The Instituto de Órganos Históricos de Oaxaca (Institute of Historic Oaxacan Organs or IOHIO, pronounced YOYO) was founded in the year 2000 with the goal of promoting the use of the restored Oaxacan organs and protecting the unrestored organs from further deterioration or possible destruction.

iohioBeginning in the 1980s, a growing national awareness and appreciation of historic organs led to restoration projects all over Mexico. In Oaxaca, eight organs were restored, reconstructed, or repaired during the period 1991 to 2003; five of them were financed by Banamex (Banco Nacional de México) thanks to the initiative of philanthropist and music lover Alfredo Harp Helú. Yet once restored, these beautiful instruments were rarely heard after their inaugural concerts and within a short time, began to show signs of deterioration from lack of use. Besides this, local organists in general preferred to play electronic organs, since the characteristics of the antique instruments - meantone temperament, lack of pedals, and a single 45 note keyboard with a short octave- limited the musical options of the modern liturgy, weddings, and other church celebrations. But for those organists passionately interested in early music, the Oaxacan organs offered a rare opportunity to play and hear historic repertoire on relatively authentic instruments.

In view of this, the IOHIO project began in the most obvious way: by playing the organs. Hundreds of listeners attended our first concerts, attesting to the eagerness of the local community to hear the organs again, and this enthusiasm has never abated. As the word spread about the initial success of the IOHIO and its growing network of support, organist friends were drawn to Oaxaca by the opportunity to play concerts on Iberian-style baroque instruments. Before long, these individual presentations were expanded into an International Organ and Early Music Festival, which since 2001 has attracted renowned national and international artists and has become a highly anticipated and prestigious event.

The second priority of our project focused on the unrestored organs and their ongoing protection. Non-functioning instruments continue to be at risk of destruction, especially when the local people do not even realize that the old piece of furniture in their choir loft is an organ, let alone have any memory of its sound or historic value. Therefore, the IOHIO began to program regular visits to the communities with organs in order to document the instruments and oversee their conservation. With this, our project grew to include a non-musical dimension. Based on our ongoing experience over the years, the IOHIO has been able to define a permanent protection plan and a detailed documentation methodology for the historic organs in the state of Oaxaca.


The IOHIO was made possible by the combined experiences and complimentary skills of co-founders Edward Pepe and Cicely Winter and the interest of Alfredo Harp Helú in supporting an ongoing organ project in Oaxaca. Organist Ed Pepe was a specialist in the historic organ repertoire and had been the co-founder and co-director for many years of the Westfield Center for Early Keyboard Studies. Pianist and harpsichordist Cicely Winter had been a resident of Oaxaca since 1972. Through the work of her husband, archeologist Marcus Winter, she was familiar with issues related to the protection of the national heritage. Ed collaborated with the IOHIO until the year 2004 and since then has worked independently as a researcher in Mexican archives, while Cicely has continued to direct the Institute.


The Instituto de Órganos Históricos de Oaxaca A.C. is a non-profit organization (Asociación Civil or A.C.) which functions in collaboration with the National Institute of Anthropology and History (Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia or INAH, the Mexican institution which oversees the protection of the national heritage), officials of the towns with organs, the ecclesiastical authorities, directors and researchers in Oaxacan archives, Oaxacan cultural institutions, and organists, musicians and scholars in Mexico and abroad. A Board of Advisors consisting of 29 experts from nine countries helps with the direction and focus of the IOHIO’s activities. The operating expenses of the IOHIO and the use of office space in the Oaxaca Philatelic Museum (MUFI) were generously provided by the Fundación Alfredo Harp Helú Oaxaca until 2017, while special projects have received additional support from individual donors.


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