Photography by John DeMajo and Kathleen DeMajo Adams
Ponchatoula, Louisiana
Saint Joseph Catholic Church in Ponchatoula, LA, is the home of Wicks Opus 838, originally built for the Ideal Theatre of Ponchatoula. The church is one of the few churches in the United States that utilizes a fully-equipped theatre organ in its Masses and services.
For almost 80 years, Wicks Opus 838 served first the Ideal Theatre and then St.Joseph Church, mostly running on original parts and equipment.
Originally located in this 1924 structure, the organ was moved here from the theatre in the early 1930's when talking pictures eliminated need for a theatre organ. At the time of the move from the theatre to St.Joseph Church, the toy counter and tuned percussions were removed and discarded. In the photo to the right above, the church, in cooperation with the ATOS-SMGC Chapter, held a farewell concert for the organ as it was removed from service in the old church. Father Justin Kauchak, pastor, greets concert goers and theatre organist Tom Hoehn provided the music for the occasion. Shortly thereafter, the organ was moved to the new building, by church and ATOS volunteers, and it was restored and enlarged with pipe work which came from a Hurricane Katrina damaged church in New Orleans.
At right, a team of volunteers from the Boy Scouts of America, the Knights of Columbus, and the ATOS-SMGC Chapter, tackle the job of moving the organ and installing it in the new church building which was nearing completion at the time of this photograph.
Led by church members Rene and Ramona Folse, and ATOS-SMGC president John DeMajo, volunteer crews began the task of restoring, enlarging and reinstalling the organ in the new 900 seat church building.
In photo above, the console is rewired and outfitted with a new Peterson computerized relay. Below, in order to return the organ to its full functionality as both a church and concert instrument, a new toy counter was constructed.
By Thanksgiving of 2006, pipework had been placed in the chambers and the organ was ready for regulation and tuning. Tuned percussions were lifted into their respective mounts on opposite sides of the altar.
Dedication Sunday, February 5, 2007, The organ sings out again with Ron Carter at the console.