HE CATHEDRAL of the Holy Cross in Boston, Massachusetts contains one of the most notable historic pipe organs, the 101-rank E. & G. G. Hook & Hastings Organ, Opus 801 (1875). This instrument, which had been silent or in very poor condition through the 1970s and 1980s, was brought back to life, perhaps singlehandedly, by Leo Abbott, FAGO, ChM., the Music Director and Organist of the Cathedral since 1986. Restored partially, for the 1990 American Guild of Organists National Convention, the instrument has flourished a generation later by the time of the 2014 AGO National convention.
From an excerpt of a review from The Tracker (Vol. 55 Issue 2, Spring 2011):
“Of course it turned out that simply cleaning the pipes resulted in a sound that not only fills the cathedral, but makes this one of the most exciting organs in Boston. It is the largest surviving E. & G.G. Hook & Hastings organ, and it was the largest organ in America when it was built.”
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Through the 1980s and 1990s, a group of volunteers, guided by organ builder Richard Lahaise, along with Leo Abbott, took it upon themselves to clean and repair this enormous instrument on a shoestring budget. For Abbott and his core of volunteers, it was a labor of love. In 2003, the Andover Organ Company built a new console—a replica of the original in 1875 (but electrified)—which replaced a secondhand theater console (with no working pistons!)
Furthermore, Leo Abbott persistently has raised money through regular concerts that featured many organists each program. In doing so, he also accomplished another wonderful thing: he brought together many colleagues who also became invested in the instrument—musicians who would then support each other and further the cause of sacred music. A generation of hard work has born great fruit.
HIS YEAR MARKS two milestones: 1 • The 140th Anniversary of the Dedication of the E. & G. G. Hook & Hastings, Opus 801. 2 • The thirtieth anniversary of Leo Abbott’s tenure as Cathedral Music Director. The two are inseparable, as long-term efforts of Leo Abbott are the primary reason we can all enjoy Opus 801 today. His courting of countless donors, both great and small, has brought the beautiful colors of this this glorious historic instrument to our ears. It is a gift to us all.
To mark these milestones, there are two notable concerts this week at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, 1400 Washington Street, Boston, Massachusetts:
Paul J. Murray, organ • Sunday, June 12, 2016 • 3:00pm
A native of St. Ann’s Parish in Neponset, Massachusetts, Paul presently serves as Director of Music and Organist at the Church of Our Saviour on Park Avenue in New York City. He is also a graduate of the Boston Archdiocesan Choir School, Class of 1996.
• Download the concert poster here.
Cathedral Organ Annual Birthday Concert • Sunday, June 19, 2016 • 3:00pm The performers: Leo Abbott, Eric Bermani, Anthony Brown, Richard Clark, Janet Hunt, Peter Krasinski, Rosalind Mohnsen, Rodger Vine, and Bridgette Wargovich
• Download the concert poster here.
About LEO ABBOTT
From the website of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross:
Leo Abbott is a graduate of the St. Paul Choir School, Cambridge, and the Chaloff School of Music, Boston. His teachers include Theodore Marier, George Faxon, Clarence Watters, and Flor Peeters in organ; Naji Hakim in improvisation; and Julius Chaloff in piano. He holds the Fellowship and Choirmaster certificates of the American Guild of Organists (AGO), has won first prize in several international and national competitions, and was a finalist at the Grand Prix de Chartres in 1984.
In 1986, Leo was appointed music director and organist of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Boston.
Mr. Abbott has performed throughout the United States and in France, Belgium, and Ireland, and for conventions of the AGO and the Organ Historical Society. He is an active member of the AGO, the Organ Historical Society, and the Conference of Roman Catholic Cathedral Musician. In 2010, he performed at Notre-Dame and Saint-Sulpice, Paris.