Australia?s only female pipe organ builder, Jennifer Brown, of Ballina, and husband Ian, with one of their creations.
Australia?s only female pipe organ builder, Jennifer Brown, of Ballina, and husband Ian, with one of their creations.

Organ builder on divine mission

By DAWN COHEN

AS AUSTRALIA'S only female pipe organ builder, Jennifer Brown has no trouble explaining the worst part of her role in recycling and maintaining the ancient musical instruments.

"Imagine what your house would look like if you had not cleaned it for 100 years," said the Ballina resident.

"We have to climb inside 100year-old organs to take them apart."

However, the rewards for the 51-year-old are plentiful.

Jennifer and her husband, Ian, have just spent a year building a new pipe organ for St Alban's Church in Muswellbrook.

Today the exquisite machine stands completed on their Ballina factory floor, ready to play.

It is both art, sacred object and pragmatic mechanical instrument. Drawing on traditional motifs from the church's original 1868 organ, the complex construction required precise geometric calculations, painstakingly fine woodwork and impeccable re- search into traditional designs.

"I like making things, whether its organs or wood carvings," said the former bookkeeper.

"I used to work for community organisations.

"But when Ian wanted an apprentice 12 years ago I put my hand up because it seemed like more fun."

Jennifer used traditional Japanese woodworking tools in creating their latest masterpiece.

Ian talks of the spiritual philosophy in their use, but for Jennifer it was the feel of the instruments that drew her to them.

"I am mildly dyslexic," she said.

"Japanese saws cut on the pull stroke, not the push stroke. It feels right to me. "

After their year's labour, the couple will now take the organ apart for delivery, but they know a part of them will travel with the instrument to its new home.

"In Japanese woodwork a piece of your soul is left in each cut you make," said Ian.

"We leave bits of ourselves with each organ we create."



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