LAWRENCE — The organ at Corpus Christi Parish at Holy Rosary Church had been silent since April. But on Labor Day weekend, music resounded through the sanctuary as Cardinal Sean O’Malley celebrated the 90th anniversary of the Feast of Three Saints.
”It was fantastic,” said Jaime Cadena, a volunteer with the music ministry at the church. “It was a beautiful experience and the Cardinal was pleased with the music. It generated a lot of interest, including people who had come from Italy for the feast.”
While his wife, Rachel A. Cieslik played the organ, the choir sang an original song, “Hymn to the Three Martyred Saints” in Italian.
Experts at the Andover Organ Company of Methuen refurbished the reeds and keyboards on the instrument. The project costs $30,000 and the Methuen Festival of Trees awarded Corpus Christi at Holy Rosary Church $7,500.
”The pipes that really needed work were the reeds,” Cadena said.
”It was important to repair them to help them stay in tune and maintain the quality of the sound. Because of age it drifted and didn’t sound as well as they should.”
The E & GG Hook & Hastings organ dates back to 1871. It was located at Asylum Hill Congregational Church in Hartford, Conn. When the organ was moved to Holy Rosary Church in 1934, it was wired for electricity. The organ has 5,600 pipes.
Holy Rosary members were so committed to having an organ, Cadena said history books show some families got a second mortgage to help the church get the instrument.
Even though the organ has three keyboards, the organ was not use during the restoration. However, each keyboard was done one at a time.
”It’s very uncomfortable when I play because the keys were coming loose and overlay,” Cieslik said.
Cadena said all the ivory keys were removed, sanded and placed back on the board with a coating to set them in place.
Cieslik is glad the historic organ is repaired.
”The organ uplifts your soul by the music it makes. There is a transformation between the music and the choir’s voices that is incredible.”
Cieslik and Cadena have been working at Corpus Christi for the last 10 years. She was a music teacher in Dracut and at the former Our Lady of Good Counsel School in Lawrence. She was also organist at St. Theresa Church of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Methuen for 20 years and at the former Sacred Heart Church in Lawrence for 13 years.
Cadena worked at Hewlett-Packard and AT&T Bell Labs and retired nine years ago. He always had an interest in music. He built electronic organs in the late 1960s and 1970s and can play the piano, organ and the accordion.
”This is really an overwhelming instrument,” Cadena said as he looked at its pipes and opened the door to a room where the main reservoir which supplies all the wind for the pipes.
This is the first time in almost 30 years the organ has gone through extensive repairs. In 1984, the tonal range was expanded to 46 ranks of pipes made up of about 2, 650 pipes.
In 2007, Joseph Oliferowicz, a Methuen native who conducts opera throughout the world, sings, directs musical theater and is choir director played the organ to a rousing crowd at Holy Rosary.
The New England Classical Singers and Lawrence High School Girls Ensemble perform an annual concert.
In addition to Italians, Corpus Christi, is the spiritual home to Lithuanians, Polish, Portuguese Catholics. Every ethnic group uses the organ for their respective feast days. Hispanics also worship at Corpus Christi, but use more traditional instruments.
”This organ is very unique and is part of the legacy of the people who built the church, specially the Italians,” Cadena said.
“This is a treasure, and it’s one of those historical pieces that if it doesn’t get the attention it needs, unfortunately it gets less and less use. It needs tender, loving care,” Cadena said.