22nd May 2020 31st May 2020

The Organ

Henry Willis 1883 / Harrison & Harrison 2000

Father Willis built a three-manual organ of 32 stops in 1883. It stood on the quire screen, where its appearance became subject to criticism (“a poor exhibition of woodwork and paint”, as one observer described it). The whole organ was contained within the case, except for the longest pipes of the Pedal Open Diapason and Violone; these were placed respectively in the south nave triforium and behind the north choir stalls, where they remain. The Pedal Ophicleide was added by the Willis firm in 1906.

In 1953, Hill Norman & Beard rebuilt the organ within a new, much smaller case designed by the Cathedral Architect, Alban Caroë. Inevitably, the layout became very cramped. The original action (tracker with pneumatic lever) was replaced by pneumatic action, with a new console, and most of the Pedal stops were relocated south of the choir stalls.

Numerous changes were made to the organ over the next forty years: these included the installation of electro-pneumatic action and remodelling of the Choir Organ by Rushworth & Dreaper in 1980. Chief among the changes made by Percy Daniel & Co was the addition of twelve 32ft Open Wood pipes from St Marylebone Parish Church, which were installed in the south transept in 1988. Fortunately for posterity, 31 Father Willis stops (including some which were providentially stored at the Deanery) survived these alterations to provide the inspiration for a new organ.

As an essential first step, the Caroë case was re-designed in consultation with Caroë and Partners, the Cathedral architects. Entirely new casework was provided for the west side, while the east elevation together with the side panelling was increased in height.

The main part of the organ (including the new Tuba and most of the Pedal Organ) is contained within the enlarged case on the screen; the new West Choir Organ is in a “chair” case projecting towards the nave. The new console, like its predecessors, is on the south side of the screen. The East Choir Organ replaces the former Pedal section on the south side of the choir stalls, together with the new Contra Trombone rank. Dr Roy Massey was the consultant for the project, with the then Cathedral Organist, Geraint Bowen.

For more information on the manuals and stops click here



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