The iconic Nairobi All Saints Cathedral is currently in the process of fixing the church organ at a whopping cost of Sh50 million.

The Nairobi cathedral has been using the same organ for almost a century now and the proposed renovation is a welcome move.

The musical instrument was made in Egypt and although it has some electrical components, its sound system is entirely acoustic, created by air traveling through the pipes.

Hannah Emmrich, the cathedral’s music director said the organ dates back to 1934. In 1978, the Charles Njonjo family installed a new organ to upgrade the instrument, as part of their wedding offertory.

Emmrich revealed that, “It has not had a major overhaul in over 40 years, and this is now becoming urgent. Much of the mechanism is failing, meaning we can only use some of the pipes. At present, we hear probably only 60 to 70 per cent of the possible sound of the organ.”

“The electronic components are now obsolete, difficult to replace or repair, and failing at an alarming rate. The organ is becoming more and more unpredictable, yet it is the largest in East and Central Africa,” she added.

The overhaul is likely to take around nine months and cannot be done locally. The church is working together with international companies, some of which will provide and ship spare parts from the UK for repair of the organ, while some parts of the instrument will be shipped outside the country.

The restoration process will include removing, cleaning and repairing all the pipes, replacing all leather components and replacing its electronics with a much simpler and more modern system. The keyboards and console will also be renovated, in addition to fixing the blower.

The organ is made of around 2,000 pipes, but with recent developments in organ manufacture, the machination has become a lot more complicated. Some pipes produce soft sound, much like a flute, while others are louder and more piercing, like a trumpet.

A local organ specialist said it would be a difficult task to purchase brand new equipment  because it will take time to fix and might take years to raise millions to acquire one. The current planned restoration will give the organ an extra 40-year lease of life.

He said that, “Some parts will be taken out and shipped to the UK for repair, so there will be scaffolding in the main sanctuary for a while. Also, we will not have an organ during services in this restoration period.”

To raise funds for the planned restoration, the cathedral has been running special concerts and organ tours at a cost of Sh2,000 per head or Sh5,000 per pipe. Worshipers with deep pockets can opt to fork out a one-off contribution of Sh300,000 to replace 60 pipes of the same kind.


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