After many years of planning, delays and meticulous work, the process of restoring Christ Cathedral’s Hazel Wright Organ recently took a major step.
On Feb. 7, in front of the organ’s main console, Bishop Kevin Vann, Fr. Christopher Smith (rector and episcopal vicar of the cathedral), Dr. Frederick Swann (former organist for the Crystal Cathedral), David Ball (Christ Cathedral organist and head of music ministry), Kevin Cartwright (the organ’s new curator) and Piero Ruffatti (the original builder of the organ) signed a special agreement. In effect, Dr. Swann accepted the organ’s restoration work by Ruffatti’s team, handing it off to Cartwright’s company, Los Angeles-based Rosales Organ Builders, for continued maintenance.
Monday’s signing signaled the end of several weeks of painstaking, detailed voicing work by Ruffatti’s team and its examination by Dr. Swann, who was the Crystal Cathedral principal organist and director of music under the Rev. Robert Schuller from 1982 to 1998. Dr. Swann’s playing was heard around the world by millions for Rev. Schuller’s “Hour of Power” broadcasts. The organ inside the Arboretum, Rev. Schuller’s original church, is named after Dr. Swann.
After the signing, Dr. Swann played for the signing team and other Diocese of Orange leaders, including Bishop Timothy Freyer and Msgr. Stephen Doktorczyk. Gabriel Ferrucci, a leading benefactor to the Diocese of Orange, was also present and was credited with being an instrumental coordinator in making the years-long restoration effort a success.
During the signing ceremony, Ball premiered a new work he commissioned as the inaugural piece for the organ, “Fanfare-Introduction in D” by Daniel Ficarri. Later that night, Hazel Wright was also played during the World Marriage Day Mass.
The finished pipework in the organ will begin to be used for liturgies in the cathedral while another contractor on the project, Pennsylvania-based Walker Technical Company, works to install the digital portions of the organ. A blessing and dedication celebration of the fully restored instrument are being planned, as is a Diocese-produced documentary about the organ and its restoration process.
Since Christ Cathedral’s dedication in 2019, the cathedral’s music ministry has been playing on a digital organ on loan from Walker. Its sounds come from speakers placed throughout the cathedral.
The Hazel Wright Organ — named after a Chicago donor who appreciated Rev. Schuller’s “Hour of Power” ministry — contains 293 ranks with 17,106 pipes. It was dedicated in 1982. It has been expanded over the years and is among the five largest organs in the world.