by John Overton, Music Director
It all began when I began to consider what was written over the decades in the documents to do with Holy Trinity Yarmouth's Casavant organ (originally from 1902.) I have been involved for many years with organ-playing in Nova Scotia
and have often wondered why churches in Atlantic Canada are so reliant on organ builders and tuners from far away - where was the passion and the technical skill and the interest for pipe organs locally or even regionally?
And then I gradually began to understand that if there are are comparatively few exciting organs to play, a lack of organists to play them and few if any really good local tuners and builders to tune and build pipe-organs, then - like in other areas of life - skills and knowledge disappear and we lose important parts of our
heritage and our musical arts. We begin to lose the ability to distinguish between what is really good and what is mediocre.
Add to this, the number of orphaned pipe-organs because of church-sales/closures and demolitions, and there is a very real danger that a several
hundred-year-old tradition would disappear!
The Question became obvious - How could we engage partners to reverse this particular organ-disappearing trend, and how could we use Yarmouth’s re-emerging sense of importance as a heritage and travel destination by helping
contribute to the “upswing” using the cottage industry model?
As soon as I began to investigate and talk to artists, to community entrepreneurs and other organists in the Maritimes, I realized I was not alone - and the more I investigated the more obvious it became that Yarmouth and the region (together with partners on the US Eastern seaboard) was the ideal area to set up an Organ Project with these components;
- teaching the skills of organ-playing to young people
- introducing the older ways of making organs simply (the tracker-action/ mechanical organ which obviates many problems to do with very changeable climate and humidity) and engaging local artisans, metal-workers, carpenters, etc
- using available local warehouse space to house “orphaned organs”
- engaging in new cross-cultural possibilities and performances, thereby attracting interest and people from many different leanings.
Since this idea became known and talked about in mid-July 2014, 2 organs threatened with landfill have become available and there has been spawned a new practical interest in this old (and threatened) heritage, an interest which can give rise to a fresh generation of skilled organists, organ-tuners/voicers and builders.