St.Lawrence Parish Church, San Lawrenz, Gozo
The St. Lawrence organ’s construction dates back to 1930 by the renowned Giudici & Laudani and its casework was completed by Giuseppe Limuli, both from Palermo, Sicily. Giudici & Laudani also built other organs, found in both Malta and Gozo.
This organ replaced another older organ that began its life at the Carmelite Church in Valletta. On the 6th December 1926 the upper structure and steeple of the St. Lawrence church were struck by lightning which damaged this instrument beyond repair, resulting in the commissioning of the present instrument.
Upon our initial inspection of the organ, the bellows’ leather was so far gone that the leaks rendered the organ almost unplayable with a blower so noisy little could be heard of what was playable. The wind-chests had deteriorated to such an extent that there was substantial wind loss. Many valve springs had broken, some valves had evidence of water damage, resulting in some notes ciphering. The valve sealing leathers had all deteriorated, as had the bar sealing strips, resulting in great wind loss as well. The pedal chest was in surprisingly good condition, besides a few pallets suffering water damage, and some pull-downs slightly corroded. Although the pipework was of a good standard, it had been badly affected by dust, resulting in speaking and tuning problems, some pipes had sustained some rodent damage at some point, and some were badly dented, bent or broken. The organ is cone tuned in the top octave ranges and tuned by scrolled leaded slots in the lower octaves, there was evidence of bad repairs and broken scrolls, along with many damaged pipe tops due to previous tuning methods without the correct tools. Several of the larger pipes were found to be badly supported, resulting in damage and danger of collapse. Some functions of the instrument did not function, due to missing or broken parts, or due to neglect of maintenance. This includes the tremulant, the swell expression, the manual to pedal coupler, some of the front case pipes and some of the functions of the accessory pedals. The casework and frame were found to be in good condition, besides a small amount of woodworm damage. However, much of the casework was nailed together, which had corroded over the years, resulting in difficulties in the disassembly process. Tuning access was also poor as the side panels were not removable, although evidence shows they may have once been.
We undertook a full historic restoration which necessitated the transportation of the entire organ to the workshop, including the casework so as to assemble it in full height to get a full restoration job in the works. This was an essential part of the process to carry out all the works needed for the restoration.
The action is mechanical throughout, with the exception of the front pipes tubed off on pneumatic action. The organ is a typical example of an Italian organ building with a main manual mechanical windchest called ‘A Vento’ which is explained as the following: up as far as the pallets and bars, it’s similar to what we are used to for a mechanical bar and slider wind-chest. Above the bars, however, there are no slides and upper boards. Instead, valves are placed on the side walls of the bars with holes drilled through the bar walls up to the pipe tip holes on the table above. The valves closing the holes for each note are pivoted via a wire out through the table alongside the tip holes of the pipes with a leather membrane to seal the wind. (See diagram in drawings). A trace rod the length of the soundboard picks up on all the wires attached to the 56 valves for each rank and when the stop is drawn, opens them all allowing wind to pass to the pipe if a pallet is opened. Like a Kegellade or Roosevelt chest tuning stability is assured but access for maintenance, should any of these valves pop out of place is (for those in the area beneath the pallet or bridge) impossible without major dismantling. The external area of the bars had individual strips of wood covering them, one for each bar, leathered and glued in place. As a slight variation we screwed them back in position, unglued, so there is a chance of access to the tiny springs and valves on some of the rear stops, at least should the need arise.
Access to the pipes was also a challenge. The Swell box was nailed together, so once dismantled this gave us the opportunity to hinge the sides when re-assembling. giving a slightly better chance of getting in to attend to a slipped stopper etc. from time to time, although the Bourdon, with no handles on the stoppers, will still require fine mountaineering skills like climbing over a tray of eggs to access!
The action and style of construction do not reflect the Italian building style of the 1930’s but are reminiscent of a time prior to this. We can say that it might be that the organ was a relocation of a used organ and housed in a new case. Another sign of this was also evident from the numbering and setup of the Voce Umana reed pipes as there were labelling differences for each pipe between the marking on the boot and on the block. The pipework scaling is somewhat not based on a specific scale, as the Principale 8’ is of small scale but on the other hand the other foundation stop the Flauto 8’ is of larger scale. This shows us that probably the pipes were not from one organ but came from different ones so the scaling design was not present here.
The double rise bellows and feeders were quite substantial and restored well so the hand blowing works beautifully with little effort.
The instrument as a whole has a delightful sound and a very interesting tonal structure with a bright 4 ranks Ripieno and colourful flutes, though the keen sounding Viola (tuned by the ears and bells) was a challenge to get on speech.
The organ restoration was 72.25% EU funded as part of the re-generation of the whole San Lawrenz village.
S p e c i f i c a t i o n
Unda maris 8’ (from C2)
Flauto a camino 4’
Voce Corale 4' - C1-B2: Eolina (soft Prinicipale) C3-A5: reeds
Ripieno IV (activated by pedal hook down lever)
Couplers & Accessories
Unione Pedale al Tasto (I to P)
Balanced Swell Pedal
Manual: CC - G 58 notes
Pedal: CCC - F 30 notes
Wind pressure 2 5/8''