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New Pipe Organ on Kaua’i

New Pipe Organ on Kaua’i

When the newly renovated and expanded pipe organ at All Saints, Kapa’a, Kaua’i (Diocese of Hawai’i) is rededicated and played in public for the first time on May 16, it won’t be any ordinary organ. It is the only one on the island of Kaua’i, and represents a five-year commitment on the part of the parish to preserve a key component of its, and the island’s, musical history.

The project’s homepage describes a little of the instrument’s history:

In 1925, Mrs. S. W. Wilcox generously donated an Austin Pipe Organ to Kaua’i’s first Episcopal mission, All Saints’. It was the first pipe organ on Kaua’i. Ninety years later, the historic instrument is still Kauai’i’s only pipe organ.

The pipe organ is an integral part of the Church’s worship services and community music outreach programs in service to All Saints’ vision to be a gathering place for the people of Kaua’i. Unfortunately, age and the tropical environment have taken their toll on this beautiful and historic instrument.

The organ was decommissioned in 2016, and All Saints embarked on a five-year project to raise the funds and build a replacement instrument.

The project has turned out to be far more than simply restoring and expanding the organ after extensive damage caused by the combination of tropical humidity, salt air, and insects. It represents All Saints’ commitment to what the previous rector, the Rev. Ryan Newman, called pono, or good: “At its core pono is about a profound, deeply spiritual reality that everything that is truly good must be a gift from God. To rebuild the organ at All Saints’ is truly pono: good for the church, good for the island of Kaua’i, good for future generations and good for the glory of God… The pipe organ at All Saints’ is not just an instrument. It is a link to our history, our ancestors, and our sacred traditions.”

David Murray, a former Senior Warden of the church, and Morris Wise, leading the work on the instrument for the parish, write:

As we embarked on the project we were faced with an old building with outdated electrical wiring (knob and tube or K&T) which needed to be brought up to code.  This required us to remove and replace the existing wiring which ran behind the walls passing through joist and stud drill-holes throughout the building.  Once the wiring was replaced we had to resurface the walls with thin sheets of drywall to cover up the numerous holes which had been cut into the walls.  New lighting and speakers were installed on the north and south lanais thus expanding the seating capacity of the church and making those areas feel more a part of the church.  In addition, the new organ is designed to be heard on the outside lanais so that those worshippers feel included in the service.

Acknowledging our Hawaiian history has been a focal point of our outreach efforts at All Saints’ since we first held a Hawaiian language service celebrating the Holy Sovereigns in 2005.  From small beginnings the “Holy Sovereigns’ Service” has grown to be one of our major annual celebrations featuring Hawaiian language readings, hymns and hula, and offering an opportunity for Royal Societies, Hawaiian organizations and others to offer ho`okupu (gifts) to King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma.  In true Hawaiian style the service is followed by an opportunity to enjoy a lunch of good food and beverages, and an opportunity to talk story with friends old and new.

The church is now truly a wonderful worship space that makes us all appreciate God and each other more, and the new organ will create a dynamic worship experience for all.

The whole endeavor has not been without its challenges, beginning with fundraising and required changes to the church building, and ending with delays in receiving parts due to pandemic-related supply chain issues. The team writes:

One hurdle to overcome right up front was to convince the County Government that the changes we proposed to make would not have a negative impact on this historic building.  Building the organ chamber required us to cover (actually, remove) windows on the side of the building and an entry door at the rear…

As we worked on the interior changes we also came to the realization that we needed to ensure that the building – and, most specifically, the organ chamber – was waterproof!  So, in addition to an Organ Replacement project and a Sanctuary Enhancement project we now found ourselves also involved in a Roof Replacement project!

Putting all new electrical wiring in place throughout the building was not without its challenges.  But if you did not see the sanctuary at the peak of this part of the project when there were holes cut into all the walls and wires hanging everywhere, you would never know how extensive this effort was.

The instrument itself is an amalgamation of the original pipe- and casework, a used Schlicker organ purchased from a church in Maryland, and other material which has been refurbished, reworked, or created from scratch specifically for this instrument by Rosales Organ Builders of Los Angeles (whose most prominent work is the organ at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles). The organ features unique Hawaiian sounds such as coconut castanets, chirping birds, a train whistle from Hawai’i’s plantation era, and `ili `ili (small pebbles used in the same manner as castanets in hula), `uli `uli (a gourd rattle also used in hula). The instrument also features Hawaiian-language nomenclature on the stop knobs.

The organ will be used not just as part of worship at All Saints’, but also as a community resource. It will allow the parish to bring in outside performers and choral groups, as well as to use the organ as a teaching tool:

As we move on to our centennial year, 2025, under the leadership of our current minister, Kahu Kawika (Rev. David) Jackson, the new organ and the renovated sanctuary space will contribute significantly to the worship experience for our congregation.  Our Music Director, Hank Curtis, is an outstanding musician and keyboard virtuoso and we are all anxious to hear the new organ and, when finally permitted, to raise our voices – and sing out loud!

… Our Outreach and Arts programs will be enhanced as we implement a series of organ concerts and, post-pandemic, return to a situation where the church hosts live performances by local artists and groups.  We are also partnering with the Hawaii chapter of the American Guild of Organists to participate in a recital with a nationally known performer each March when they do the recitals on Oahu.

The dedicatory recital will be performed by Adam Pajan, a member of the organ faculty at the University of Oklahoma, at 2:00 pm local time (8:00 pm Eastern) on May 16. The livestream can be viewed on the All Saints’ website.


photo credit: All Saints’, Kaua’i 


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