TOP LEFT: Current Rosales Organ Builders President and Director Kevin Cartwright (left) and Business Administrator - CFO Aaron Doyle (right) are pictured near St. Anthony’s pipe organ. BOTTOM LEFT: A plaque has the name of parishioner Ann Marie Biane, who donated the organ in 1981. RIGHT: The organ was built by Rosales Organ Builders, which has created organs for various churches and concert halls, including the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles
The organ has long been considered a special instrument especially fitting for church. As stated in a Vatican II document, “The pipe organ adds a wonderful splendor to the Church’s ceremonies, and powerfully lifts up men’s minds to God and to higher things” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 120).
While pipe organs are quite rare to find in our Diocese and in general, there are still a few that can be found, such as the one at St. Anthony, Upland. The church acquired the organ in 1981 via a donation from parishioner Ann Marie Biane shortly before she passed away. Her son Rene Biane has continued to donate for organ upkeep over the years.
St. Anthony’s organ was built by Rosales Organ Builders, one of the most renowned organ builders in the United States. Rosales has built notable organs such as the ones for Rice University in Houston, Texas, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.
No two Rosales organs are the same; each is custom made to fit the needs of the purchaser and the space where it will be housed. At St. Anthony, the organ is beautiful but not overly elaborate, perfect for a parish community. “It’s not a fancy looking organ, it isn’t a Gothic cathedral type organ. This is a modern, clean lines, very appealing but not overly fancy organ,” said Manuel Rosales, founder and Organbuilder Emeritus of Rosales Organ Builders.
Due to the cost of their materials and craftmanship, pipe organs are not inexpensive – Manuel Rosales estimates that St. Anthony’s organ cost between $125,000 and $150,000. If it was made today, Rosales says, it would probably cost three times that amount. Most of the cost comes from the thousands of hours of labor required from craftsman such as metal workers, woodworkers and architects.
At the time of installation, it was the eighth organ created by the company. Since St. Anthony’s current church building did not exist until the late 1990s, the organ was installed in what is now the parish hall and moved to the new church after its construction. “We knew it was going to be moved someday ... the design of the organ was never meant to be permanent in that little church,” explained Rosales.
“The visual design had to fit the old church, but it was really intended for a much bigger space. And the organ doesn’t look too big where it is now; it was a bit overwhelming before,” he added.
Once an organ is installed, it requires some regular upkeep, including tunings two to three times per year and refurbishing after 50-70 years. Sometimes rodents can get into the church and cause damage to the organ.
Some churches’ organs do not remain operational due to the cost and trouble of such regular upkeep. Even if a parish’s organ is operational, it can be hard to find an organist.
“Classical organists are rare. Then even more rare are those who have experience playing for Catholic liturgy,” said Tony Magnon, St. Anthony’s current organist who has also served as a music minister at various local parishes. His suggestion to parishes, whether they have a pipe or electric organ, is to seek volunteers. “It’s the only way our church seems to operate now unlike yesterday,” he said.