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Pipe organ in the Oaxaca cathedral. Pipe organ in the Oaxaca cathedral. Iohio/David Hilbert

Researchers delve into history of pipe organs

Their fabrication in Mexico became necessary when demand outstripped supply

Back when the Spanish missionaries began converting the natives and building churches, the latter were furnished with at least one important element that was imported from Spain.

But eventually the demand for pipe organs outgrew the supply and a new trade and tradition were born.

The trade spawned at least two Mexican dynasties dedicated to the fabrication of the instruments and their maintenance.

Today, researchers who dedicated themselves to the task of finding out who those families were have rediscovered two of the most prominent, the Castros in the Tlaxcala and Puebla region, and the Martínez Vasconcelos in the Oaxaca valleys.

The two families had a virtual monopoly on pipe organ production in their areas, evidence of which can be found in churches in those three states, according to researchers José Luis Acevedo, Gustavo Mauleón and Ricardo Rodys.

The first records of the Castro family date back to the year 1738 when they set up their workshop on 17 Astomba Street in Puebla, remaining there until the latter part of the 1800s. During that time, the Castros fabricated and repaired organs for Puebla, Tlaxcala and elsewhere in the country.

Castro pipe organs can still be found, in relatively good condition, in churches in Cholula and Tlaxcala, said researcher and musicologist Gustavo Mauleón, who consulted historical archives from notaries’ offices in Tlaxcala and the Mexican General National Archive.

Another member of the team, Ricardo Rodys, organist and researcher at the Institute of Historic Oaxacan Organs (Iohio), has discovered that three generations of the Martínez Vasconcelos family were dedicated players and manufacturers of the instrument, and worked closely with the Oaxaca cathedral and the communities of Santa María Tlacolula, San Juan Teitipac and San Dionisio Ocotepec.

Rodys said that Oaxaca is home to 74 organs fabricated by the family, all built in the 1800s.

Oaxaca’s organs institute is not only dedicated to the research and restoration of pipe organs. Next February it will be hosting its 11th International Organ and Early Music Festival.

The festival offers activities throughout the Central Valleys, including concerts on eight restored organs, visits to 14 unrestored organs and their churches, and a close-up view of an organ restoration in process in the church of San Matías Jalatlaco.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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