ORLANDO | “We have come together to bless this new organ, installed so the celebration of the liturgy may become more beautiful and solemn,” said Bishop John Noonan just prior to blessing the new Schoenstein pipe organ at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe, Nov. 23. The staff spent a little more than five years working on coordinating its purchase and installation.
Monsignor Joseph Harte, the basilica’s first rector, was thrilled. “This was a fulfillment of a dream,” he said. “We had dreams to build this place and make it as spectacular for Our Lady as we could.” As he heard the violins and trumpets sound the Alleluia and Gloria, he said, “I was thinking back to the days when I was wondering if this place would ever be built. It’s the grace of God and the Mother of God.” He added gratitude to Father Paul Henry, the basilica’s current rector, for completing the project monsignor began more than two decades ago.
It is no coincidence the organ was dedicated and blessed on the Solemnity of Christ the King. “An organ is made up of all the instruments, all the voices,” noted Father Henry. “So the organ is a wonderful analogy for us… it brings together all the talents and a great outpouring of faith and prayer and glad singing to the honor of God, the celebration of Jesus, and in our case, his Mother.”
“The purpose of music in the liturgy is above all to give glory to God and to lead us to holiness,” Bishop Noonan added. “Thus the music of the organ wonderfully expresses the new song that Scripture tells us to sing to the Lord.” The bishop then proclaimed a prayer of blessing: “We your people, joyously gathered in this basilica, wish to join our voices to the universal hymn of praise. So that our song may rise more worthily to your majesty, we present this organ for your blessing: grant that its music may lead us to express our prayer and praise in melodies that are pleasing to you.”
This was the third attempt purchase and install the organ. Thanks to many benefactors, especially the Nick Caporella family, the organ became a reality. Shipments began arriving in June and continued throughout the summer. A total of 5,200 pipes make up the organ. Approximately 4,000 pipes are installed in the front chamber where the largest pipes are found, reaching 37 feet high and 18 feet in diameter. The back gallery holds more than 1,000 pipes, just above the entrance doors.
The pipes were adjusted for loudness, softness and “speech” from late August to November. The three months it took to tune the pipes’ “speech” was well worth the wait as music from prolific composers such as Perry, Handel, Widor, Rutter and more were heard throughout the liturgy, showcasing the beauty of the organ and elevating the liturgy and the voices of those assembled in honor to God.
“This is a very special place. This is something very special for God,” said Father Henry. He pointed to the purpose behind the basilica’s construction, aimed as a place of refuge for pilgrims and tourists that come to the region. “Most are light-hearted and full of joy because they are on vacation,” he said. “A lot of them who come are searching. They are looking for healing, and encouragement, and to find God.”
Quoting Musican Sacram from the Second Vatican Council (VI, 62) Bishop Noonan said, “The pipe organ is to be held in high esteem in the Latin Church, since it is its traditional instrument, the sound of which can add a wonderful splendor to the Church’s ceremonies and powerfully lift up men’s minds to God and higher things.” He added, “Those who play this pipe organ are called to enrich the sacred celebration of Mass according to the true nature of each of its parts, and to encourage the participation of the faithful. Each one of us are called to yield our voices as the pipe organ accompanies us to join with the heavens ion our praises to God.”
If you would like to hear the organ, the next concert is Christmas at the Basilica, Dec. 6, 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Call 407-239-6600 to reserve tickets.
By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic November 26, 2019