Tonawanda News

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February 19, 2013

St. Francis unveils chapel's first pipe organ in 70 years

CITY OF TONAWANDA — Robert Hull looked like he was in heaven taking the newly installed pipe organ at the chapel at St. Francis of Assisi for a spin earlier this month. 

He tested out each of the organ’s six ranks, its handful of chimes and many of the 447 pipes housed in two cabinets behind the chapel’s altar. 

Hull, the parish’s musical director, opened the console from where he plays to show off the thousands of tiny wires connecting each key on the double keyboard to each pipe. He explained how pressing a key sends an electrical current causing air to blow through its corresponding pipe. There was a lot of other stuff he described too, that just couldn’t fit in this space.

“I can talk about pipe organs all day,” Hull said with a laugh.

It’s that passion for the instrument that led to the chapel unveiling its very first pipe organ in at least 70 years on Feb. 1.

Hull joined St. Francis in May 2011 as the parish’s musical director. He said he was in between organist positions after his home church, Sacred Heart in Niagara Falls, closed and the church was looking for someone new. 

“It just sort of fell into place and I’ve been very happy here and try to be very involved in the music program,” Hull said.

The Rev. Michael Uebler described Hull as a “very accomplished” musician that the parish is lucky to have.

“It’s been a great pleasure having him here,” he said.

Hull, who first began learning to play the piano at age 3 and had his first church organist position at age 14, said he pitched the idea of getting an organ for the church’s smaller chapel, and once Uebler agreed, the search was on.

“It was important to me that a space like the chapel — which is a very sacred space and also a place for bereavement and funerals — really deserves a good instrument,” Hull said.

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