Saturday, June 15, 2024
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Nazareth Motherhouse pipe organ gets a tune up

Just like any other well-oiled machine, a couple of times a year a professional needs to pop the hood, blow out the pipes and give it a good tune up to keep it working at peak performance.

But in this case, the machine is the massive pipe organ in the loft at the Sacred Heart Chapel in the Nazareth Motherhouse in Concordia.

Kris Harris of Harris Organ Works shows how the leather gusset is attached in the organ.

And the professional? Where do you even find someone that knows how to do that?

Look no further than Kris Harris, of Harris Organ Works, of Denver, Colo.

Harris, along with his assistant, Dan Goett, has been spending several days this week at the Motherhouse “leathering” the organ, “scraping” it, installing a “winker” and basically giving the entire instrument a good tune up. And he’s no stranger to this machine. He said he’s been tuning this organ for the past six to seven years, twice a year.

Harris has been in the pipe organ repair business for more than 20 years. He began learning the art working for a specialist in Lawrence, Kan. After his mentor retired in 2000, he went out on his own, and is now based in Denver, Colo.

“I got involved and at some point just knew too much to abandon the career,” Harris said.

While he services instruments in in Nebraska, Oklahoma, Colorado and Wyoming, the Motherhouse organ is the furthest east his business currently goes.

A “winker” is prepared to be installed on the Motherhouse organ.

Harris said the work on the Motherhouse instrument would take two to three days total to complete. The “scraping” is removing old leather in the large boxes that are in the two rooms to the side of the loft. The “leathering” is replacing the worn leather with new leather to make the air flow more efficiently through the pipes.

The “winker” is a smaller bellows-type attachment that is being added to the organ to help the air flow be more efficient and avoid having the sound coming out of the pipes from starting out “flat” before evening out in tone.

Each group of pipes on the organ is referred to as a “rank.”

“But the most important rank on an organ is the room that it is in,” Harris said. “And this is a really good room acoustically.”

The pipe organ was a gift of Mrs. J. McPhillips in memory of her son, John McPhillips who died June 2, 1925.

For more information about Kris Harris, visit

One thought on “Nazareth Motherhouse pipe organ gets a tune up

  • Como will be able to make it sing even better now!!

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