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Food For Your Soul

Motherhouse Organ

Organ music holds different feelings for everyone. The most commonly known piece of organ music is Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D minor”. This well-known piece is commonly associated with horror, suspense and/or mystery films. Music used during Mass celebrations brings out the best in the organ, as it can turn from a very deep airy sound to a lighter melody in a matter of seconds. 

The organ in the Motherhouse chapel, the Opus 51, is a product of the Austin Organ Company, established by John and Basil Austin, two brothers from England with almost masterful knowledge of organs from their father. John emigrated from England in 1889 and went to work for the Farrand and Votey Organ Company in Detroit, Michigan. While working there, he developed the universal airchest system. The system was then bought by the Clough & Warren Company in Detroit, a reed organ maker. The first Austin-patent organs were built in 1893, and in 1898, the factory burned down, never to be re-built. But from those ashes came the Austin Organ Company, which was incorporated by John and Basil. 

The Opus 51 is equipped with the universal airchest, which provides absolute and uniform pressure to each and every pipe under all conditions of use, making it unique. Run on electricity, the chest action is lightweight, strong, extremely durable and very accessible. The entire chest mechanism is near the chest top and the chests themselves are completely open to the bottom. The entire mechanism in the chest is thus visible and accessible from the air chamber below or through large access panels on the underside. While the pipe bars form the top of the chest, the spaces between the pipe bars are sealed with airtight strips of flexible material, permitting the lumber to expand or contract with seasonal changes without affecting air tightness.

Along with its beautiful sound, visually, this organ is a work of art. The pipes are ivory silver with the stained-glass window above it, almost like a halo. On the sides of the pipes, there are beautiful black pipes with an elegant white design on each one. On the front of the organ are two lights. These lights have a greenish-silver tint to them with an almost crown theme. In the center, just above the keyboards, there is a wonderful carving with flowers and ribbons. The flowers are lilies connected to one another in a chain with small sunflowers at the bottom of the chains. Ribbons hold the top of the chains to form a garland that frames the keyboards. All this beauty wrapped in a beautifully stained wood.

The Opus 51 is, unfortunately, unable to be played at the present time. Over the years keys have broken, pipes have been removed for the protection of the organ and objects have been disconnected. Organs are beautiful instruments that have a rich history, and we at the Motherhouse are blessed to have the beautiful Opus 51.