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Our Lady of Good Counsel
Mankato, Minnesota

Johnson & Son

Westfield, Massachusetts
Op. 499, 1877

Anyone who undertakes the restoration of an historic organ is faced with choices. When the instrument has undergone major changes during its life, the picture is further clouded. Johnson & Son’s Op. 499, originally installed in 1877 in the Church of St. Mary of the Sacred Heart in Boston, had seen the removal of its original key action, stop action and wind system in 1927 by W. W. Laws. In 1974, the organ’s future was threatened by the impending demolition of St. Mary’s. Fortunately, a new home was found for the organ within the Chapel of Our Lady of Good Counsel at the Motherhouse of the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Mankato, Minnesota. Though considerably smaller in enclosed volume, the chapel has excellent acoustics and the organ fits the room both visually and aurally. The removal and reinstallation of the organ in 1975 was directed by Richard Lurth, who had the considerable assistance of the entire community during the project, washing pipes, rewiring and re-stencilling front pipes.

Faced with major repairs to the pneumatic actions, the School Sisters of Notre Dame selected our firm to perform restorative repairs to the organ. Because of the physical limitations of the balcony and the budget, reconstruction Johnson’s original action with its Barker machines was impossible. Therefore, we releathered the existing electro-pneumatic pulldown and stop actions, and supplied a modern solid state switching system. Spurious windchests and pipework in the Swell and Pedal were removed. We constructed a new console with liberal reference to existing Johnson examples, most notably that in Sacred Heart Church, Waterbury, Connecticut; like the case, the console is made of ash. Two new bellows, 72" x 114", were constructed, one for the Great and Pedal, the other for the Swell and Solo; a third, smaller reservoir was constructed to supply the pneumatic actions. Because there was no documentation of the layout of the original, a new wind system was freely laid out within the organ with no attempt made to replicate its original configuration save where the windlines entered the chests. Throughout, the guiding principle was to restore the lustre to Johnson’s original work, while accommodating the limitations imposed by the new physical situation and the funds available.

The most significant survival from 1877 is the almost unaltered pipework. Especially noteworthy are the three “Johnson & Son Patent Reeds”: the Great Trumpet, the Swell Cornopeon and the Pedal Trombone. Every attempt was made to maintain the original voicing; where pipes were damaged, repairs were made in keeping with the originals. The organ retains its cone tuning, and is approximately one-quarter of a semitone sharp of modern pitch. The result is a sound that defies the stereotypical notions of 19th century American organs.

GREAT pipes
16' Open Diapason 61
8' Open Diapason 61
8' Spitz Floete 61
8' Viol da Gamba 61
8' Doppel Floete 61
4' Octave 61
4' Harmonic Flute 61
2-2/3' Twelfth 61
2' Fifteenth 61
III Mixture 2' 183
IV Mixture 1-1/3' 224
8' Trumpet (Johnson & Son Patent Reeds) 61
4' Clarion 61
Swell to Great
Solo to Great
SWELL (expressive)
16' Bourdon 61
8' Open Diapason 61
8' Salicional 61
8' Stop'd Diapason 61
8' Quintadena 61
4' Octave 61
4' Flauto Traverso 61
4' Violin 61
2' Flautino 61
III Mixture 2' 183
II Mixture 1-1/3' 122
16' Contra Fagotto 61
8' Cornopeon [sic] (Johnson & Son Patent Reeds) 61
8' Oboe & Bassoon 61
8' Vox Humana 61
4' Clarion 61
16' Quintatoen 61
8' Geigen Principal 61
8' Keraulophone 61
8' Dulciana 61
8' Melodia 61
4' Fugara 61
4' Flute d’Amour 61
2' Piccolo 61
8' Clarionet 61
Swell to Solo
16' Double Open Diapason 27
16' Bourdon 27
16' Violone 27
10-2/3' Quinte 27
8' Violoncello 27
16' Trombone (Johnson & Son Patent Reeds) 27
8' Tromba 27
Great to Pedale
Swell to Pedale
Solo to Pedale

A copy of the original specification from the dedication brochure can be viewed here.


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Lake City, Iowa 51449 USA
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