Read the description of the organ
The rescue and the restoration of the organ of the St. Anthony Chapel in Reckingen represent one of the most spectacular cases in our manufactory’s history.
On 24 February 1970, the chapel was entirely destroyed by an avalanche. A few days earlier, a violent avalanche had already caused significant damage in Reckingen and resulted in the death of many people (mainly military personnel). Access to the Goms Valley in Haut-Valais was blocked by the police and only the holders of a special permission could access it by train.
In collaboration with the restorer Walter Furrer, originally from Brig, we offered our assistance, free of charge, to the priest at that time. The answer which was addressed to us said that the St. Anthony Chapel had been entirely destroyed and that the same therefore applied to the organ. Given the scale of the disaster, it was unlikely that anything from the chapel could be saved. Furthermore, there were probably more important problems to be solved at that time. At our repeated insistence, the priest finally agreed to grant us an authorisation to access Reckingen.
When we reached the western exit of Reckingen and we realised that the avalanche had thrown out objects and parts of the chapel onto the cantonal road, our original optimism flew away. It seemed hopeless to recover any part of the small organ under the huge masses of snow. By joining our forces and all our energy, we have nonetheless managed to recover the whole organ bit by bit, with the exception of half a dozen pipes.
The organ pipes provided a sorry sight, because they were flattened and torn lose by the collapse of the arch. The soundboard, made of a massive board, was washed away and drastically ripped off. Several parts of the pipes were broken. The frame of the manual and the beautifully carved side parts were broken, as well as the keys and, of course, the whole action and the stops. The organ case was broken and fractured.
All the recovered parts of the organ were stored in a dry and uninhabited room in Reckingen.
On that occasion, I learned that in such precarious situations, one should never lose hope nor give up prematurely!
As a matter of fact, it was not until four years later – in the context of the large restoration of the parish church – that the restoration of the organ of the St. Anthony Chapel was decided upon. Up to that time, the St. Anthony Chapel was entirely wrecked and no one thought to rebuild it in the near future.
The organ was first moved to Münster, where it was temporarily used during the restoration of the local organ. It was then moved to Obergesteln, where it was used for many years. Since the organ, with its seven plays, could not entirely fill the great hall with tone, the parish eventually decided to acquire a new and larger organ. It was therefore necessary to find again an appropriate place for the small organ. The parish and the municipality of Reckingen decided to bring the organ back to its original location, in the chapel of the hill of the Blinnental Valley. A servicing, a cleaning and a post-tonation (adaptation to the space of the chapel) had become necessary and were carried out in 2000 by the Füglister organ builders.
The St. Anthony Chapel was built in 1769. Shortly later, an organ gallery was installed and painted by Georg Pfefferle, who died in 1798. An identical paint is found on the organ case. This means that the building of the small organ can certainly be dated between 1769 and 1798.
In 1802-1803, the «Orgelen Lauba», namely the organ of Lauba (gallery), is believed to have been built by Joseph Blatter and Kasper Carlen in the St. Anthony Church, east of Reckingen. This informs us about the possible time range of the organ’s relocation in that chapel.