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Milton pipe organ finds new home in historic village

The Casavant pipe organ that used to fill the Milton Church of Christ with music has found a new home in Sherbrooke Village.
The Casavant pipe organ that used to fill the Milton Church of Christ with music has found a new home in Sherbrooke Village.

SHERBROOKE VILLAGE - Members of the congregation of Milton Church of Christ can still hear their traditional pipe organ play in all its glory at its new home in the Historic Sherbrooke Village, in Guysborough County.

The 150-year-old Milton church is being dismantled to be moved to a smaller location, and one of the things that couldn’t go was an historic Casavant pipe organ, built in 1917. Members were afraid the organ, built by the famous Casavant family from St.-Hyacinth Quebec, would end up in the scrap heap.

  But now, hymns from the instrument will be soaring from its new home in St. James Presbyterian Church in Sherbrooke Village, an historic town that is part of the Nova Scotia Museums Association.

 Mark Sajatovich is executive director of the village, which has about 80 buildings representing the era between 1865 and 1920. He says the village was thrilled to come upon Milton’s organ, but it wasn’t an easy find.

 The village had a church, but no organ.

The 150-year-old Milton church is being dismantled to be moved to a smaller location, and one of the things that couldn’t go was an historic Casavant pipe organ, built in 1917. Members were afraid the organ, built by the famous Casavant family from St.-Hyacinth Quebec, would end up in the scrap heap.

  But now, hymns from the instrument will be soaring from its new home in St. James Presbyterian Church in Sherbrooke Village, an historic town that is part of the Nova Scotia Museums Association.

 Mark Sajatovich is executive director of the village, which has about 80 buildings representing the era between 1865 and 1920. He says the village was thrilled to come upon Milton’s organ, but it wasn’t an easy find.

 The village had a church, but no organ.

  “The piano that we had really, we thought we might be able to do a little bit better, and we started wracking our brain about what could we do to really expand the interpretation and heighten the experience of the visitors in the church,” he says.

 “It was my head of historical resources, Robert Robichaud, who thought maybe it was time we started looking at some options like a pipe organ which I thought a fantastic idea, but realistically in my experience most of the pipe organs I’ve seen have been in cathedrals and quite large and our church is certainly not a cathedral.”

 The village began looking on the Internet to find an organ that would fit St. James, and that’s when they came in contact with the Organ Recovery Association, run by Freeman Dryden.

 Dryden described his group “a group of organ nuts who are members of the Royal Canadian College of Organists. It’s a volunteer outlook to save organs because organs are falling all over the place with church’s closing.”

 That organization came across Milton’s organ several months ago, and decided to step in and save it from the dump. It took four days to dismantle and move the large pipes from the Milton Church to Sherbrooke Village, all with the help of free labour from the Liverpool Fire Department.

 Sajatovich says Sherbrooke was thrilled to learn the organ was exactly the right size to fit in St. Jame’s Presbyterian Church.

 “I think it worked out to be a blessing for both sides,” says Sajatovich. “ Because the members of the Milton church, I hope they’ll take a great deal of comfort in the fact that their organ is within a museum system its being protected, its being appreciated, its being used to educate upcoming generations not just of museums but of musical history and a little bit of religious history. And everyone here is delighted with the playing of the piece, it adds a whole new dimension to the interpretation here.”

 The organ will be played regularly, and also used in workshops to educate school children about the history of pipe organ music.

 And it does play magnificently, says Sajatovich.

 “Of course the Casavabt family from St.- Hyacinth Quebec is famous for the quality of their pieces,and I think certainly when you hear this organ in its new home at the St. James Presbyterian church its astounding,” he says. “We’ve had some fantastic absolutely terrific comments from visitors who have stated its changed their notion of what Sherbrooke village is and its really encouraged them to start more of an interest and more of a research interest into Canadian music and especially into this particular family.”

 One person who is already very familiar with the sound of the Casavant is Sharon MacKenzie, an elder at Milton Christian Church who was a choir member and sang under the tones of the organ for years.

 She says she’s planning to go to Sherbrooke to hear it play again.

 “I think it was extremely important for all of us that they came along,” she says. “It was so fortuitous because we were afraid it was going to end up as scrap metal. There was no market for it because it was way to expensive to remove it and we couldn’t afford to remove it, and had no place to house it, and no one to play it most of the time so it was just so fortunate.”

 She says the effort made to remove and save the organ meant a great deal to the congregation.

 “For us to know the organ is going to be housed in area where it can be accessed and played and its going to have a little plaque on it saying it came from our church and that means a great deal to us,” she says.

 

 

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