April 6-12, 2006
The Pipes are Calling
By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
St. Joseph’s to Dedicate New Organ April 17
CAMILLUS — Roughly five years ago, Tomasz Lewtak, the director of music at St. Joseph’s, embarked upon a labor of love when he set about building “Opus 1,” a massive pipe organ. The culmination of long hours spent toiling on that instrument will arrive April 17 during a dedication ceremony and inaugural recital.
Bishop Thomas Costello will provide a homily at the service, while Bishop James Moynihan will be the master of ceremonies. The parish also invited a special organist, Ulrik Sprang-Hanssen, a professor at the Royal Academy of Music in Aarhus, Denmark. In addition, the church will, for the first time, hear the organ at its maximum potential. Although the church has been able to use the instrument for the past year and a half, Lewtak said he is currently conducting the final “voicing” operations. An organ’s “voicing” regulates its tonal quality.
Lewtak noted that his efforts so far have been rewarding but that building the organ has required considerable labor and sacrifice. Over the past four and one half years he has spent roughly 10 hours a day not only working on the organ but also serving as the parish’s music director. “An experience like this is unique,” he said. “You don’t get a lot of chances to do this.” Lewtak’s interest in organ building began when he was in school in his native Poland at the Music Academy of Katowice. There he majored in musical performance. While his classmates were minoring in more common career pursuits such as musical education, Lewtak’s fascination was drawn to organ building. Lewtak also studied for one year at the Royal Academy of Music in Denmark where he met Sprang-Hanssen.
He came to the U.S. to continue his studies in music at Binghamton University, where he received his second master’s degree. Then, after a brief period serving at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Baldwinsville, Lewtak took advantage of the opening at St. Joseph. Then, around four and one half years ago, St. Louis Church in Oswego closed and its pipe organ found a new home at St. Joseph. Upon seeing the ancient organ, Lewtak knew immediately that the damage was far too extensive to avoid dismantling. Moreover, it was far too small for a church four times the size of St. Louis. Nevertheless, the old organ became the foundation for “Opus 1.” The organ from St. Louis was built by the Quebec-based company Casavant Freres in 1896. It was the first organ built by that company to be sold in the U.S.
Almost all of the pipework was still intact, but compensating for the size of the church and meeting the desires of the builder meant adding pipes. The organ includes 1,100 new pipes in all. The organ that arrived in Camillus bore two sets of keyboards and to those Lewtak added a third which would provide the “big sound.”
After an exhaustive battery of architects and artists failed to yield a satisfactory design, Lewtak’s brother, Pawel Lewtak, came to the rescue. Lewtak believes that his brother’s design unifies the extensive array of pipes resting on the organ loft in the church with the console below, nestled between the pews in which the choir members usually sit. The design echoes the church’s architecture, which combines classical symmetry with a modernistic design. One of the key elements in the organ’s design are the 44 mirrors, four inches in width and of varying lengths placed amid the pipe clusters.
Lewtak believes the mirrors add light and sparkle to the façade. The organ is roughly 40 feet tall and 22 feet across. Msgr. Ronald Bill recently arrived to serve as administrator at St. Joseph’s. From 1986 to 2001 he served as the pastor at Sacred Heart in Cicero before being moved to Utica and then to Immaculate Conception Church in Fayetteville. Msgr. Bill was immediately impressed with the organ upon his arrival. “It’s rather unique and very beautiful,” he said. “It’s quite overpowering. It’s a massive instrument but quite beautiful.”