Peter Osted has become something of an accidental organ restorer.
His latest project is a pump organ that was donated to the Hay River Heritage Centre.
The Langelier, an organ made in Montreal in the early 1920s, came from a Roman Catholic church in Fort Resolution.
“It’s got some unique features that show it’s made for church use,” said Osted, chair of the Hay River Museum Society, which operates the heritage centre. “It’s historical for this part of the world.”
The organ can shift its keyboard to transpose the key and adjust to a choir or performer. It also has levers that allow it to switch to different note sounds.
The sound comes from rubberized canvas bellows that can dry out over the years and needed to be replaced. The insides are of wood, wire and reed. The sound is produced on a reed like a mouth organ, and by air that’s pumped similar to an accordion.
Sharla Carroll, co-ordinator of the Hay River Heritage Centre, said the antique instrument is very popular to play and demonstrate at the centre, which will open for the season in late May.
She said it’s sparking new ideas for musical programming, which could provide the centre with future grants because there’s a pot of funding to support programming for northern performers and public concerts.
There’s no harm in getting some attention, she said. “We welcome people who know how to play the organ to do so.”
Osted also owns two organs circa 1895 that he has worked on and another one for a future project that is currently in pieces in his garage.
“Of the two I’ve got in the house, one is in fine working condition and the other needs a lung transplant,” he said. “I didn’t really learn exactly how to do it and I still don’t really know how. It’s just a matter of tinkering with the innards.”
One of the organs needs repairs to its woodwork, but Osted noted, “At 115 years old, it has a right to be tired.”
Osted has also rebuilt an organ of a similar age for Hay River’s St. Andrew’s Anglican Church.
That instrument used to be in St. Peter’s Church on the Hay River Reserve before the building was damaged, but it works like a charm.
There’s also another genuine antique organ at the Hay River Seniors’ Society that went from Fort Simpson to Fort Good Hope to Hay River.
— Angele Cano