Celebrating 40 Years of Australian Pipe Organs

2020 is a special year for Australian Pipe Organs, marking forty years of our dedicated team looking after some of Australia’s most notable and beautiful pipe organs. Although our 40 years milestone is a time to celebrate, we find ourselves deeply saddened by the passing of our dear friend and colleague Robert Heatley who died on the 20th of December 2019. Although it is hard for us at the moment to imagine working without Robert, we can be forever grateful for the special times spent working with him. Robert was committed to teaching people throughout his career, ensuring the continuation of our high standard of work and the perpetuation of this time-honoured craft. After many years in care of these remarkable instruments, second-generation Managing Director, Daniel Bittner recollects on some of the defining moments for Australian Pipe Organs.

IT STARTED WITH A VISION

Apprenticed to Steve Laurie of Laurie Pipe Organs, Robert Heatley started his extensive career in organ building in 1965. Along with John Lacey, John Stephens and Martin Fowles, Robert founded Australian Pipe Organs in 1980. The vision these friends shared was a love of these fine instruments and a mission to ensure that the craft of meticulously building, restoring, rebuilding, tuning and servicing Australia’s pipe organs would continue. It is their vision of conscientious dedication to this important and historical preservation work that continues to this day, 40 years later.

PASSING THE BATON

In 2017, Robert decided to step away as a Director of the company as a transition into retirement. Although semi-retired, Robert’s enthusiastic devotion to his work kept him coming back and Robert was dedicated to his music to the very end. His funeral was held at All Saints’ East St Kilda on the 31st of December, 2019. Pertinently, All Saints’ East St Kilda was Robert’s very first rebuilding project.

Daniel Bittner’s involvement with Australian Pipe Organs began in April 2004. During Daniel’s apprenticeship, he won many awards for cabinet making, including the Victorian Furnishing Industry Apprentice of the Year for 2007. Alongside Robert, Daniel became co-manager of Australian Pipe Organs in 2008. The first project Robert and Daniel completed together was the new organ in the Performing Arts Centre at Camberwell Grammar School. Daniel became Managing Director of the company in 2017. Daniel is also currently serving as Vice President of The Society of Organists, Victoria.

CONTINUATION OF THE VISION

While the 40th is a celebration of the past, Daniel acknowledges that the company remains firmly fixed on the future: “We have become generational custodians for the heritage of the instruments in our care and our team is passionately committed to the ongoing high standard of work for which the company is renowned.”

Our team comprises Daniel Bittner, Arthur Osland, Peter Sych, Yanic Prins and Stephanie Bittner.

Since 2007, Arthur is mostly dedicated to tuning and maintenance work. Coming from an extensive background in music, electronics and engineering, Peter began working at Australian Pipe Organs in 2009 and is committed to delivering exceptional craftsmanship. We welcome Yanic as a new member to our team and look forward to a long and enjoyable working relationship with him. Since 2015, Stephanie has brought with her an abundance of knowledge in administration, finance and customer service.

In 2020, we celebrate Robert Heatley’s unfaltering love of music, his constant care of these beautiful musical instruments and the continuance of the dedicated craft of organ building in Australia.

Robert Heatley 1946 – 2019