Where the Music Comes From

Mar 31, 2015 | 1 comment

The Cabinet Sans Innards

The Cabinet Sans Innards

After being on the search for more than a decade, we finally have found Robert Spies (pronounced Speesh), Parlor Organ Repairman Extraordinaire! You would never know that from his business card, though. It simply says “Technical Consultant” and lists his Portland address. But, come to find out, he belongs to an organization called the Organ Historical Society and has worked on organs of all kinds all over the United States and, even more interesting, has ‘visited’ organs all over the world. Organs, however, are mostly an avocation, not his main line of work which has to do with all things technical like making sound recordings and building or repairing linear accelerators!

And here he is in Oysterville – working on the Oysterville Restoration Foundation’s little 1930s organ and, last night, entertaining us at dinner with fascinating stories about things we can barely understand! I try to remember to call him Robert, as requested, but even though he is two years my junior, I can’t help but think of him as “Mr. Spies, pronounced Speesh.” Every time he shares a new bit of information, I feel humbled and honored at the same time. What an amazing man!

The Keyboard

The Keyboard

He arrived yesterday afternoon and after a half-hour or so of getting acquainted in our library, proceeded to the church for an introduction to the little-pump-organ-that-needs-help. Within an hour or so, he had its innards laid out on a table Nyel had prepared from sawhorses and plywood. Wonder of wonders, the reeds (which are made of brass and here I thought they were made of some organic material that would look like bamboo! Duh!) are in good shape. The various felts and burlaps, though a bit worn and dusty, are also “in remarkably fine shape considering the age of the instrument,” according to Mr. Spies.

Now that he has assessed the situation and made an inventory of what is needed to bring things up to snuff (cleaning all the parts, replacing the felts, mainly), he will put the organ back together today. The plan is that he will return in a few weeks, well before our Music Vesper season begins, to finish the upgrade which, with a little luck and care should last another sixty or seventy years.

And how did we find this wonderful, knowledgeable man? Networking! Our friend Maggie brought her friend Geri (an organist in Portland) to a Friday Night Gathering here and Geri happened to meet Mr. Spies at a gig in Portland that he was recording for the musicians, one of whom was Geri’s nephew… Got that?

The Innards

The Innards

Also, I should mention that we contacted our “head organist” Suzanne Knutzen who came over to meet Mr. Spies yesterday and give him a bit of background about the difficulties she’s experienced with the instrument in recent years.   She stayed for awhile listening to explanations about the inner workings of that familiar old organ and said, “I feel just like I’ve attended a pump organ workshop!  I had no idea!” We heartily concur.

And, meanwhile, Larry Murante has been hanging out waiting for his truck to be repaired and entertaining us all with his mandolin.  So, there you have it! Another Great Oysterville Experience in  progress and it’s all about people… as usual!

1 Comment

  1. Anne Kepner

    Great Monday, it seems! Good for all of you.


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