worthwhile.”

Lewtak took the old 21 stop organ and using it as his base created a three-keyboard instrument with an entirely new façade of white ash and mahogany that is augmented by an array of mirrors to add light and depth to the grandeur of the entire structure. Lewtak said that none of this would’ve been possible without the support of the entire church and congregation.

“Many people were involved in this,” Lewtak said. “If people from the parish and if we did not have priests who supported this it would not be possible and it never would’ve happened.”

To inaugurate the organ Lewtak and the church asked Ulrik Spang-Hanssen, a world-renowned organist and associate professor at the Academies of Odense and Aarhus with over 40 recordings to his credit, to perform on the new instrument. Spang-Hanssen ran through a repertoire of classical pieces from Bach to Vivaldi that demonstated the versatility and depth of the instrument.

“It is a wonderful instrument,” Spang-Hanssen said. “The job that Tomasz has done is unbelievable. To build something like this is outstanding.”

During Spang-Hanssen’s performance the crowd was breathless in awe of the wonderful sounds that the instrument created. “It is really beautiful,” William Burke, a listener, said. “There is no other word for it. It is truly a beautiful instrument and that music, I just don’t know what else to say, it gives me chills.”

There can be no denying the importance of music to every human being and when music is incorporated to the celebration of the mass both working in unison come together to elevate the entire experience to a higher level.

“Music enhances the liturgy,” Monsignor Ronald C. Bill, pastor of St. Joseph’s, said. “For the church, music has always been a rallying point. Music has the power to bring the liturgy to life, in that respect music really is very important it has the power to fascinate people and be an important part of celebrating mass.”

Bill said that he hopes to share this instrument not just with the congregation but with the entire community.

“It is a beautiful instrument,” Bill said. “Not to share it with the entire community would be a waste.

We would like to have concerts and music programs, so that everyone can enjoy this wonderful instrument and can feel the power music has to bring people together.”