An Interview with Cicely Winter, Director of IOHIO
J: Instituto de Órganos Históricos de Oaxaca México is unique in its mission as it “is committed to protect, conserve, document, and promote the historic pipe organs in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico; to raise consciousness about their importance as part of the national and international cultural heritage; and to reintegrate the restored instruments into the present-day life of their communities.”
As co-founder of this organization, why do you think the work of Instituto de Órganos Históricos de Oaxaca México is of such importance? And urgency? Would you please give some examples of the work done by the Society?
Ms. Winter: First, let me begin by giving a very brief history of the Oaxacan organs. (For more information please visit http://iohio.org.mx/eng/organhistory.htm)
The Oaxaca area of Mexico was evangelized by the Dominicans in the mid-1500s. The Dominicans brought with them tabletop organs, which would prove to be a powerful tool in the mission to convert the native population to Christianity. Within just a few years after the Conquest, the indigenous population was involved in all aspects of European music – singing in choir, composing music, playing and building instruments with organbuilding workshops, directed by Spaniards using indigenous artisan labor, began to appear. There was a great demand for organs, since a new church was not considered to be complete without one, and the organ was promoted by the Church as the proper instrument to accompany the liturgy.
Thus, part of the work of IOHIO is traveling through the Oaxaca region to document the existing organs. Originally there were 100s of these unique locally built organs in our area. At this point we have documented 72.
After the documentation we then determine the best way to conserve the instruments for the future. Conservation begins with protection. Not only protecting the organs from natural deterioration but educating the local population as to the importance of the instrument as many people have no memory of the organ’s sound or even realize that it was once a musical instrument. (To learn more visit http://iohio.org.mx/eng/protection.htm)
To receive the funds for restoring an organ we have to be able to guarantee that the restored organ will be played, tuned, maintained, cleaned, and watched over. Mainly, though, the goal is that the restored organ be played which means that the number of restored organs is linked to the number of organists in the area. Over the years, we have tried many different educational programs and now have a core group of organists and more appreciation from the priests – and even the Archbishop — for the organ and how it can be used to enhance the liturgy of the Mass. Following that we move into concerts and of course, our Festivals to bring awareness of these unique treasures to the world.
Dr. Jeannine Jordan is a teacher, church musician, and concert organist. She and her husband are the creators and performers of the organ and multi-media concert experiences, From Sea to Shining Sea and Bach and Sons.