Gutted Old Pipe Organ Getting a New Sound

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SCRANTON -- Over the past few years, members of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Scranton's Hill Section have used an old picture as a reference. They're fixing the church to look like it did back then, in the 1960's.

But, regardless of all the renovations some parts of the sanctuary still show their age.

"Every now and again the button wouldn't catch, and you have to hit it again and again. The choir would start laughing because they see the organ shaking because I'm literally kicking this thing trying to get it to work," said Tim Smith.

Smith is the church's music director, he plays the pipe organ every Sunday. Now, the organ's chamber is noticeably empty and its 2,500 pipes are packed away in a truck headed for Philadelphia.

A crew spent three days dismantling it. The pipe organ should return with updated parts and, Smith said, a much better sound.

"Rather than big blasts of sound that sort of surprise you, this will be much more gradual and much more even to crescendo the organ and make it bigger," added Smith.

Many mechanical parts of the old organ are going to be thrown out. It was 100% mechanical, soon it will contain electric motors and digital boards.

"You're going to hear a difference in the organ, but it's also going to be more reliable for Tim when he plays it," said Matt Newcome.

Newcome and his co-workers have the big task. They work for Patrick Murphy and Associates. The company from Philadelphia works on more and more old pipe organs each year because churches are trying to save money by making their organs sound new.

"It's a 'green' kind of concept. But at the end of the day it's a wonderful organ," Newcome said.

The workers say packing up all the pipes is actually the easy part. They'll clean and refurbish the instrument over the summer. But, putting it back together will take two months.

Smith hopes to play his first song on the new and improved pipe organ by Labor Day weekend.