In January 2005, Wicks Opus 4497 left Highland, Illinois, for the second time. The organ was built and designed in 1965 for Sacred Heart Cathedral in Rochester, New York, and originally represented a bold new step in design and tonal philosophy for the Wicks Company. With the direction and assistance of the company's young new tonal director, John Sperling, the Wicks Organ Company stepped ahead of other builders in rediscovering classic organ building styles. The organ was originally built with 54 ranks of pipes and is considered a neo-Baroque pipe organ, making it the first cathedral instrument of that style designed by the company.
There was a snowstorm on the night of January 17, 1965, when a caped Virgil Fox marched from the sanctuary to the gallery to perform the dedicatory recital on Opus 4497 at Sacred Heart Cathedral. Two nights of music were required, one for the members of the parish and another for the public, and both were packed. The new instrument received much publicity through articles in the local newspaper, write-ups in several journals and an appearance on the cover of The Diapason. Recitalists such as Andre Marchal, William Ferris, Flor Peeters, and Alec Wyton performed on the Wicks organ at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
In October 2003, Mary, Mother of Hope Parish in New Castle, Pennsylvania, purchased Opus 4497 through the Organ Clearing House. The organ went back to Highland, Illinois, where it received new solid-state relays, a combination action, swell motors, and new blowers. The organ was cleaned, and some minor voicing alterations were made, but the organ is largely installed as originally designed. The excellent acoustics of St. Mary's Church help the organ fill the room, possibly better than it did in Rochester. All of the work was overseen by John Sperling.
We are fortunate to have such a wonderful instrument in our parish and community that comes with so much history. It is truly a magnificent instrument which enhances the liturgies and furthers the fine arts in the greater New Castle area.
Source: The American Organist, April 2005, Vol.39 No. 4