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St. Francis of Assisi Episcopal Church in Wilsonville parishioners hope to keep beloved organ operational

SPOKESMAN PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Windy the organ at St. Francis of Assisi Episcopal church in Wilsonville is in need of significant upgrades, and the church is asking for donations.Cased in sleek, walnut wood

with traditional pipes and modern, electric parts, St. Francis of Assisi's organ, Windy, has adorned and filled the Wilsonville Episcopal church's sanctuary with music since 1988.

But unlike Windy's more traditional counterparts that can last hundreds of years without wearing out, the organ's electric parts have reached their limit and need to be replaced.

The 627 pipes made from lead, tin, zinc and mahogany are accompanied by 11 types of electronic stops and three varieties of electronic bell sounds. According to Director of Music and organist Jon Holland, electric organ components need to be replaced every 15 to 30 years. With the occasional popping sound resulting from short circuits and the notes sometimes fading away due to faulty stops, Windy is past the point of just being repaired since the parts manufacturer that used to supply pieces no longer makes them.

This dilemma leaves the church with two options: replace the worn electronic pieces with additional pipes with a larger organ case to house them, or replace the electronic pieces with "digital voices."

Holland says that the advantage of digital components is that the fix is more economical and would require a smaller initial investment than adding traditional pipes. But, Holland says that the drawback is that the church would inevitably end up having to replace the digital pieces every 15-30 years, just like Windy's electronic pieces.

According to the Associated Pipe Organ Builders of America (APOBA), the cost of a small to medium sized, new pipe organ would run in the ballpark of $200,000 to $850,000. Electric or digital organs — and their pieces — cost a fraction of that.

As the music swelled and flowed Sunday, June 4, as the St. Francis congregation worshiped, Windy went through the paces of the hymns — but the telltale signs of failing electrical components made themselves known periodically during the songs. Near the end of the service, longtime St. Francis parishioner and member of the choir Rob Chittenden took to the front of the church to ask attendees for donations to help cover the costs of Windy's repairs.

"Windy is important to St. Francis and to the choir," Chittenden said. "Let's help keep her going!"

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