The pipe organ is a mechanically motivated wind instrument which operates by pressing keys on a keyboard to allow slightly compressed air to flow through specially made tone generators know as “organ pipes.” Same as all other relatively complex mechanical devices, it requires extraordinary skills to operate and play, and it must work exceptionally well in order to support the choreography which we normally associate with its use.
The average pipe organ has hundreds of working parts and requires routine maintenance care as well as occasional major repairs in order to perform as expected. Most usually its main purpose is to deliver music on a regular basis; therefore, it needs to be kept in good tune and all its working parts need to be in reliable working condition at all times. Regular tuning and maintenance care is recommended at least twice yearly. Major repairs are usually completed as necessary.
Pipe organs have reasonably predictable patterns of wear and tear. Major repair issues often depend on the mechanical style, design complexity, and installation environment of each individual instrument. These repairs usually include procedures such as: tonal work, pipe-work cleaning and repair, leather work, general chassis repair, and the replacement of parts that are worn out.
It is not necessary for tuning and repair issues to come as a surprise or present unwelcome budget burdens Skillful maintenance planning is the key to the instrument’s continued performance and longevity.
Each individual instrument has a finite life span according to its environment and how it is used. Although its service life is quite long – usually 40 to 50 years – the pipe organ finally wears out so that regular care is no longer cost effective. At this time it should be evaluated according to the music program it serves, and plans need to be made for it to be re-built or replaced.. This process should be accomplished in a goal-oriented way by music sensitive people considering the future use of the instrument and the music program it supports. An experienced pipe organ builder can provide guidance as well as a variety of possibilities and options to consider.