On Monday, April 16 workers from the Berghaus Organ Company in the Chicago suburb of Bellwood, Illinois will begin to remove nearly 4,000 organ pipes and numerous other components of the Berghaus pipe organ at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in downtown Wilkes-Barre so that repairs can be made, not only to the organ, but also to the large chamber that houses most of the instrument and to the roof system above that portion of the building. Roof leaks into the organ chamber have caused considerable damage that must be repaired in order to prevent further damage. This work will proceed over the next four to five months. Once the organ pipes and other components are removed or safely covered, the main organ chamber’s ceiling and walls and the roof above the chamber will be repaired and rebuilt.
St. Stephen’s Berghaus pipe organ, cited by many nationally and internationally acclaimed organists as among the finest in the mid-Atlantic region, is expected to return in late August for re-installation and re-voicing by experts from Berghaus throughout the month of September, assisted and guided by Canon Mark Laubach, Organist and Choirmaster. It is expected that all work will be completed by early October, at which time plans for re-dedicatory and celebratory liturgies and recitals will be considered and announced.
Initial signs of water incursion into the organ chamber were discovered in November 2016. Repairs to the roof and the organ were made soon thereafter, and by early 2017 the situation was thought to be under control. But further evidence of water incursion was discovered in December 2017. A thorough investigation of the main organ chamber and the instrument itself in late January 2018 revealed more pervasive damage and the risk of even greater destruction to the organ and building structure. Comprehensive proposals by the Berghaus Organ Company and other contractors have been considered and approved by the Vestry of St. Stephen’s, clearing the way for work to begin on April 16. Most of the cost of repairs will be covered by our insurance provider, but the Church will also be responsible for a portion of the work to be done.
Special organ music will be performed by Canon Laubach at the 10:30 am Eucharist on Sunday, April 15, the day before the organ removal commences. Later that same afternoon at 4 pm, Mark will perform an hour-long recital open to the community at large. There will be no charge for admission, but a free-will offering will be received toward the “Polish the Gem” Fund, which will be used toward the Church’s portion of expenses for repairs. Checks should be made payable to St. Stephen’s Churchwith “Polish the Gem” listed in the memo line.
Plans are being considered for rental of a digital organ as a temporary replacement for the pipe organ through much of the period when repairs are in progress. Pipes and other components of the organ that are not damaged and do not need to be taken to Chicago will be kept here at the church in a secure and climate-controlled storage space.
St. Stephen’s will continue its regular schedule of liturgical and musical events, including a Jazz Eucharist (April 21), Choral Eucharist and Evensong sung by a visiting church choir (April 22), a concert by the Wilkes University Choirs (April 29), Choral Evensong by the St. Stephen’s Choir and a concert by the Northeastern Pennsylvania Chamber Music Society (both on May 6), a Farewell Eucharist for Bishop Sean Rowe of the Diocese of Bethlehem (May 12), and the annual King’s College Summer Choir Training Course, sponsored by the Royal School of Church Music in America (July 22-29).
If you would like more information about the work to be done on the organ, email Canon Mark Laubach at email@example.com.