Windsor·Audio

From pipe dream to reality, these men saved a Chatham-Kent organ first installed in 1911

A pair of retired organists in Chatham-Kent have been restoring an antique pipe organ they rescued from a church in Blenheim.

2 Chatham-Kent men have spent the last year putting an antique pipe organ back together

Ron Dossenbach, a retired organist, rescued this organ with partner Don Pole to be restored. Moving the 1,110 pipes which can bend like cardboard, was no easy task, just before from Blenheim United Church was torn down. (Submitted by Ron Dossenbach)

Retired organist Ron Dossenbach in Chatham-Kent has spent the last year restoring a pipe organ originally housed at the former Blenheim United Church. 

"The last hymn that was ever played on that organ was God Be With You Until We Meet Again", said Dossenbach.

When Dossenbach and his partner Don Pole went to inspect the organ in February of 2020, they found it was made up of parts from past organs with some pieces dating back to 1911. 

In addition to the console which is the size of an upright piano, the instrument includes 1,100 pipes that need a storage space the size of a two-car garage. 

The 1,100 pipes on the rescued organ take up an entire two-car garage, detached from the body of the instrument. (Submitted by Ron Dossenbach)

"All those pipes have to be taken out and they're incredibly delicate," Dossenbach said, "you could easily collapse these pipes between your forefinger and thumb."

To move the pipes, Dossenbach and his partner had to construct 24 holding trays the shape of desk drawers, adding up to about $700 in wood costs.

Blenheim United Church pre-demolition (Submitted by Ron Dossenbach)

Disassembling all of the individual components took the pair a few days until they were able to transport the instrument to Pole's shop in Chatham. 

"By the time we were done, the thing filled up the largest U-Haul truck that you can rent. We were pretty close to the maximum size but also the maximum weight, probably about 8,000 pounds," he said.

Dossenbach said he hopes to find a good home for the restored organ. (Submitted by Ron Dossenbach)

So far both men have invested about $3,000 of their own money to refurbish and buy new parts for the instrument which has been difficult as most organs are custom-made. 

"Every pipe organ that goes into any location is a unique instrument, it's not mass produced," said Dossenbach. 

"So that organ would have been built specifically for the size of the room, the acoustics, what they needed it for, how loud the congregation sings - all this is taken into account." 

The organ was rescued from Blenheim United Church just before it was torn down, as seen here. (Submitted by Ron Dossenbach)

For this reason, both men say they're not in a hurry to sell the organ to any prospective buyers because it's future location has to suit the instrument as well. 

According to Dossenbach, most organs can cost around six figures, but both men aim to sell it for significantly less if it can be housed in the right kind of space. 

"We would have to go there to assess the new location to see, for one thing, if it fits. And for a second, would it be suitable to their needs? Would it sound okay? We've gone this far and we can wait long enough.

LISTEN | Hear more about this rescued organ on CBC Radio's Afternoon Drive:

A pipe organ technician from Windsor is restoring a century - old organ from the former Blenheim United Church. Ron Dossenbach joins Afternoon Drive host Chris dela Torre to talk about why he's devoted most of his life to the instrument. 7:53

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