Philadelphia Church Organ's Baseball Link

The ceiling of the St. Malachy Church in Philadelphia collapsed 12 years ago, damaging the 140-year-old organ. Now, a fundraiser for the organ's repair will have a baseball theme because the original builder's grandson wrote the words to Take Me out to the Ballgame. Sister Cecile Anne Reiley talks about the efforts to restore the organ.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

They're trying to pump new life into a 140-year-old organ at St. Malachy's Church in Philadelphia. Twelve years ago the ceiling caved in, badly damaging the organ. The church is about to launch a fundraising event to help restore the instrument. What that has to do with the song "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," we'll explain in a minute, but first, St. Malachy's director of parish services, Sister Cecile Reiley, tells us about the organ itself.

Sister CECILE ANNE REILEY (Director, Parish Services, St. Malachy Church): Well, it's grand. Now, when you go into the back, you will be dumbfounded by the pipes, and the connections, and the bellows and there's a handle - two handles - one on either side where I understand the choir, the altar boys and the sexton used to have to pump the bellows in order to get a sound out of the organ. This was built before electricity was used. So then in 1916 they did bring electricity into the organ so we didn't have to use the sexton and the altar boys to do that.

BLOCK: No more pumping required.

Sister REILEY: Right. The bellows are immense and the pipes are extensive, and it's a total puzzlement to me. But these men have been working on it for years and years ever since the ceiling fell in.

BLOCK: Well, what kind of shape was that organ in after the collapse?

Sister REILEY: It was terrible because the repairmen for the ceiling had no idea of the value of the pipes, so they were walking on them and all the debris from the ceiling just - they had no regard for these pipes.

BLOCK: And there's still a lot of work to do, I gather.

Sister REILEY: Yes. Well, they do have the grate working and the swell, for those who know organs, the choir is not working because those pipes still have to be put in place.

BLOCK: You have Kevin Shawn(ph) sitting next to you at the organ. He's an organist and I guess he's been helping on the restoration, and I wonder if you would have him play a little something for us so we can hear what the organ sounds like right now.

Sister REILEY: Yes. So the song he's going to play is "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."

(Soundbite of song, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game.")

Sister REILEY: Very good, Kevin.

BLOCK: Sister Cecile, I feel like I'm at a ball park right now listening to you at St. Malachy's Church. And we should explain, here's where the "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" connection comes in. There's a family line straight from that song to this organ. The man who built the organ's grandson, Jack Norworth, wrote the words to "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."

Sister REILEY: That's right, wrote the words.

BLOCK: And that leads us to your fundraising that you're planning. You're scheduling deliberately for April 5th - that's a special day and has a baseball connection.

Sister REILEY: Yes it does. It's - we thought we'd tie it in with the Philly's opener that night. We're even calling it a pep rally for the Phillies.

BLOCK: And for the organ.

Sister REILEY: And for the organ, of course.

BLOCK: Well, Sister Cecile Reiley, thanks so much and best of luck.

Sister REILEY: Oh well, thanks a lot, Melissa.

BLOCK: And can we hear a little bit more from Kevin Shawn on that organ?

Sister REILEY: Yes, Kevin would love to play on the organ.

BLOCK: Great.

Sister REILEY: So we'll conclude with Kevin playing a song.

(Soundbite of song, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game")

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