Rebuilds & Restoration
Few organ builders have as many pipe organs still being played decades following their installation as Casavant Frères. At Casavant, we remain committed to taking care of our existing instruments, as well as quality instruments by other builders, from routine service and repair to additions, console rebuilding, as well as more comprehensive projects. Returning to the original builder when such work is needed is the best way to keep the integrity of your pipe organ and to ensure its reliability into the future.
Just as with other objects made with natural materials that age with time, pipe organs too will need work to keep them in their original working condition. What is required and when it is needed will vary with each situation. We suggest that the best way to determine this is to contact us to arrange an inspection and evaluation of the instrument’s condition.
From our foundation in 1879, documentation on virtually each organ has been kept in our archives. This information, combined with the expertise and experience of our personnel, allows us to answer service-related calls regardless of the age of the instrument and guarantees the best possible results when we work on older organs.
Once the nature of a project is defined, the parts to be refurbished are brought back to the workshop where they are properly stored inside our heated facility before being restored by our experienced artisans. The ample size of our shop allows us to bring back complete instruments in instances where the nature of the project requires it or where building renovations necessitate the removal of the entire instrument while other work is being done on site.
Refurbished 1954 console
Casavant consoles of all vintages have been recognized for their comfortable playing action and reliability. Contrary to some opinion, there is no need to replace consoles simply because they are old. It is possible to return them to their original condition by resurfacing worn keys, replacing felt bushings and regulating the playing action. Since the advent of multi-memory combination action systems, consoles dating from the earliest days of electric action can be updated with the latest solid-state electronic technology when this is desired or needed.
All organs regardless of their playing action make use of natural materials that eventually need renewal. Common to all types of actions are the coverings used in the wind regulation system. The replacement of the materials covering the ribs of reservoirs and bellows, for example, will need to be done when the original materials cease to be airtight.
Mechanical action organs have movable parts that need regulation after years of playing to remove the “play” in the action that is caused by normal wear of moving parts. Key pallet resurfacing and replacement of seals under the stop sliders are also needed when they become worn.
Electro-pneumatic organs have leather pouches that will need to be replaced when the original materials begin to fail. It is important not to assume that this work needs to be done after some fixed time period, such as the twenty-five to thirty year time frame generally accepted as common practice Experience has shown that the useful life of the leather in the vast majority of Casavant organs is considerably longer. In organs with a pitman-type action, failure of these pouches normally is indicated by dead notes rather than ciphers. If such problems are experienced when playing the instrument we suggest an inspection by a Casavant technician to determine if work beyond fixing the immediate problem is warranted. Owners should be wary of claims made by proponents of “leatherless” replacement actions that sound like a good alternative but usually have a track record far less impressive than the original leathers being replaced.
After many decades, the accumulation of dust inside an instrument can have a negative impact on pipe speech as well as the playing action. The amount of dirt and the time it takes before it should be removed will vary with each instrument. Cleaning of reed stops is especially beneficial to improve their tuning stability at the same time freeing the tone from the 'noise' that dust on the reed tongue imparts. Tuning sleeves, scrolls and tuning stoppers may also need repair after many years of movement during the normal tuning of the instrument.
Occasionally instruments are built with stops that are prepared for future addition. Documentation for the completion of these stops is kept in our records in order to make these additions consistent with the style of the original instrument. Additions may also include stops that enhance the resources of an organ. In these cases we work to respect the tonal orientation of the instrument and make additions that are consistent with the original intent. Occasionally more extensive tonal work is undertaken in situations where there is a desire to modify the instrument in keeping with musical requirements that may be different from the time when the organ was installed originally. Such work is done carefully following considerable discussion with the musicians and leaders about the historical significance of the instrument to be sure that the work to be done is in keeping with the long-range needs of the institution and not a desire to follow a current trend. In all cases the integrity of the ensemble sound of the instrument must be kept as the primary goal of any work that is to be done.
In conjunction with work on the instruments themselves, projects also may include restored or new casework. This includes the restoration of an original organ façade that may have disappeared during a previous renovation project done at a time when organ casework and visible pipes were not in vogue.
Due to the common architectural preferences and practices of the time, instruments dating to the mid twentieth century generally were located in chambers behind grilles; therefore a renovation project may introduce visible casework and façade pipes while simultaneously improving the tonal egress of the instrument in the church.