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

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

Restoration and upgrading

Restoration and upgrading

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

New console

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

Reassembling 

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