Organ Restoration – Progress

Easter Vestry

In 2011, the then Rector, Canon Cecil Mills, addressed the parishioners at the Easter Vestry meeting about the organ. He mentioned Ian Bell and the possible approaches described in his report. He compared the potential cost of the complete replacement option with earlier projects in this and other parishes, concluding:

“So it is not beyond the bounds of possibility for the Parish to do this job properly.”

Proposals

Not long before that meeting, in February 2011, Trevor Crowe had submitted a proposal for a new organ of 24 stops: ten in the Swell division, nine in the Great, and five in the Pedal. He said that whilst the brief was for a new instrument, he would favour the retention of existing pipework for certain stops, which would have benefits in terms of cost.

By this time it had been decided that only two manuals, Swell and Great, were sufficient, instead of the current three.

In October 2012 Trevor submitted another proposal, for a rebuilding of the existing organ, retaining as much of it as possible, to give an instrument of 19 stops, the minimum specification, in his view, that would be musically satisfactory.

Then in January 2016: “The present proposal is for a thorough reconstruction of the organ …” This was for a full specification of 27 stops, with the option of choosing to omit eight of the stops, or to omit some of them. The specification with all eight omitted was basically the same as in the 2012 proposal. In his covering email with this 2016 proposal Trevor wrote:

“A further possibility exists, of course, and that is to make preparation within the organ for additional stops which could be decided, for or against, towards the end of the project (when the funding situation is more certain).”

The Blower

By 2010 the blower was almost worn out; the fan blades were scraping against the inside of the casing. It finally gave up the ghost in mid-2013. Clive Christie tells me that initially Trevor Crowe lent us a blower, because at that time we were still debating whether to repair, restore or even replace the organ. The blower was too large for our instrument, and very noisy. In March 2014 the Select Vestry asked Trevor to quote for a new blower with a silencing box, which would also be suited to any restoration work we might do to the organ. The quotation was modestly priced and was accepted. The new blower, which was cleverly designed to be placed inside the organ rather than beside it as before, was installed at the end of the year.

Presentation

At the Easter Vestry meeting in April 2016 Clive Christie, who had been in communication with Trevor about the organ for many years, made a presentation to the parishioners. He described the history and Ian Bell’s report, the recent quotations, and the fact that the project had been on hold pending the redevelopment of the Carry Centre.

Why should the organ be restored?

“Music is considered an integral part of worship.
An organ provides a wide variety of musical options in worship.
A good instrument attracts talented organists.
Talented organists attract good quality singers.
A church with a good organ, organist and singers is attractive to people.
Worship through music is a form of outreach.”

Clive mentioned possible uses for the organ, apart from normal church use, such as for building links with Secondary Schools and giving opportunities for students to learn about organ and choral music, and worship in the context of music. The church and the organ could also be available for occasional concerts by local and visiting performers and groups.

He finished by suggesting how the project might be financed, and said that four donors had already offered €5000 each if the project went ahead; “If there are four, there are more!”

The Final Proposal

In 2020 it finally became obvious that the Pedal section of the organ was pretty well unplayable and that the other sections would soon fall into similar disrepair. Following further detailed discussions with Trevor Crowe, the Select Vestry agreed that the best way forward was to repair and refurbish the instrument in three phases.

We are well aware of Trevor’s qualification as an engineer, and his professionalism and his musical talent make him uniquely suited to formulating proposals which are both musically satisfying and financially realistic. His final proposal, presented in September 2020 was masterful, and the work could be achieved at a greatly reduced overall cost. His introduction to the proposal is worth quoting in full: read it here.

The Select Vestry agreed to proceed as an act of faith with Phase 1 (the Pedal division), and people could contribute to Phase 2 and subsequent phases; that is how we have proceeded since.

Organ Restoration Fund

The Organ Restoration Fund was launched in the December 2021 edition of ‘The Obelisk’ newsletter: read it here. The Parish had funded the overhaul of the Pedal division (Phase 1), and was already half-way towards being able to fund Phase 2.

The Harvest Festival on Sunday 10th October 2021 was the first service (since Covid) with organ and choir. Trevor Crowe himself played.

New Choir Division

Late in 2021 it was decided to install a new, small Choir division as part of Phase 2, which would be very useful for service accompaniment, especially when the Swell division is being redeveloped, over several months.

It consists of three ranks:

Stopped Diapason 8
Koppel Flute 4
Flageolet 2

The new Choir division was first used on Sunday 8th May 2022.

To be continued . . .