Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Pipe Organ Foundation helps St. Francis Xavier’s instrument ‘speak correctly’

by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff

(From the Nov. 16, 2006 edition of the Inland Register)

On Oct. 30 and 31, the 55-year-old organ in the choir loft of St. Francis Xavier Church, on Spokane’s near north side, got some much-needed expert attention.

Carl B. Dodrill, Ph.D., and two associates from the Pipe Organ Foundation, in Mercer Island, Wash., gave the organ a thorough inspection and tweaking, and a few minor repairs.

The Pipe Organ Foundation (, Dr. Dodrill said, is “a 501c3 public charity that repairs pipe organs, and rescues pipe organs from churches that are going down, such as inner city churches that are no longer used.” The mission statement of the Pipe Organ Foundation expresses its purpose concisely: “The mission of the Pipe Organ Foundation is to charitably promote the preservation, placement, and playing of pipe organs.”

“We do this at low cost,” Dr. Dodrill said. “We heard about the organ here at St. Francis, which was made in 1951 by the Wicks Organ Company – which still exists today, in Highland, Ill. It was installed in this church at that time, when the building was new. It is a small organ. It has five groups of pipes to it, but it is very well set up in the church, in the chambers; it’s very nicely done. The organ also is in quite good condition. It does need some repair work, but not a whole lot. When we came here there were a number of notes that were not speaking” – around 20 or 25 – “and we made them speak correctly.”

Once the repairs were complete, Dr. Dodrill and his helpers tuned the organ. “We can also upgrade the organ quite economically,” he said; “it’s all set up for that. It’s a good organ to add to, and we’re interested in doing things at low cost.”

The upgrades Dr. Dodrill recommends would mean the installation of parts for which the manufacturer prepared the instrument, but which were never added. The upgrades would include additional pipes – one of which would be an oboe reed pipe – and a set of chimes. “It would be our hope,” Dr. Dodrill said, “that we could add these features to the organ in due time, as they would significantly enrich the sounds from it.”

Father Daniel Barnett, pastor of the parish, said that “We look forward to working with Dr. Dodrill and the Pipe Organ Foundation in the future, and we hope to be able to follow through on his recommendations.”

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