Monday, February 8, 2021

Oaxaca. SANTO DOMINGO YANHUITLÁN , the colonial organ

In an earlier series of posts we described the early Dominican priory of Santo Domingo and various constituents. In this post we look at its magnificent early pipe organ.
the organ before restoration
Located atop a high balcony on the north side of the church this splendid early organ occupies one of the most imposing visual and acoustical spaces in the Americas, the church of Santo Domingo Yanhuitlán. 
the organ as restored
Even though the name of its builder remains unknown, it is estimated that the organ was built in Oaxaca around the year 1700, since its case profile, with the characteristic Oaxacan “hips” on the sides, and its sumptuous frontal decoration closely resembles that of the organ (1686) located in the city church of la Basílica de la Soledad.
Especially striking are the swirling designs painted on the front of the case, the richly gilded 
foliated carving, and the grotesque faces painted on the facade pipes. Also this is the only organ in Oaxaca decorated with Dominican symbols: the black and white cross and the dog carrying a torch. 
A statue of Saint John the Baptist stands atop the organ.

The organ was restored between 1996 and 1998 with the support of Fomento Cultural Banamex A.C—more a reconstruction rather than a restoration, since many of the pipes and the interior wooden components were badly deteriorated and had to be replaced. The project was directed by the French organ builder Pascal Quoirin.
   The restorers inherited an instrument that had been substantially changed during the 19th century (the keyboard is dated 1886). The most damaged pieces were replaced, including the rank of horizontal trumpets, many of the interior pipes, the bellows, the windchest, and various components of the action, with the goal in mind of recovering as far as possible the original character of the organ. 
   Fortunately the original façade pipes with their painted faces and floral decoration could be restored. The background color of the case decoration was originally green, typical of Oaxacan organs of the period, but at some point it turned copper brown, which is the color we see now.

Listen to a recent (2020) recital on the organ.

text © 2021 Richard D. Perry (based on an description by IOHIO)
color images by the author, Rosalind Perry, and courtesy of Felipe Falcón

No comments:

Post a Comment