After almost three years, the organ in La Salle-Peru Township High School’s auditorium may not have its full sound, but it is playable.
“It’s been a while since we’ve heard it,” said Ritchie Kowalczyk, the school’s director of buildings and grounds. “It’s a sound that’s unique, and you just don’t hear it anywhere else.”
The work already done cost more than $36,000. Around $15,000 was donated; the rest was covered by insurance from the original water damage, superintendent Steve Wrobleski said.
According to previous NewsTribune reports, the organ was damaged beyond playability by water that seeped into the auditorium during a storm.
The district hired Jeff Weiler Inc., an organ restoration company from Chicago, to do the work, which began after the spring semester ended.
What’s next for the organ?
To get the organ’s full sound back, 32 switches attached to pedals need their leather hinges replaced so the pedals work properly. This will cost around $2,800, Wrobleski said at the school’s building and grounds committee meeting on Monday.
Wrobleski said he’s hoping to organize a gathering for people who have expressed serious interest in contributing to the restoration project. What he wants to do is invite Jeff Weiler, owner of the company, to play the organ along with a silent film — perhaps the 1925 version of “The Phantom of the Opera,” he said — so that the spectators would get an idea of what the organ could do.
This event could take place sometime this fall, Wrobleski said.
What about future work?
This is only the first stage of restoration.
“They just made the organ come alive again is what they did,” Kowalczyk said. “We’re able to play it, and it’s impressive. There’s still a long way.”
According to Wrobleski, the pipes need to be removed and sent to Weiler’s workshop for cleaning. Further cleaning, repairs and rewiring need to be done in the organ’s upper loft room. Finally, the console — the visible part of the organ — needs some additional restoration.
Inside the console is a “player mechanism,” a device that plays “rolls” of songs.
Right now, it’s not working, but it’s one of Wrobleski’s long-term goals to have it fixed.
The cost for the full restoration is around $400,000, Wrobleski said, so the work would have to be done over a few years as the funds became available.
What’s in it for the community?
“I would like our students to have the opportunity to learn how to play it,” Wrobleski said.
That’s only one of the ideas he envisions. Other possibilities include using the organ at student music and theater performances as well as at community concerts.
“We’re excited that it can play right now, and we just can’t wait until the full scope of work is completed, because it can do so many more things,” Kowalczyk said.
Rachel Stella can be reached at (815) 220-6933 or firstname.lastname@example.org.