The Lexington Episcopalian

Articles linked to the website of R.E. Lee Memorial Episcopal Church

Making the brass shine

getattachmentthumbnail_002UPDATE, Nov. 12 — Steve Roy and his assistant are here from New York, and well into the work of restoring the brass.



Our sanctuary is full of ancient brass work, much of it memorializing parishioners long dead. Most magnificent are the grand eagle of the lectern and the ornate symbols of the four evangelists in the filigree around the pulpit. Those are memorials to the families of William Preston Johnston and of Col. William Gilham, two men who taught, respectively, at Washington & Lee and VMI.

The lovely brass work throughout the chancel has grown tarnished and in some places, such as in the feathers of the eagle, clotted with Brasso that should not have been used. For about two years now, Woody Sadler and Mo Littlefield have been quietly researching how to restore and save this legacy in brass. They have been working with Steve Roy, the New York-based master of brass artwork who has restored the bronze statues of Cyrus McCormick, Francis Smith, and “Stonewall” Jackson on our neighboring campuses. Woody and Mo have secured an $11,000 matching grant from the Gadsden Trust, a $5,000 grant from a Virginia-based family foundation called the Titmus Foundation, and enough pledges from several other parishioners (one of them my generous mother-in-law Avis Waring) to reach the $22,000 that Steve Roy originally bid two years ago.

The work is not only cleaning and restoring, but also adding a finishing lacquer that should keep the brass as bright as new, never needing polish again. This means the brass will be gorgeous and radiant for at least the remainder of this century. . .unless someone tries to use Brasso on it. Note to Future: Please don’t put polish on it, ever. That could ruin the finish.

Steve Roy, brass-restoration craftsman, examines the altar rail.

Steve Roy was looking over the brass recently with Mo and me, to come up with a new estimate. Before, he wanted to take the brass up to his New York foundry. This time, he’s looking at setting up a tent outside the church for a couple of weeks to do the work there, and perhaps segment the work to give us options to keep the cost down.

In any case, we should have some radiant brass by Christmas. Laus Deo!

  • Doug Cumming

A new pipe organ

From our music director and organist Ted Bickish:

“The Organ Committee decided to recommend to the Vestry that we work with Casavant, since their proposal was a perfect fit for our space, both visually and tonally. The cost of the instrument [approximately $800,000, although delay would likely raise the cost of materials used] was also the second least expensive [of the four finalists]. But the company has an international reputation for building organs of fine quality and sound (some of their recent installations have been in China, Korea, Japan, and Australia). After the Vestry approved our proposal, we have eagerly awaited the Space Committee’s final recommendations and the beginning of the capital campaign.

“The Organ Committee has worked very hard over the past two years identifying what we feel is the best option for R.E. Lee. Our conclusion is that a new Casavant organ will give us the greatest quality, longevity, flexibility, and value in an instrument for our worship services. We appreciate your prayerful consideration of supporting a new organ and our church’s other capital needs.”

— from a two-page letter to the Parish. December 2016

Optional herald trumpets in the balcony, to go with the proposed Casavant organ.

Text below is from the website of Casavant Frères, the Quebec organ builders whose plan for a new pipe organ the church’s Organ Committee has selected to replace the current organ. A contract for this, at around $800,000, is pending. The new pipe organ would be one of the three major projects in an upcoming Capital Campaign.

Team: We are the largest pipe organ builder in the world and one with the longest history of uninterrupted activities. Our diversified team of organ building experts and technicians and our long history allow us to serve our clients with an unparalleled depth and breadth of knowledge, experience and creativity.

Diversified skills and technologies: We have extensive expertise and know-how in the building of organs of all sizes and types of actions (tracker, electric slider and electro-pneumatic).

International experience and influence: We have installed organs on every continent. Our tonal philosophy and organ design practices have been crafted throughout the years by experts trained in countries with some of the best organ building traditions in the world including France, Germany, England, United States and Canada.

Research and development: We invest in research. Our most recent innovation, the DAC system, has been recognized by many organists as a substantial enhancement to the action of large organs. By providing much needed assistance to large instruments, it makes them more sensitive and easier to play.

Service and renovation: Of today’s organ builders, we have the largest population of actively played organs around the world. Our extensive archives enable us to provide valuable information, renovation advice and service to our long-term clients.

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