There are few pipe organs in the world that have a nickname, a feminine pronoun and a Facebook fan page.
The Hazel Wright organ — just “Hazel,” to her admirers — was removed piece by piece in 2013 from Christ Cathedral’s shimmering sanctuary in Southern California’s Orange County, and shipped to Italy for repair. At the time, the fifth-largest pipe organ in the world was suffering from an infestation of bugs. Its pipes were melted, its trumpets corroded.
Nearly a decade and $3 million later, Hazel is back in the fully remodeled sanctuary, and heavenly chords from her pipes once again ring out in the vaulted nave of the iconic church.
“It was amazing to see people’s reactions to this powerful instrument,” said David La’O Ball, a Juilliard-trained organist and head of music ministry at Christ Cathedral, where Hazel was played for the public for the first time this month during a Mass on World Marriage Day. “Their eyes widened, and they were turning their heads from side to side to see where these sounds were coming from. You can really feel its visceral power with every note.”
The organ “is huge, but also very intimate,” Ball said.
Named for its original benefactor, the Hazel Wright organ was heard by millions worldwide during the heyday of what was then known as the Crystal Cathedral, founded by the televangelist, the Rev. Robert Schuller, who hosted the weekly Christian TV program, “Hour of Power.” The Garden Grove church is a local landmark and tourist attraction, with its majestic spire visible from some of the freeways that crisscross the county….
The organ originally featured 270 ranks, or sets of pipes, ranging in length from 4 inches to 32 feet; five keyboards; and the largest draw-knob console in the world to control the sound.
In its current iteration, it has some 17,000 pipes in 293 ranks and, according to Ball, is the largest pipe organ in a Roman Catholic cathedral in the Western Hemisphere….
The above comes from a Feb. 25 AP story.
Listen to the sound of Hazel on YouTube.