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Moore Park church organ gets a second life in song

"It's been a long time coming," says Father James Hannah. "We've been fundraising since early 2003."

After nearly eight years, though, his church in Moore Park, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, will soon resonate with the sounds from its overhauled pipe organ, the largest in the Toronto diocese.

Money for the $250,000 project, which included refinishing religious icons and repainting the church's main foyer, came from years of fundraising efforts as well as a donation from the Catholic Diocese. Refurbishing the organ, which the church bought 74 years ago, took two teams of people about a month to complete. The instrument was dismantled by a team led by Carlos Nunes, director of Fine Painting Design and Restorations. "Our greatest challenge amongst many was just moving these pipes from one location to another," says Mr. Nunes, whose crew had to both manhandle all 55 pipes (the biggest, a 22-footer, weighed in at 250 pounds) as well as delicately strip them and stencil them before re-installing them.

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It's the 12th organ that Mr. Nunes has worked on in his 14-year history of working with sacred art, but each project is distinctive.

"In all my experience of working on these historical organs," says Mr. Nunes, "the challenge has always been to make them unique in their own space and style." Because the original organ pipes were unadorned, Mr. Nunes conceived of a decorative motif, a fleur de lis pattern, for the pipes, which was approved by Father Hannah. A single cross adorns the central pipe.

The newly decorated pipes, which are visible to the congregation, hide some 2,500 zinc flue and reed pipes. The organ console, which holds the keyboard and controls, was replaced outright. So, while the aesthetic work on the main pipes is now complete, keyboard specialist Robert Smit and his crew must continue to work on the 4,000-plus electrical connections that control the airflow into the thousands of concealed zinc pipes. For now, the digital keyboard is wired to hidden speakers. Come February, though, the congregation will be able to hear the organ in its full glory.

"To see and hear it all come together will be magnificent," says Mr. Nunes, who secures restoration work in two or three churches a year. But for him the personal significance of this work goes beyond the layers of paint and lacquer.

"Working with [Father Hannah]and the love and trust he has given us has been the most rewarding component of this restoration," he says. "Without Father Hannah's direction and love for this, the project would never have happened."

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