Twenty-six years ago, Leo Abbott, the organist of Boston’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross, gave a benefit recital to raise money for badly needed repairs to the cathedral’s legendary 1875 Hook organ. The organ was big — some claim it to have been the largest American-made organ in the country when it was built — and the maintenance needs were big as well. With few other sources of funding in sight, Abbott made his benefit recital an annual tradition.
This fall, Abbott, now Organist Emeritus, will give the 26th annual benefit recital on Sunday, September 15, 2019 at 3 p.m.. This one, however, will be different in one important respect: not only is the organ in better shape, buts its acoustical environment has been restored to a state very near that for which the organ was voiced.
The pipe organ benefits enormously from the resonance of the room it occupies. Thus the recent restoration of the cathedral interior, which included removing carpeting in favor of a light-grey marble floor, is as meaningful to the sound of the organ as it is to the architecture.
Abbott’s unbroken string of 26 annual recitals is remarkable enough, but it’s not all he has done to overcome decades of deferred maintenance and bring back to instrument to good playing condition. He assembled a dedicated band of volunteers and carefully supervised them as they helped with various tasks. He sought and found other sources of funding. And he tirelessly drew attention to the organ’s unique character.