Care and Maintenance of a Pipe organ
Craftsmanship in maintenance
A clean organ produces the best sound
It is said that if the top of the soundboard is cleaned when a piano is tuned, its sound improves. With a pipe organ also, if the dust that collects inside the pipes is removed they resonate more effectively and the sound becomes clear. Accumulated dust is likely to hinder the production of sound from vibrating surfaces that come into contact with the air. Accumulated dust is likely to hinder the production of sound from vibrating surfaces that come into contact with the air. Cleaning is generally performed once every ten years or so, during which time a considerable amount of dust can collect. There can be a notable change in the sound when cleaning is performed.
Metal pipes are soft
Pipes that are made of alloys of tin and lead are very delicate. They can be dented by just minor bumps or knocks, and if they are held too tightly they can become misshapen. If you get the opportunity to hold one in your hands, take care to handle it carefully.
Polishing changes the sound
For organs dating from the 1700s, an oxide layer may have formed on the surface of metal pipes, which makes them stiffer, like the shells of crabs. Their color also blackens, but if you polish them their distinctive, historic sound can also be completely lost. It seems best to leave the surfaces of the pipes undisturbed, entrusted to the passage of time.
Also, if they are touched directly with the hands they could be tarnished with fingerprints or become more susceptible to rust, so this is best avoided. There are some workshops that finish pipes with a clear varnish to protect them against rust.
Repairs akin to solving a riddle
Whether old or new, if a component breaks it needs to be replaced with a different component. Parts are made on-site to solve the problem in a way that is appropriate for the instrument as it stands, using springs or wood, along with adhesives, screws and whatever other materials are available to hand. That there are areas where the complicated mechanisms of individual organs vary can make this difficult. With the same intuition one might use to solve a riddle, the manufacturer's intentions must be unraveled and the repair performed. Conducting repairs can be compared to entering a dialogue with the manufacturer through the medium of the musical instrument.
Enduring appeal across distance and the ages
Just as with cars and motorcycles, pipe organs also require periodic overhauls involving their dismantling and repair. However, the interval at which these are required is very long, in the order of 15 to 20 years after their construction. For this reason, it is often the case that those involved with their construction have already retired. It is precisely because pipe organs are instruments that last for hundreds of years that the techniques involved in their care and maintenance must be passed on from generation to generation through the ages that follow.