iohio

SAN MATÍAS JALATLACO

 

 

 

THE RESTORATION OF THE HISTORIC PIPE ORGAN
IN THE CHURCH OF SAN MATÍAS JALATLACO, OAXACA

 

The Instituto de Órganos Históricos de Oaxaca A.C. (Institute of Oaxacan Historic Organs, IOHIO) is pleased to announce that the restoration of the organ in San Matías Jalatlaco was completed in July 2016 (see the photographic documentation of the restoration below). The IOHIO had known this organ since 2001 and kept it clean and conserved but always dreamed of bringing it back to life. The right moment finally arrived in 2015 when the Alfredo Harp Helú Oaxaca Foundation (FAHHO) agreed to finance the project and we were able to count on the support of the community of Jalatlaco and the priest, padre Francisco Reyes Ochoa.

The restoration project was organized by the IOHIO and authorized (December 7, 2015) and supervised by the Coordinación Nacional de Restauración del Patrimonio Cultural (CNCPC) of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH). The work began immediately and was divided into two phases. The first, the restoration of the case, was supervised by restorer Alberto Compiani (Monterrey, Mexico) in collaboration with Oaxacan restorer Eric González Castellanos, director of the “Usanza” company, and finished in March 2016. The main challenge was to control and repair the damage caused by the infestation of woodworm in the case. The work was carried out in the choir loft and in spaces adjoining the church

The second phase, the restoration of the mechanical elements of the organ and the reconstruction of missing parts, was carried out by the Gerhard Grenzing organ building company (El Papiol, Spain) under the supervision of Mtro. Andreas Fuchs. This aspect of the project lasted three and a half months, from early April to mid July 2016. The main challenges were to repair the windchest and bellows damaged by woodworm and rebuild the missing pipes, including 70% of the interior pipes (many having disappeared in recent decades) and the entire rank of horizontal trumpets. Mtro. Fuchs was aided by other experts from the Grenzing workshop: Mtros. Arnau Plana, Antonio Castro, André Lacroix, y David Antonio Reyes (from Oaxaca).

The cost of the project increased from the original budget of 3,500,000 to approximately 4,500,000 pesos, in part because of the volatile exchange rate between the peso and the euro, changes in the policy of the INAH, the importation of tools and materials, and diverse unexpected costs. The Pro-Organ Restoration Committee of the Jalatlaco neighborhood provided food and lodging for the restorers from Monterrey, Mexico City, and above all, from Spain, over the course of several months, a substantial contribution equal to approximately 500,000 pesos by a community of approximately 2000 inhabitants. Donations from the Friends of the IOHIO provided a cushion for emergencies.

We are especially grateful to Sr. Alfredo Harp Helú for his particular interest in Mexico’s historic pipe organs over the course of more than twenty years. He arranged the financing of the restoration of six instruments in the state of Oaxaca and the two monumental organs in the Mexico City Cathedral. Without his support, the restoration of the Jalatlaco organ never would have been possible.

 

 The community of San Matías Jalatlaco    

                   

Many of the 72 documented organs in the state of Oaxaca are nearly intact and historically important, but they have not been viable candidates for a restoration because their location in remote or depopulated communities makes it unlikely that they would be played and maintained regularly. In contrast, the Jalatlaco organ was ideally located in a quiet, picturesque neighborhood (barrio) on the edge of the historic center of Oaxaca City. The church of San Matias with its lovely carved façade is the result of reconstructions in 1713 and 1754 of the original seventeenth-century hermitage. The church’s interior is simple with a central altarpiece in neo-classic style which replaced the former baroque structure and a single open nave providing excellent acoustics.

About the organ

The organ was constructed in 1866 by the Oaxacan organ builder Pedro Nibra (1832 - after 1908) at a cost of 700 pesos. His signature appears in four places in the interior of the organ, referring both to the date of construction in 1866 and to a later intervention in 1880. Payments to Nibra by the priest at the time are cited in the Cathedral Archives (Archivo Histórico de la Catedral, AHAAO).

Pedro Nibra was one of Oaxaca’s most active organ builders during the second half of the nineteenth century. He intervened in many Oaxacan organs, as indicated by his signature on their cases and references to payments in local archives. It was recently discovered that he was also the builder of the organ in Santa Cruz Amilpas (1884), almost identical to the Jalatlaco organ, which provided comparative information for the organbuilders. Especially important were the remnants of the horizontal trumpets which provided the model to reconstruct that register which had been canceled in Jalatlaco, presumably in 1880. Pedro Nibra’s initials "PN", coinciding in style with his graceful signature, appear on the front of the case, as well as a carved face in the center of the decorative molding of the central tower (a self-protrait?). Both are unique details in a Oaxacan organ.

                 

The organ is classified as a stationary 8´ (eight foot) organ, of large dimensions in relation to the group of other Oaxacan instruments. Its elegant appearance and classic proportions delight visitors after they have ascended the winding stone staircase and see it for the first time. It is painted blue with off-white decorative touches applied after its original construction, along with fine carvings on the façade and around the edge of the case. The organ was still played in the 1970s.

The Jalatlaco organ is the first restored Oaxacan instrument dating from the nineteenth-century. Its extended keyboard of 56 notes in chromatic arrangement and tuning in approximately equal temperament permit more varied and extensive repertoire, through the nineteenth century and beyond. In contrast, the other restored organs dating from the 18th century include the characteristic 45 note keyboard with a short octave and meantone temperament, enhancing some tonalities while restricting others. It was a surprise to all that the pitch was confirmed at 396 Hz. by no means typical.

After sitting in silence in the choir loft for so many years, the Jalatlaco organ has recovered its voice. We celebrated its anniversary with a special mass on July 16, 2016, exactly 150 years after Nibra finished the instrument on July 16, 1866 (documented by various inscriptions inside the case). This was followed by two concerts the following days with José Suárez, organist, and Horacio Franco, recorder, playing a baroque program, and Cecilia Winter, organist, and Horacio Franco improvising a program of Oaxacan folk music. These were thrilling events for the cultural life of Oaxaca and a belated tribute to an eminent master organ builder. Since then, the organ has been played regularly for the Sunday mass and the weekly organ class of the IOHIO organ students, and many concerts are being planned for 2017.

 

The organ before restoration

 

RESTORATION PROCESS

PHASE I

RESTORATION OF THE CASE

DOCUMENTATION AND DISMANTLING OF THE ORGAN

December 7 - 20, 2015

       

             

 

DISMANTLING OF THE ORGAN CASE

December 21 to January 3, 2016

                    

   

          

FUMIGATION AND SUPERFICIAL CLEANING

January 4 - 17, 2016

           

                  

 

CLEANING AND REPLACEMENT OF MISSING PARTS

January 18-21

             

    

 

CLEANING AND REPLACEMENT OF MISSING PARTS

February 1-14

                                              

                                              

 

 INTEGRATION

February 15-28

                                     

CONCLUSION OF PHASE I

RESTORATION OF THE CASE

*****

PHASE II

RESTORATION OF THE ORGAN´S MECHANISM AND SOUND

 

DOCUMENTATION AND DISMANTLING OF THE BELLOWS, PIPES,

WIND CHEST AND KEYBOARD

April 4 - 17

                           

                                  

                                    

                                           

 

CLEANING AND LEVELING WIND CHEST, CONDITIONING AND REPLACING
WOOD IN BELLOW, DISMANTELING AND CLEANING KEYBOARD
April 18 - May 1

                           

                           

                            

                           

 

REPAIRING THE WIND CHEST, BELLOWS AND KEYBOARD

May 2 - 15

                                                          

                         

                         

                                               

 

REPAIR AND ASSEMBLY OF THE BELLOWS AND
THE REGISTER AND KEYBOARD MECHANISMS
May 16 - June 15

                         

                         

                         

                                                    

 

ASSEMBLY, HARMONIZATION AND TUNING OF THE
PIPES AND INSTALLATION OF THE REAR DOORS
June 16 – July 15

                             

                                                

 

CONCLUSION OF PHASE II

RESTORATION OF THE ORGAN´S MECHANISM AND SOUND