After years of planning and millions of dollars, the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Richmond has a new organ

Posted at 10:21 AM, May 24, 2024

RICHMOND, Va. -- A trio of new organs will greet parishioners at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Richmond. The largest, Opus 55, weighs 15 tons and arrived from Canada on multiple semi-trailers.

Robin Côté, of Judget-Sinclair Organ Builders, and his team spent years crafting the more than 4,332 pipes now installed at Sacred Heart. The organ will go live in July after some fine-tuning.

"Then the organ will sound brighter and brighter and louder and louder," Côté said.

 Cathedral of the Sacred Heart organ
Robin Cote

The new organ replaces a 118-year-old instrument that music director Daniel Sáñez said was, for lack of a better word, abused.

"There were wires everywhere, the instrument was being held together with tape with duct tape, literally duct tape," Sáñez said. "This instrument by far is of a vastly superior quality and craftsmanship."

A committee of parishioners spent eight years investigating different types of organs and organ builders before committing to the expensive process.

The committee chose a mechanical action organ, similar to ones found all over Europe and in service for hundreds of years.

 Cathedral of the Sacred Heart organ

"This organ project is not so much for us. It's for future generations," committee leader Carey Bliley said.

Sáñez said he believed the arrival of the new instrument wasn't just a big deal for Roman Catholics or cathedral parishioners, but the entire community that was involved.

 Cathedral of the Sacred Heart organ
Daniel Sáñez

"It's lots of people in Richmond, it's people who are not of our faith, people who don't believe at all. And my job is just to, in some small way, show something beautiful to everybody through this instrument," he said. "My job as a believer is to show just a smidgen of God's beauty, if I can, to everybody"

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