14th March 2023
I’m delighted that Nicholson & Co Ltd have this week announced that they’ve won the contract to build a structurally new organ for Christ Church Cathedral, Christchurch, New Zealand.
I have been working with the Christ Church team since 2019 in developing a scheme for the resurrection of the distinguished Hill / HNB / South Island Organ Company organ, which was not only thoroughly shaken up in the devastating earthquakes a decade ago (which came close to destroying the cathedral) but since then has been home to flocks of pigeons, who have filled it with their mess, as can be imagined. The plan, now the building has been made safe to enter, is to remove the pipes (started this week), clean them then assess later in the year which ranks can be reused. Our assumption is that many ranks will need to be new, though the hope is that we can save quite a bit. The new organ will be divided either side of the chancel, mainly speaking west, which should get round the problem the old organ had of being ‘bottled up’ within its chamber.
A new Music Department will also be built. This is an exciting project on which I shall post again from time to time over the next four years as it gradually comes into being. Here is the official link to the Christ Church Cathedral concept design website – a very interesting and informative read: https://christchurchcathedral.org.nz/our-project/concept-design/.
In the photograph of the organ before the earthquakes can be seen large wooden pipes elevated in the north transept, painted white. These are actually the bottom twelve pipes of the 32ft Double Open Wood stop, the tallest being in the row behind. They have been a considerable logistical challenge to lift down to the cathedral floor – accomplished earlier this year.
10th February 2023
I’m home today from an African adventure. The Lawton / Walker 3-manual organ in Nairobi’s All Saints’ Cathedral (seat of Kenya’s Anglican Archbishop) was in England during 2022, being rebuilt by Michael Farley and his team at Budleigh Salterton, the 1955 Walker console being elegantly remade with stop-knobs and modern control systems by Renatus of Bideford.
Following its reinstallation in the cathedral during January this year, I flew out for a week to assist with the final tonal finishing, to test it thoroughly, to talk about it to the cathedral congregation, explain it to the cathedral’s several organists, record it, be filmed playing it, and give a masterclass on it. All at 30° centigrade!
It’s a really splendid instrument whose tone sounds truly cathedralesque in Temple Moore’s fine stone building, a building packed for numerous services each Sunday, all of them with the cathedral’s choirs, in style covering the whole gamut of liturgical approaches, including formal Choral Morning Prayer and Choral Evensong. Congregants last Sunday numbered just short of 10,000! The organ is to be Dedicated this coming Sunday (12th February) though, alas, the Farley team and I will only be able to watch it live-streamed rather than in person.
I’ve had a stimulating week, enhanced by the generous welcome we were offered by everyone connected with the cathedral. With three other possible organ projects around the cathedral and in another local church, it may not perhaps be the last visit for the Farley team and yours truly.
22nd January 2023
After the inauguration of the superb new Eule organ at Magdalen College Oxford on 21st January (a truly splendid and memorable occasion) I stayed overnight in my alma mater, New College, waking to a sharp and freezingly frosty Sunday morning. Here are two images taken at 08:00 that day of the ‘New Buildings’ built in the 19th century outside the old City Wall which formerly bounded the College on the north side. I had rooms from 1971-4 on staircase 3.
Also visible are the City Wall itself (none of it to be seen remaining anywhere else in Oxford other than skirting two complete sides of New College), the bell tower (built shortly after the College’s foundation by William of Wykeham in 1379) and part of the north wall and antechapel of the college chapel, my inspiring musical home for those three years. The third image here is the rather startling sight of the new Magdalen College organ, dramatically lit for 45 minutes of solo organ music before its dedicatory Evensong.