St.Francis of Assisi Church, Valletta.

The Friary Church of St. Francis in Republic Street Valletta has the good fortune to possess a fine pipe organ built in 1932 by the Italian firm of Mascioni who were established in 1829 and are still trading today. This instrument is listed as Opus 443, one of 12 examples around the Maltese islands, the largest of which is situated in St. John’s Co-Cathedral, Valletta. The organ of St. Francis was the second installed by Mascioni in Malta and first one in Valletta.

 

The pipework and tone of this modest size organ is excellent and one the Church is proud of.  The speech and the pipework has been carefully restored and preserved throughout.  Layers of dirt which have accumulated throughout the years have been removed and every one of the more than 1,400 pipes, which range in length from 16' to the size of a pencil, removed and carefully cleaned.  Some required specialist repair before being replaced, tuned and finely regulated.  This particular organ has a unique named stop found in Malta, the ‘Corno camoscio’ which is a soft toned stop and a Mixture stop (Ripieno) of 6 to 5 ranks.

 

The original action – the mechanism between the keyboards and the valves, which allows wind into the pipes – was operated pneumatically, which involved a series of lead tubes from each key sending wind through an intricate labyrinth of machines containing thousands of valves and action parts, many of which were made of very thin leather. With such limited space inside the organ and the heat and humidity of the Maltese climate it was impossible to maintain the instrument in reliable working order, therefore a new electro-pneumatic action has been introduced. This has simplified the action, removed the need for 90% of the fine leather and allowed the organ to be made more resourceful. Modern technology now operates the action whilst total maintaining the tonal qualities and pipework in their original form.

 

Such technology has enabled an additional console to be placed at ground level in the Church. The console attached to the organ has been restored and functions as it always did but the ground level console has additional playing aids; - i.e. an transposing device and  pistons – these are buttons that can be pre-set to bring out a selection of stops in the middle of a piece of music instantly assisting the organist in dynamic control of the instrument.

 

A playback system has been fitted which enables an organist to pre-record music so the organ can still be played if an organist is not available when required. Similar to the rolls used with a pianola and player organ in years gone by.

 

Despite this new technology, the wind system is still operated by a series of reservoirs or bellows, which are ribbed and rise when wind from a blowing plant is delivered to them. These four bellows, which take up most of the floor area at the lower level, steady the wind and regulate the amount of pressure that is delivered to the pipes.

 

The ribs and corners of these bellows are still covered with traditional sheepskin and cow hide leather (though a much thicker variety than the smaller action motors that have been removed).  Traditional restoration methods using hot animal glue is still employed on this part of the restoration.

S p e c i f i c a t i o n

Great (Grande)

Principale 16’
Principale 8’
Flauto 8’
Dulciana 8’
Ottava 4’
Decima Quinta 2’
Ripieno VI-V
Tromba 8’
Voce Umana 8’

Octave Coupler

Sub-Octave Coupler *

Melodic Pedal on Great *

Pedal (Pedale)

Basso Acustico 32' *

Principale 16'    

Basso 8'  

Subbasso 16'

Bordone  8'

Couplers

II-I 16'

II-I 8'

II-I 4'

II-P

I-P

I-P 4' *

I-II 8' *

Compass

Manual: CC - c 61 notes

Pedal: CCC - G 32 notes

Swell (Espressivo)

Corno Camoscio 8'

Bordone 8'

Viola 8'

Flauto 4'

Nazardo 2 2/3'

Cornetto II  1 1/3'

Coro Viol  III 8'

Octave Coupler

Sub-Octave Coupler *

Drawings

Photos

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Wind pressure

Manuals: 3''

Pedals and action 3 1/4'

Balanced Swell Pedal

Crescendo Pedal

Tremolo to Manuals

Manual and foot pre-set pistons

Tromba Cancel

Ripieno Cancel

Combinazione Libera (activating preset stops)

Accessories

6 Thumb pistons to Swell *

8 Thumb pistons to Great *

8 General Pistons *

 

Reversers to Sw to Gt *

Gt to Ped & Sw to Ped *

 

Toe Piston reversers to Sw to Ped & Gt to Ped *

8 pistons duplicating the General Pistons *

 

12 levels of memory *

Copy facility *

Lock facility *

Transposer 5 up 5 down *

MIDI outputs *

Playback device *

* = Stops and Couplers on the new ground level console

Dismantling and cleaning

Wormed key tops
Wormed key tops
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Woodworm damages on console
Woodworm damages on console
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Principlae 16' Bass pipes caps removed
Principlae 16' Bass pipes caps removed
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Wooden pipes during treatment
Wooden pipes during treatment
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The 5th bellow before restoration
The 5th bellow before restoration
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String pipes during cleaning
String pipes during cleaning
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Swell keyboard during dismantling
Swell keyboard during dismantling
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Suction puffer valves removed
Suction puffer valves removed
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Storing of pipework
Storing of pipework
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Removal of pipework
Removal of pipework
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Pedal board during dismantling
Pedal board during dismantling
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Pipe during cleaing
Pipe during cleaing
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Pedalboard before restoration
Pedalboard before restoration
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Part view of swell upper pipework
Part view of swell upper pipework
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Part view of Great division pipe racks
Part view of Great division pipe racks
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Great division stops engine
Great division stops engine
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Display pipe old finish
Display pipe old finish
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Treated pipe racks
Treated pipe racks
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Detail view of pipe mouth before cleaning
Detail view of pipe mouth before cleaning
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During dismantling
During dismantling
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Damaged bellow leather corner
Damaged bellow leather corner
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Console pneumatic action rear view
Console pneumatic action rear view
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1st bellow removed top
1st bellow removed top
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Console during dismantling
Console during dismantling
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Builder's mark on various parts
Builder's mark on various parts
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Bordone metal pipes
Bordone metal pipes
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Display pipes being removed
Display pipes being removed
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Bellow damaged leather
Bellow damaged leather
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Restoration and upgrading

Restoration and upgrading

Removing old leather from bellows
Removing old leather from bellows
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Re-leathered bellow
Re-leathered bellow
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Cleaned foot levers
Cleaned foot levers
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Restored pedalboard
Restored pedalboard
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Pedalboard after restoration including pedal jacks
Pedalboard after restoration including pedal jacks
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Wiring to stop action switches
Wiring to stop action switches
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Swell keyboard with installed electic contacts with new key tops
Swell keyboard with installed electic contacts with new key tops
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Setting up of wiring to windchests compound magnets
Setting up of wiring to windchests compound magnets
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Replaced pipe stopper handle
Replaced pipe stopper handle
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Part view of Great soundboard compound magnets
Part view of Great soundboard compound magnets
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New leather to display pipes valves
New leather to display pipes valves
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New leather corners from inside for better durability
New leather corners from inside for better durability
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New action main windchests beign constructed
New action main windchests beign constructed
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Key pivot felts replaced and installation of pre-set buttons switches
Key pivot felts replaced and installation of pre-set buttons switches
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Console bottom board restored
Console bottom board restored
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Fixing of electric contacts to keys
Fixing of electric contacts to keys
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Detail shot of new leather corners
Detail shot of new leather corners
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Cleaning of stop tabs
Cleaning of stop tabs
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Installation of stop action switches
Installation of stop action switches
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Magnet installation for Crescendo display action
Magnet installation for Crescendo display action
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New console

Stop action and coupling cards
Stop action and coupling cards
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New console ready for transport
New console ready for transport
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New detached console manuals
New detached console manuals
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Electric devices installation in detached console
Electric devices installation in detached console
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Detail shot of playback device drawer
Detail shot of playback device drawer
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Detached console keyboards detail shot
Detached console keyboards detail shot
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Console bottom sides
Console bottom sides
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Console sides
Console sides
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Detached console during last works
Detached console during last works
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Console cover
Console cover
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Console during finishing works
Console during finishing works
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Deatached ground console
Deatached ground console
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Reassembling 

Display pipe re-finishing works
Display pipe re-finishing works
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Part view of Great Division Pipework
Part view of Great Division Pipework
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The 5th bellow after restoration
The 5th bellow after restoration
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Restored bellow in place
Restored bellow in place
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Installation of playback system
Installation of playback system
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Installation of Swell engine
Installation of Swell engine
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Cleaning and re-finish of swell shutters
Cleaning and re-finish of swell shutters
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Restored gallery conosle
Restored gallery conosle
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Restored console re-installation
Restored console re-installation
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Swell windchest with removed bottom air channel baords
Swell windchest with removed bottom air channel baords
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Subbass chest part view
Subbass chest part view
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Organ from ground level
Organ from ground level
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