The magnificent organ at the Immaculate Conception Church is a work of art that was hand-built by the Wicks Organ Company in Highland, Illinois, and assembled on-site in St. Mary, Missouri. It is an electro-pneumatic action pipe organ with a large blower. The electro-pneumatic action means that when a key is pressed, power is transferred to a small electric action that opens a valve to let air pass through a particular pipe. Almost all of the components of our organ are original. While it has received maintenance over the years, this lovely instrument continues to need maintenance to operate most efficiently.
Pipe organs are very expensive and rare instruments, and each one is numbered for the purpose of tracking their service and location history. The Opus number of St. Mary’s Immaculate Conception Church organ is 531. The Wicks Opus list is numbered now in excess of 6,440 organs. Our organ is not in the Opus list, but if it were, it would be the SECOND one recorded there! When contacting the company for information, they were surprised and thrilled that it was still in its original location, still in use, and as well, in an unaltered state.
The Wicks Organ Company still exists, but they build very few new organs today. They focus their business primarily on rebuilding and repairing existing organs, as well as creating very high-end custom organs. A history of Wicks Organ Company can be found on their website at here.
On June 27, 2019, the St. Mary Immaculate Conception Church Preservation Society received two special guests from St. Louis to tell us about the condition of our organ and make some recommendations about what we need to do to ensure it lasts for a long time. Our guests were Burnell Hackman, President of the St. Louis Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, and Horst Buchholtz, Director of Sacred Music at the St. Louis Cathedral Basilica.
They were surprised and delighted to play our organ! Horst put the organ through the paces and really checked what it could do. It was truly amazing to hear the incredible music that the organ makes! They pointed out several notes that did not sound (Joyce had identified these notes before), but stated that it is in great condition for its age and its largely un-altered state. They shared the name of a good/reputable service person who could help us repair the instrument and make recommendations for the future service schedule.
Afterward, board members and our guests retired to White Cliff Manor, for a luncheon prepared by SMICCPS Board Member and owner of the Manor, Brian Helms, for the occasion. Overall, it was a very productive and satisfying visit!