'Masterpiece' church organ will play again
THE sound of one of the country's finest church organs will reverberate around St Mary Redcliffe for the first time in two years later this month after the completion of a major restoration project.
The organ, regarded in the musical world as a masterpiece, was dismantled and taken to the workshops of Harrison and Harrison in Durham, where it was built almost a century ago.
Now, after an 18-month project to restore it, costing £800,000, the enormous organ is back in one piece in St Mary Redcliffe Church.
On November 21 it will be the centrepiece of a special service to celebrate the restoration, when the Dean of Canterbury, the Very Reverend Robert Willis, will be guest preacher.
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Simon Taylor, priest in charge at St Mary Redcliffe Church, said: "It is a first-rate instrument and enhances our worship greatly."
A team of 35 skilled craftsmen and organ builders worked tirelessly to restore the organ's complex mechanism and its 4,315 pipes, which range from 32ft to the size of a pencil.
A team of four also dismantled and reassembled the many thousands of components in the church.
Mark Venning, chairman of Harrison and Harrison, said: "The organ has an important place in our history as it is a landmark instrument from a heroic period of British organ building, and is internationally famous.
"It has a huge range of sound, from a whisper to a stentorian blast – a sound of which one can never tire. The organ has been in the firm's care since we built it in 1912, and it is a great pleasure to be continuing this long association into its second century."
The organ was designed by Redcliffe organist and choirmaster Ralph Morgan who was appointed in 1906. Harrison and Harrison took up his design and the organ was dedicated by the Bishop of Bristol in 1912.
Since then it has been played for royalty including the Queen, and heard by worldwide audiences on radio and television. Many distinguished international musicians have also given recitals on it.
But it had fallen into disrepair, with cracked leather pouches and worn electrical switches.
Funding for the repairs came from the Temple Ecclesiastical Charity, the Canynges Society, who are friends of St Mary Redcliffe, churchgoers and local firms.
Andrew Kirk, director of music at the church, said: "One of the major improvements is that it is completely wind-tight now, whereas in the past the sound of the noise escaping was a bit like a waterfall."
Five teenagers are currently learning to play the instrument, and the organ accompanies four choirs as well as the congregation. Weekend recitals open to the public are due to start in March.
There will also be a concert by organ recitalist Thomas Trotter at 3pm on November 27, and a second concert on December 4.
For more information or tickets, visit www.stmaryredcliffe.co.uk.