St Brigid’s Roman Catholic Church, Red Hill

he Church of St Brigid’s stands as a sentinel on Red Hill over the City of Brisbane. From one side of the choir loft the whole vista of the ranges from Mount Coot-tha towards Cunningham’s Gap spreads before the eyes. On the other side, the busy modern buildings of Brisbane and the blue of Morton Bay mingle and the noise of restless activity assails the ears.

Inside, the quietness and the space of the church are a pleasing contrast. The acoustic is one of the best in Brisbane. The red brick structure was designed by Robin Dodds and was opened in 9th of August, 1914. The organ case was also designed by Dodds and sits in the back of the choir loft brooding under three narrow windows.

This pneumatic action organ is one of the most important that Whitehouse ever built. Together with the mechanical action 1910 Whitehouse in St Mary’ Church, Maryborough and the later pneumatic action organ in St Mary’s, Ipswich, they represent the high point of Whitehouse’s craft and vision. Whilst not large in the number of stops, none the less, all organs fill their homes with full and rich sounds more than comparable with the work of English builders of the same era.

Having restored Maryborough some ten years ago and having worked in stages on Ipswich, it was an opportunity to work in Brisbane with a sound knowledge of the methods and techniques that Whitehouse used. The organ had had two lots of work carried out on it over the last 30 years but the action was still sluggish and irregular, the pipework cyphered in the Westerly winds and the cone-tuned pipework was not in the best of conditions. The structure was still in remarkably original condition except for the loss of the Crescendo Pedal and mechanism some years before. It was time to systematically work through the whole organ and the organist, Roland Bartkowiak, started the initial process of convincing the parish to carry out the work..

Our approach was quite simple: to renew all the leather working parts of the organ and clean the pipework. The bellows had already been releathered but the gussets, corner pieces and butterflies needed releathering. This also meant replacin g all the puffers and cones of the cone-pallet soundboards, replacing the bedding and renewing the bedding. The pipework needed cleaning and any damage should be repaired. The pipework could then be regulated as well as the action.

This, then, was the simple task we had in front of us.  The reality was somewhat different.

Restoration is an interesting term. It implies just renewing and cleaning what is already in existence. The organ was already regarded as a ‘masterpiece’ and it was important not to gild the lily. But, as we progressed we found we had to make decisions.

The inside of the soundboards were strewn with pencil marks as the builders had changed the position of the cones. Plugs of wood were profuse. The borings in the soundboards were very poor and looked like they had been done with blunt drills. There were chips of wood in many holes that appear to have never been cleared out.

All the soundboards were thoroughly cleaned and the borings re-drilled as necessary and sealed.

Over a third of the pipe feet were smaller than the footholes. In fact, it appeared that all the metal pipework arrived after the soundboards were made and over the time the feet of the principals and strings had sunk into the holes (with the cone tuning) and the footholes had, thus, closed up.

As we tested the completed soundboards in the workshop, we found that cyphers were still occurring. Closer examination showed that that the original tips of the borings of the upperboards had carried through out the other side of three of the upperboards. They looked like knotholes but were holes that caused cyphers. These were plugged and sealed. As well, on these soundboards the bedding was glued onto the bars. Later Whitehouse practice was to glue the bedding on the upperboards and then brown paper was then glued onto the top face of the bars. This allowed any warping in the upperboards not to cause cyphers whilst still allowing easy access to the cones. Given the past service history of the organ, we carried out this modification.

The bottom octave of the Swell reeds had never fitted in the space provided. Any damage had occurred from ‘day one’ and by placing Bottom C of the Cornopean on an off-note block this problem was cured.

The access to the organ was appalling. It is a particularly compact design, which is surprising for such a large gallery. The access to the passageboard is very tight, however we improved access to the rear of the console by making the front lower casework panels removable with only four brass screws. The internal organ frame was also very flimsy and leaned to one side. It had obviously moved very early in the organ’s life. The whole structure was straightened and fixed permanently to the back wall.

It is possible to draw some conclusions from this work. The firm had used cone-pallet soundboards in small instruments as early as 1910 (at Nundah Methodist) but Red Hill seems to have been the first large instrument to employ them. They solved many problems ‘on the run’. I also suspect that the work was rushed and the pipework only arrived from England after the major part of the organ was built. These problems were not evident in the later organ at Ipswich.

Tonally, we worked carefully on the organ. The idea was to preserve and maintain. We did not want to fit any slides to the pipework but over the years it had collapsed at the mouths and, in some cases, the tops had been ripped for tuning. The pipework was cleaned and repaired, and it was only necessary to fit slides to the Fifteenth 2′, the Piccolo 2′, the top octave of the 4′ Gemshorn and the Principal 4′.

As we worked through the regulation, two major things became obvious. The flutes had a very annoying splutter at the beginning of their speech which did not want to come out with the usual treatments. As well, all the reed tongues had to be very flat to speak promptly and as a result did not develop good tone. The obvious place was to check the bellows which appeared to have too low a wind pressure. It was nicely fitted with Whitehouse weights at 3 1/8″ w.g.. We found no other spare weights around the loft but tried raising the wind pressure to see what happened.

We found that 3 ¾” was the magic pressure, the flutes lost their splutter and the reeds could have their tongue curve increased with a pleasing fire being added. The strings developed a more intense character and the Great Open and Principal had more warmth. The action also was just a little crisper. Obviously, I do not want a reputation for fiddling with wind pressures on important historical organs but 3 ¾” is quite a common wind pressure for the era and the pipes really wanted the increase. I can only assume that the cyphers that had plagued the organ may have been lessened with a lower wind pressure. I was also interested to hear some observations from John Hopsick whose mother had been the organist at St Brigid’s from the 1920’s. He remembers the sound of the Great Trumpet as being far stronger in the 1940’s and was pleased to hear that strength back again with the increased pressure.

The organ had taken 7 months to restore with it being in continuous service during that time.

I went back today to take some more pictures of the organ and to listen to the sounds afresh. I am always astounded how the organ tone improves as the organ settles in. I have made some comments earlier about the problems we found in the organ. I believe, however, that in this case Whitehouse got the basics right. This organ does have a vision. The action is as crisp and responsive as could be desired and vindicates the restoration of the pneumatic action. In this case it is certainly preferable to electric action.

The Great Diapason is quite unlike any other Whitehouse Diapason. It is mellow and warm but possesses a tremendous presence in the building. The Principal 4′ is quite a deal smaller in scaling but has a bite that blends into the Diapason very nicely. Likewise the Fifteenth 2′ blends in well without being too strong. It is also delightful with the Stopped Diapason and does not scream with the Great Octave coupler.

The Swell is not so easy to judge at the console but the sound is slightly less powerful than the Great but with more string tone. The Double Diapason 16′ purrs underneath even with the reeds and octave couplers on. The strings are just gorgeous. The Pedal Bourdon 16′ is not a loud stop but seems to permeate and give the pedal focus. However, it is the Great Trumpet which is still to my mind the really amazing stop. It does cut through the Great chorus with a fiery breath and yet it is the flue work that predominates when the Great Octave coupler is added. Like all good organs, there are a variety of moods and colours available if the organist blends with imagination. It is a remarkable achievement for Whitehouse to make such a small organ fill such a large building with such good sound. At no stage do you feel that you need more stops. True, you might like to have them but this organ has a satisfying whole and unity about it which is as much a pleasure for the organbuilder as well as the organist.


8′     Open Diapason
8′     Stopt Diapason
8′     Dulciana
4′     Principal
4′     Harmonic Flute
2′     Fifteenth
8′     Trumpet
Great OctaveSWELL
16′    Double Diapason
8′    Open Diapason
8′    Lieblich Gedact
8′    Salicional
8′    Vox Angelica
4′    Gemshorn
2′    Piccolo
8′    Oboe
8′    Cornopean
Super Octave
Swell Sub OctavePEDAL
16′    Bourdon
Pedal Octave

Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Woolloongabba

This organ was built for Holy Trinity by Whitehouse Bros. in 1930 in this magnificent building. Reginald Halse was the Anglican Archbishop of the day and he had brought back two designs from a holiday in Southern Italy. The other design was used for Holy Trinity, Mackay. The Stopped Diapason and 4′ Flute were added in 1954. In 1986, David Hudd replaced the Great Dulciana with a Principal 4′.

The organ is small in size for the building and with the restoration of the church, it was decided to restore the organ also and see if it could project better into the building from its chamber. Simon decided to position the organ better and to rescale several stops to match the building. The front case was rebuilt and moved out around the console and lifted. The soundboards were then moved forward. All the pneumatic action was thoroughly restored. The Swell Flutes were rescaled by 2 notes upwards and a new stronger Stopped Diapason was made. The wind pressure was raised and the cut-ups on the principals were accordingly raised. This pipe organ now has an excellent, responsive action and the warm and full sound adequately fills the building without being harsh. This little organ is a good essay in how pipe organs do not need to be large in order to carry out their work and still remain highly musical.

GREAT                                       PEDAL

8′ Open Diapason                         16′ Bourdon
8′ Stopped Diapason

4′ Principal                                    Great to Pedal
4′ Flute (fr Swell)                           Swell to Pedal
Swell to Great
SWELL Swell Super to Great
Pneumatic Action
8′ Violin Diapason                         Compass  61/30
8′ Gedact
4′ Flute
8′ Oboe

Wesley Uniting Church Kangaroo Point

This charming organ was built in c. 1903 by B. B. Whitehouse & Co. It has mechanical action using backfalls. The church is a fine brick building two blocks from the Gabba cricket ground. The two manuals are on a common slider soundboard. The 4′ Principal and 2′ Piccolo were ‘prepared for’ with the stop knobs and footholes drilled. In 1953 Whitehouse had overhauled the organ.

By 1989, the organ was in in a very dirty and worn state. The action was noisy and the pedals were unreliable. The bellows had been cut-down to single-rise. The Church decided to restore the organ and Simon Pierce was awarded the contract. The bellows were recovered as double-rise. The Principal and Piccolo pipework was made and installed. As well as totally refurbishing the action and cleaning the pipework, the showfront pipes were re-stencilled to the the original designs.

This organ is a fine example of a small mechanical-action organ with plenty of character and a bright and full chorus.


8′    Open Diapason
8′    Clarabella
8′    Dulciana
4′    Principal
4′    Wald Flute
2′    Piccolo


8′    Open Diapason
8′    Lieblich Gedackt
8′    Salicional
8′    Voix Celeste
4′    Gemshorn
8′    Oboe

Swell Octave

16′   Bourdon
Mechanical action and couplers Compass 58/3

Sommerville House Girls’ School, South Brisbane

This instrument was originally built for Waverley Methodist Church, Sydney, by A. Hunter & Son of London in 1888. In 1974, this instrument was acquired by the Old Girls’ Association of Somerville House.  Whitehouse Bros. replaced the original tubular pneumatic action by an electro-pneumatic action.  The instrument was placed in Harker Hall, a multi-purpose assembly hall overlooking the sports fields. It was installed without any showfront. In 1984, J. W . Walker & Sons (Australia) cleaned the organ and added the Great Mixture, Choir Nazard and Tierce, and Pedal 4′ Flute. These replaced string stops on the manual soundboards.

In 1999, as part of the school’s centenary celebrations, a new auditorium was incorporated into the new Performing Arts Complex, and the organ was installed here with a new wind system, a new console, and a new showfront incorporating the show-pipe work in the original configuration. The bold, rich sound is now heard again in its full glory.

The console, viewed from the stage.

Left to right: The nether regions of the pipes;
looking down on the pipes in the organ chamber;
the new ivory stopknobs, clearly visible against the ebony backplate of the right-hand side of the console.
Note the original maker’s plate bottom left.

GREAT                                         PEDAL

8′     Open Diapason                      16′     Open Wood
8′     Hohl Flute                              16′     Bourdon
4′     Principal                                   8′     Principal
4′     Harmonic Flute                         8′     Bass Flute
2 2/3′ Twelfth                                   4′     Principal
2′     Fifteenth                                   4′     Flute
III    Mixture

Swell to Great

16′     Double Diapason                      Great to Pedal
8′     Open Diapason                          Swell to Pedal
8′     Leiblich Gedacht                        Swell Octave to Pedal
8′     Gamba
4′     Gemshorn
2′     Fifteenth
II     Mixture
8′     Cornopean
8′     Oboe

Swell Octave
Swell Sub

8′     Leiblich Gedacht
4′     Suabe Flute
2 2/3′ Nazard
2′     Piccolo
1 3/5′ Tierce
8′     Clarionet

Swell to Choir

Nazareth Lutheran Church, Woolloongabba, Brisbane

In May 2000 Nazareth Lutheran Church, Hawthorne Street, Woolloongabba, burnt down by arson attack. All that was left were the brick walls. The church had been built in 1896 for the Lutheran congregation of South Brisbane that had been founded in the 1860s. As with South Australia, there was an influx of German migrants to Moreton Bay and as a result the Lutheran church has had a strong presence in South East Queensland.

In 1976 Nazareth Lutheran bought the 1926 Whitehouse organ of St. Francis’ Anglican Church, Nundah. This pneumatic seven-rank, two manual and pedal organ served the church’s needs well; even if the action and specification could not be considered “inspired”. The sound of the organ worked remarkably well in the building. I well recall an organ society visit in 1999 when people remarked on the splendid sound this organ produced in the building. The organ was sited in a gallery at the back of the church and the building has a large acoustic for the size of the room.

The gutted building produced a sense of shock among the congregation. Nevertheless the decision was made to rebuild the church, using the surviving brick walls, to its original design. The decision was also made to refurnish the church to allow for a pipe organ. Although some second hand organs were contemplated, in the end it was felt better to go with a new pipe organ. After the congregation considered quotes from organ builders around Australia, they accepted my quote for a two manual 13 stop organ. The contract was signed in April, 2001. In March 2004 the addition of the Cornet II (which had been prepared for) was also contracted.

I met with the organ committee comprising of Frieda Reuther, Eric Lohe and Eric Parups. Frieda Reuter is the organist and was a music teacher at St. Peter’s Lutheran College. Her nephew is Dr. Peter Roennfeldt, the Director of the Queensland Conservatorium. Eric Parups is the architect who supervised the rebuilding of the burnt church and Eric Lohe is an organ enthusiast and President of the Congregation. In order to formulate our ideas we visited the Smenge organ at Beenleigh and my organs at Mt. Tamborine and the Pugin Chapel at St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

My original concept for the organ was relatively simple; I wanted the Great to have the sound and power of my organ at St. George’s, Mt. Tamborine, and the Swell to have the delicate and intimate sounds of the Pugin Chapel organ. The sound of very shrill mixtures and coarse voicing (which seem characteristic of modern neo-Classical organ building) had not impressed me. I was also not convinced that fully encased organs were the way to go. I had often found problems tuning organs of this design and the pipework can easily draw or pull. Therefore, I wanted the Swell behind the Great and the Great unenclosed so that the sound could run along the roof and drop down onto the congregation. This is the traditional English layout and had proved to be satisfactory in the previous organ in the church. Likewise, what could equal the wind supply from a nice double-rise bellows? And what indeed could equal the majesty and power of the spotted metal pipe? By using suspended action, I hoped this might give a more Baroque feel to the organ.



8'           Principal
8'           Hohlflute
4'           Octave
2'           Superoctave
III          Mixture
8'           Gedact 	   	  
4'           Rohrflute 	 
2 2/3'       Nazard 	      
2'           Gemshorn 	   
8'           Krummhorn 		 


16'          Bourdon
8'           Flute 

After settling on this design, I then left for the USA to undertake my Churchill fellowship. I have talked about this time elsewhere but it really did open my eyes to the beauty of the classical organ. Many organbuilders impressed me but particularly the work of John Brombaugh of Oregon, Taylor & Boody of Virginia and the firm of Richards, Fowkes & Co, Tennessee. I found a very beautiful and lyrical style of organ with none of the problems I had encountered before with organs built in this style. These organs all demonstrated an understanding of the North German organ style and yet reinterpreted the tradition in their own subtle ways. My favourite classical organ in the USA had to be the Taylor & Boody in St. Thomas’, Fifth Avenue, New York. Every stop blended with each other in a wonderful way.

As I travelled around listening to these organs I kept the prospect of Nazareth Lutheran in my mind. At 13 stops it is still smaller than the organs I was listening to and this forced me to try and understand the sounds that were the essence of this type of tradition. At the same time I fell in love with the use of a singing Cornet solo for introducing hymns and chorales so important for the Lutheran service.

Even though there are some questions about the usefulness of hammering pipe metal, every organ sound that impressed me came from a hammered metal pipe. As John Brombaugh said to me, “We do it because we like the sound, even if the theory doesn’t stack up”. The use of high-lead content principal pipework gives a dark and rich sound to the chorus whilst the mixtures sparkle on top, adding clarity instead of harshness. Incidentally, I found that such a chorus of necessity needs a Quint 2 2/3′ to bind the chorus in such a style. Later I even changed my mind on the hammering issue as well.

The use of wedge bellows and carefully designed wind-trunks gave the organs a life. They force the player to use the speeds dictated by the organ in the building thereby achieving a truly unified and exciting result. I must confess that I became bored with small organs without any flexible winding, although I was also aware of when this became too much. It was a question of artistic taste; difficult to explain, yet easy to hear. I also found that the classical layout of the encased organ using the high-lead content pipes helped both build and project the chorus. All the American builders I talked with agreed that with good spacing between the pipes, drawing and interference were kept to a minimum.

When I returned I resolved to put into practice these things which I learnt. I spoke with the two Erics and Frieda and after playing the CDs I had brought with me, they agreed to the following changes (note- English spelling of German terms):

8'           Prestant
8'           Hohlflute
4'           Principal
2 2/3'       Quint
2'           Octave
II-III          Mixture

8'           Gedact 	   	  
4'           Rohrflute 	 
2'           Principal	      
1 1/3'       Quint
II 	     Cornet(from Mid C)(prepared)
8'           Krummhorn 		 


16'          Subbass
8'           Flute 

Rather than using spotted metal, we were going to cast our own 25% lead pipe metal and hammer it. Instead of an internal double-rise bellows, one large external wedge bellows was used. The tuning platform for the Hauptwerk was located above the bellows and the blower located underneath. This allowed good access to all parts of the organ for maintenance.

And to finally finish my journey to Damascus, I designed a classical case of the Great on top of the Swell laid out in the North German fashion. The Pedal Bourdon was located on either side of the manual chests in classic Werkprinzip layout. Thus Great became Hauptwerk and Swell became Brustwerk. Horizontal swell shutters and an opening lid were still fitted to the Brustwerk as modern repertoire demands this flexibility. One of the key elements in the case design was to allow plenty of room around each individual pipe and plenty of room in the case itself to allow for a minimum of tonal interference. The old organbuilders always allowed plenty of space to allow pipes to sing.

You can see by the specification that I had taken out one of the Mixture ranks and included it as a Quint 2 2/3′. I had hoped that the Nazard on the Swell would fill this role, but I realized it was unable to. If I had a 2 2/3′ on the Hauptwerk then I really needed a Quint 1 1/3′ on the Brustwerk. The Principal if voiced properly could be used with the Cornet as well as solo work, and I altered all of the scalings in the Swell to achieve a broader effect, hence the replacement of the Gemshorn with the Principal.

The design of the organ was completed in 2002 and work started on its manufacture. In line with what I had learnt in the USA, I determined that we would manufacture everything here in the workshop at Hemmant in Brisbane. We attempted to keep everything as historical as possible but Queensland is a sub-tropical environment with extremes of humidity and temperature. Whilst paying homage to the old North German masters the instrument had to work and be reliable.

Thus the soundboards were made out of marine ply for the bars, mahogany for the upperboards and slider seals were fitted to the laminex slides. Single pallets were used throughout but made out of aluminium to ensure a minimum of warpage. This allowed us to use very thin felt and leather to give an authentic touch. All action parts were made here out of mahogany and oak but fitted with nylon bushes. Felt was only used on the return side of the action for quietness. There was no felt used in the action when the pallet was pressed open to ensure a sensitive touch. John Boody had been very suspicious of my use of these modern materials in a traditional organ until he realised Brisbane was the same distance from the equator as Miami. He was astounded that I was trying to build pipe organs for such a climate in churches without air-conditioning. He agreed I would need to think laterally about materials and action.

The Pedal pipes, Gedact pipes and Krummhorn resonators were made from Jelutong which gives a good mellow tone. The casework and frames were made from Tasmanian Oak. The external frame of the case supports the action and soundboards. This is as opposed to the traditional English approach where the soundboards sit on an internal standframe. This style of casework makes for a very compact organ. The final design for 14 stops takes up half the floor space of the original 7 rank Whitehouse organ. Originally, it was decided not to fit pipe shades to the organ which would detract from the austere interior of the building. However, recently the decision was made that they should be added and they are to be fitted in the near future.

The keyboards proved the most difficult to manufacture as the Hauptwerk keyboard was 975mm deep. Modern playing positions place the Pedalboard further in underneath the keyboards (which affect the coupling) and the keyboards project further from the casework. Thus the keys themselves had to be long to allow Pedal coupling to take place. Even with a careful selection of wood (they were made of Celery Top pine), we replaced 20% of the keys when the first westerly wind came and warped them. Since this replacement, they have proved reliable and straight in the westerlies. This is the advantage of local building for local conditions.

The organ, less the pipework, was installed into the Church in December 2003 and allowed to settle and acclimatise.

The decision to make my own pipework was not in itself momentous. I had made some pipes in Fincham’s factory in Melbourne and had later purchased their pipemaking equipment. It was the decision to start exploring the manufacture of high lead content pipes for this project that started a steep learning curve. We intended to start with 75% lead pipes but eventually settled on at least 90% lead pipes. The rest of the mixture consisted of tin with copper and antimony added to make the pipemetal hard. This meant we had to be very careful casting as a high lead mixture is very hot and cools in a different way to spotted metal. We also found that the high humidity in Queensland affected our casts on the wooden bench. It was far better to do it in the dry winter conditions when we could control the thicknesses better.

The addition of antimony and copper makes the pipe metal harder but as we were using traditional hand planing methods, this made the whole job more difficult. In the end we stopped hammering the metal as we could not find any difference after the planing. There had been a difference, we felt, at 25% tin. Perhaps the planing case-hardens the metal in a similar fashion to hammering. The polished 8′ showfront of the organ is made from this high lead pipemetal. It is extremely tough and shows no sign of dulling or sagging. They polished up extremely well and look very beautiful.

We also found we had to use slightly different soldering techniques for this type of pipemetal and had to be very careful to thoroughly clean the metal before soldering. In the end, it took a year of experimentation to produce the 653 metal pipes in the organ. This also includes the 8′ showfront. Whilst this involved a great deal of frustration, the final results of the pipemaking made the whole task worthwhile and the pipes look very handsome.

The organ was now ready for voicing. Except for the reed blocks, shallots, pallet springs, keyboard pins, leather buttons and blower, everything had been made in Hemmant. This, I feel, is a significant achievement for Queensland organbuilding in itself.

The whole purpose, however, of organbuilding is to create beautiful sounds.

I had attended the ISO workshop in Stralsund in May 2003 to further understand the North German sound. It was time to look at the originals, not the interpretations. Here, the restoration of the 1649 Stellwagen organ was examined. There were also visits to several historical organs in the area. We examined in detail the pipework and the voicing of the fluework and reeds.

Afterwards, I set off on a week’s trip to examine some important Schnitger organs. This resulted in a close examination of the organs in Stade, Capel, Hamburg (St Jacobi), Nordbrook and Norden. These organs were a revelation. The Principals were light and full and hardly ever harsh, the Mixtures were silvery and clear and the Flutes were warm, full and bell-like in tone. I shall never forget hearing the most wonderful sounds from the Nordbrook organ. Although built by the same organbuilder (although, of course, some were more original than others!) they all had their own personality and sound. Here again, I was convinced that I should not try and copy an individual organ but to copy the feeling, combinations and patina of the sounds they were producing. I know that North German organs do not have wooden Gedacts or wooden resonators for their Krummhorns. They do, however, blend and work to give the total effect of a North German organ. I would be disappointed to build an organ without a wooden Gedact!

I used open-toe voicing throughout the fluework with light nicking where necessary. This is not to say that the feet are completely open, rather that there is a general regulation at the foot with the fine regulation at the flue. Initially the wind pressure was set at 80 mm (3 1/4 inches) w.g. but after voicing three Swell stops, it was apparent that the sound was too loud for the building. Eventually the pipes sang most wonderfully at 60 mm (2 3/8 inches) w.g. which is one of the few times I have found myself putting the wind pressure down in an organ. As there are no ears on the Principals throughout the organ, I found that the languids had to be set exactly in the right position to achieve the right speech and tone. This also gave greater sensitivity to the way the pipes responded to different types of touch.

I found that the organ was telling me where and how it wanted to speak. I remembered once discussing with other organbuilders about the whole organ working ‘as a system’, that once the decision of design, pallet size, type of wind and scaling had been decided, in some senses the organ would want to speak in a certain type of way. It is actually the logical conclusion of a Werkprinzip system. It does not mean you cannot change the voicing for individuality but that it must be set within the limits of the whole system of the organ.

The net result of the high lead pipework with the open-toe voicing is a singing, warm tone where the upperwork blooms rather than taking over the chorus. The flutes are large with plenty of character. The Pedal division is small, but the 8′ carries and defines the Pedal firmly and the last octave of the Subbass is louder and more pervasive without being overpowering. There is a slight Quintaton flavour in the rank which gives the Pedal its definition. The Cornet has the most amazing quality. It works with just the Gedact or with the full Brustwerk. It can work in the chorus or as a solo. The sound is best described as golden honey. The Krummhorn likewise is multi-purpose but colours rather than predominates over the chorus with its nutty flavour. The Mixture works well over the 4′ Principal. It then takes on a different colour when the Octave or the Quint is added rather than maintaining its original tone.

I decided set the temperament to Vallotti and used slide tuners. Vallotti is a good general temperament which gives a flavour to the keys but allows the thirds in the Cornet to sing. Tuning slides were necessary, I believe, because of the climatic conditions here in Brisbane and also because I have repaired so much badly damaged cone-tuned pipework that I did not want this to occur on my instrument.

So, then what are the results? In September 2005, an Organ preview night was held. This highly successful event allowed Brisbane organists to hear the organ for the first time. The results were very satisfying. All organists commented on the delightfully sensitive action as well the different combinations that were available from the stops. Many found it surprising that the organ was not limited to baroque repertoire but could handle the romantic quite comfortably. Rupert Jeffcoat remarked later that it ‘has a delightful blend and balance, and the creative stop list allows for a real variety.’ The sound was heard in a moderately full church which changed the acoustics but this did not change the warmth or the balance of the instrument.

The organ is now complete and was dedicated on 27th November 2005 with the Church organist Frieda Reuther at the console directing a musical feast of organ, brass and choir. The first recital will be played by Christopher Wrench on 26th March at 6pm. I am very pleased with the results. I believe the organ is an important statement in Australia about the continuing tradition of North German organ building and a valuable addition to Brisbane’s cultural life.

Brisbane Temple, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

This organ was built by Charles Dirksen of Brisbane in 1958. It was an extension organ of 4 speaking ranks with 2 manuals and pedals.

It is now installed in the new Meeting House which was opened in 2003. The console is located opposite the organ with the organist facing the organ across the seating area for the choir and speakers.

A new computer-controlled relay system has replaced the original console relays and has been mounted in the organ chamber. This system is designed by Lynton Gough who also designed the Pedal to Great Bottom-note coupler for the Chermside Uniting Church.

Two new ranks, the Principal and the Rohrflute, have been added to the existing pipework which has been voiced and blended to match the new room. A new blower supplies the releathered bellows. A new Victorian Ash showfront with the existing pipes complements the rest of the fittings in the room.

Small extension organs can be quite acceptable if they are well-voiced and are required to provide variety rather than loudness. With the addition of the two new ranks, we are now able to borrow the stops at 2 octave intervals rather than single octaves. This allows the voicer to blend the sounds of the organ with extra latitude; but giving them a more individual quality than if they were borrowed an octave apart. The main advantages of the extension organ are its economy and compactness, yet it still uses pipes to produce a natural sound.

Richard wiring-up the soundboard magnets.

The Console is well situated to survey the whole room.



  • Bourdon 16
  • Open Diapason 8
  • Stopped Flute 8
  • Salicional 8
  • Principal 4
  • Flute 4
  • Twelfth 2 2/3
  • Fifteenth 2
  • Quint 1 1/3
  • Piccolo 1
  • Trumpet 8
  • Clarion 4


  • Bourdon 16
  • Open Diapason 8
  • Stopped Flute 8
  • Salicional 8
  • Principal 4
  • Salicional 4
  • Nazard 2 2/3
  • Salicional 2
  • Tierce 1 3/5
  • Trumpet (Ten C) 16
  • Trumpet 8
  • Clarion 4


  • Bourdon 16
  • Open Diapason 16
  • Stopped Flute 8
  • Salicional 8
  • Quint 5 1/3
  • Principal 4
  • Flute 4
  • Trumpet 8
  • Clarion 4

Disposition of the Ranks:

Flute: Great: Bourdon 16, Stopped Flute 8,

Swell: Bourdon 16, Stopped Flute 8, Nazard 2 2/3

Pedal: Bourdon 16, Stopped Flute 8, Quint 5 1/3

Open Diapason: Great: Open Diapason 8, Fifteenth 2

Swell: Open Diapason 8

Pedal: Open Diapason 8

Salicional: Great: Salicional 8

Swell: Salicional 8. Salicional 4, Salicional 2,

Pedal: Salicional 8

Trumpet: Great: Trumpet 8, Clarion 4

Swell: Trumpet 16 (ten C), Trumpet 8, Clarion 4

Pedal: Trumpet 8, Clarion 4

Principal (new): Great: Principal 4, Twelfth 2 2/3, Quint 1 1/3

Swell: Principal

Pedal: Principal 4

Rohrflute (new): Great: Flute 4, Piccolo 1

Swell: Flute 4, Tierce 1 3/5,

Pedal: Flute 4

Chermside Kedron Uniting Church

We have now completed the installation of this fourteen-stop organ. This instrument is an amalgamation of the 8-stop 1950 Whitehouse Bros pneumatic action organ in Chermside Uniting Church and the 6-stop 1961 Whitehouse Bros electric action instrument in the Strathmore Street Uniting Church, Kedron. These two parishes now operate from the one new building in Gympie Road.

The organ utilises the console from Kedron with the showfront from Chermside. It is located at the front of the church above the vestry and shares its space with the projector unit. The showfront was split to fit the A.V. screen in between and was repainted with the original decoration preserved. This somewhat unusual arrangement works very well. When the congregation looks at the screen for the words of the hymns, the organ sound projects from the same area.

The cone-pallet soundboards were totally refurbished with new valves and polypel puffers throughout. The soundboards were joined and work through a common electric action. A new Clarabella 8′ and Fifteenth 2′ were added to the Great. A new blower was installed and a new wind system was designed that allows some flexibility in the wind. Acoustically, this was a difficult organ to voice. The modern building is full of carpet and has a large amplification system used extensively throughout the services. Annexes can be opened into the main church area to accommodate larger congregations, so the organ had to fill the building to be successful. The wind pressure was set to 4 1/2 inches w.g. to ensure a good projection of the sound and the cut-up of the chorus work was increased to allow a full rich sound without harshness. The organ has already coped with a full congregation comfortably, and yet shows much beauty in its individual stops. Most significantly, the organ is being used in conjunction with the most modern church presentation and technology and is a valuable addition to the modern church. And, yes, it does have a Pedal to Great Coupler that only couples the Pedal notes to the bottom note of any chord played on the Great. This electronic processor was developed by Lynton Gough for this organ to enable reluctant organists to use the Pedal division with the hands only.


(‘C’ = from Chermside  ‘K’ =from Kedron)
8′  Open Diapason (C)
8′  Clarabella (new)
4′  Principal (ex Kedron Open)
4′  Stopped Flute (C)
2′  Fifteenth (new)


8′  Violin Diapason (C)
8′  Salicional (K)
8′  Gedact (C)
4′  Principal (C)
4′  Flute (K)
8′  Oboe (C)
16′ Bourdon  (C)
16′ Cello    (K)
8′  Octave Flute (new)

Great Octave
Swell Super, Swell Sub
Swell to Great, Swell to Great Super, Swell to Great Sub
Great to Pedal,Swell to Pedal
Pedal to Great

St. Andrew’s Anglican Church, South Brisbane

This organ was originally installed at the eastern end of the church on a gallery in 1885, having been sent from J.W. Walker’s and Sons workshops off Tottenham Court Road, London, the preceding year. It was then supplied with two manuals and a single pedal stop, with tracker action throughout.

In the 1930’s the straight pedal board was replaced by a radiating concave one, following the practice of the recently installed Brisbane City Hall instrument.

Later the organ was shifted to the northern transept, closer to the altar at the western end of the building.

More significant change came in the 1950’s when Charles Dirksen enlarged the Pedal department, placing the pipework in the opposite transept, using an electric action.

This was not completely satisfactory, as some of the upper notes were too prominent!

The pedal pipes were brought back to the organ case proper during the extension of the intrument to three manuals by Laurie Pipe Organs of Melbourne at which time the original tracker manual action was replaced by electric as well. The new choir pipes were accommodated in the opposite (southern or liturgical North) transept.

The organ is currently under appraisal for a restoration of the original tracker action, bringing the departments back to the original design.

Albert Street Uniting Church, Brisbane, Queensland

This instrument was originally built by George Benson of Manchester in 1889. At that time the keyboards controlled a mechanical action , with pneumatic action on the pedals. It was enlarged in 1928, and received further enlargement in the subsequent rebuild of 1951( including electrification and replacement of the slider chests by cone-pallet chests), both carried out by Whitehouse Bros. of Brisbane. In 1985 J. W. Walker & Sons (Aust) rebuilt the organ with a new console and some new stops, resulting in the following specification:


   Double Diapason  16' 
   Open Diapason     8'
   Gedact            8' 
   Gamba             8' 
   Principal         4' 
   Harmonic Flute    4' 
   Fifteenth         2' 
   Twelfth        2 2/3' 
   Mixture         III 
   Trumpet           8' 
   Fifteenth         2' 
   Mixture          II 
   Trumpet           8'


   Open Diapason     8' 
   Stop. Diapason    8' 
   Principal         4' 
   Flute             4' 
   Recorder          2' 
   Clarinet          8' 
   Tuba              8' 
   Sesquialtera     II 


   Violin Diapason 8'
   Rohr Flute      8'
   Salicional      8'
   Voix Celestes   8'
   Gemshorn        4'
   Koppel Flute    4'
   Piccolo         2'
   Mixture        III
   Cornopean       8'
   Clarion         4'
   Oboe            8'


   Acoustic Bass  32'
   Open Diapason  16'
   Bourdon        16'
   Cello           8'
   Principal       8'
   Fifteenth       4'
   Schalmei        4' 
   Trombone       16' 


   Swell Super 
   Swell Sub
   Choir Super
   Choir Sub 
   Swell to Great
   Swell to Choir
   Swell to Pedal
   Great to Pedal
   Choir to Pedal
   Choir to Great 



   Five Thumb Pistons on each manual with signal lights. 
   Full Organ reversible with light.
   Great to Pedal toe piston.
   Swell to Great reversible thumb piston.
   Great to Pedal Combination coupled reversible with 
   light by both thumb & toe piston.
   General Cancel.
   Balanced Swell and Choir Box pedals mechanically 

In 2005 a Laukuff electronic capture system with 60 levels was installed by Simon Pierce. This included an extra 12 general pistons, giving much-needed flexibility to an instrument in regular demand for public performance.

St Stephen’s chapel, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Brisbane

This organ uses some parts of the Fincham Chamber organ which was known around Brisbane as ‘the Liturgical Organ’. It was decided to permantly house the organ in this chapel and to rebuild it to suit. The soundboard was cut down and all the foot-holes reworked. New pallets, keys, wind system and action were fitted. The pipework was rescaled and revoiced. The Stopt Diapason 8′ and Principal 2′ each have 3 octaves of new pipes to ensure that the organ suited the building. The new casework is made from French-polished Tasmanian Oak and the doors match the shape of Pugin’s West-end window. The stop knobs are turned ebony.

The top of the case has a lid in it to enable the sound to be directed to the ceiling of the chapel. Whilst this does not increase the volume, it does make the tone warmer and projects the sound better when the chapel is full. The separate stopped pipes on the side of the case help to identify that it is a pipe organ when the doors are shut. This also enables a larger scaling on the Stopt Diapason to provide a good foundation for organ tone.

The small organ offers a different playing experience to the organist. The sensitivity of the keys allow control over the attack and release of the pipes, making for nuances in the articulation not normally available in larger organs. Here, the organist hears the sound and speech first allowing for a more personal approach to the music. Of course, the voicing of each pipe in this situation is paramount to ensure the beauty and quality of tone audible not only to the congregation but the organist sitting two feet away.

8'     Gedacht
4'     Rohrflute
2'     Principal
1 1/3' Quint