Thursday, December 26, 2002

Organ off for $250K tuneup

By Angela T. Koenig
Enquirer contributor

Twenty-five years of producing achingly beautiful music took a toll on one of Cincinnati's largest pipe organs, and now St. Catharine of Siena Church is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to return it to its former glory.

The Westwood parish sent its Schantz Pipe Organ, which has 44 ranks and 2,400-plus pipes, to Champaign, Ill., where it is being restored by John-Paul Buzard organ builders. The cost: $250,000.

"Pipe organs tend to be pricey things to repair because they are all handcrafted and custom made," said the Rev. Anthony Dattilo, St. Catharine's pastor.

The organ restoration is part of a $315,000 fund drive, which includes items such as replastering the balcony walls and paying off debt for the school's gym floor.

"Parishes here are investing in themselves and keeping their churches prepared for the future," said Rick Foegler, the parish music director for 24 years.

Recent restoration projects at Westwood United Methodist, Westwood First Presbyterian and Grace Lutheran churches are examples of commitments to the community.

St. Catharine's organ, said Mr. Foegler, originally cost $100,000 in 1978. It could not be replaced today, he said, for five times that cost.

"Very few Catholic parishes have a pipe organ of this size," the music director said.

The music program, Father Dattilo said, is one the most important aspects of the parish. At four weekend Masses there is a variety of programs: traditional organ music, a contemporary guitar choir, a bell choir and a children's choir.

"We have a very good reputation throughout the city as having a very high quality parish music program and one of the best music directors," he said.

The organ is expected to be back in place by Easter, in time for the church's centennial celebration July 6. "That alone should make for a wonderful celebration of our centennial year," Father Dattilo said.

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