The 2016 Organ of St Pauls Anglican Church, Ipswich
There was also the problem that the organ contained pipework from various rebuilds which never properly blended.
My letter of 22nd February 2005 to Steven Moore, the organist at the time, sums up the main objectives and details an organ case that would reflect the Walker origins. I proposed three options- a two-manual, and two three manual specifications all using mechanical action and slider soundboards.
The following excerpts from this letter give my basic rational for my proposal:
On reflection, I was glad to receive your letter as it has made me review my thoughts about St Paul’s without thinking necessarily about the historical content, but by making the best organ possible for the building. After my Churchill Fellowship to the USA in 2001 I learnt the usefulness of high pressure, high cut-up chorus work to fill and project into the building. I have visited St Paul’s for weddings when the building has been full of people. I was surprised how small the organ sounded. I still think my two manual proposals would be adequate but I then thought of adding a large symphonic chorus to this proposal so that the organ fills the whole building spectacularly. The present Great of St Paul’s could be made into the Choir (with minor alterations), my Swell proposal stays the same, and a full and symphonic Great be designed to complement these divisions. It is important to note that the integrity of the original 1860 Walker can still be maintained in this proposal. All the original stops are together on the same soundboard (on both the Swell and the Choir). Therefore the original organ could still be played on any of these proposals. Two years ago, I acquired the 1904 George Fincham & Sons organ from the Grahame Memorial Presbyterian Church, Waverley, New South Wales, containing 14 stops. The pipework of this organ is large and full and would make an excellent basis for any additions to St Paul’s. This would preserve the Fincham pipework and is also more cost effective. This organ filled a building that seated three hundred people.
This was the vision that basically formed the organ rebuild or restoration. You can see by the specification at the end of this article that it includes pipework from eight different periods and 5 different builders! A bold scheme indeed, but many well-known organ builders had revoiced and amalgamated pipework from various builders when building what were to become famous organs. It was an interesting idea.
Let me detail how we approached the various problems this rebuild sought to address.
As mentioned above, we needed to restore the Walker pipework to mechanical action slider soundboards to get the original 'steely' sound. Michael Dudman had used this term to me in a conversation and it seemed very apt. We also, therefore needed to wind the pipework with double-rise bellows at the original 75 mm (3") wind pressure.
We designed the case so that the central showfront was the original 1860 showfront with the original Open Diapason pipes. This necessitated that the Choir would be at the front of the organ in the position usually reserved for the Great. The Swell was positioned at the back of the organ slighter higher than the Great to project better.
The Great was thus positioned in the middle of the organ with its own double-rise bellows at 100 mm (4") wind pressure. This addressed the central problem I saw with the organ. From my experience, as the old organ increased in power, the sound became lost and muffled in the church. It was if the Church absorbed more sound, and especially upperwork, when more stops were added. It was not just a question of position. The organ needed to fill this large church when it had a full congregation and the idea of having a large 'Great' to take on this acoustical problem was developed. Originally it was meant to be based on the Fincham pipework but in the end only two Fincham stops were used on the Great. Six stops consisting of the Tromba, the Flutes and the upperwork are new.
Also by having a full, broad sound it would be complimented and enlivened by the steely and pungent Choir and Swell. A Yin and Yang if you like. By the same logic, the Pedals were winded off the Great bellows at 100mm so that they would have enough power to project into the Church. The 16' wooden Open Diapason was
positioned on the treble side of the manual soundboards and the Flute and Pedals reeds on the bass.
As a basic rule, the Choir and Swell could accompany a church up to half full without any problems for most service work. The Great would be needed for larger occasions.
The organ needed to be in the best possible position for reliability and achieve the maximum projection of sound into the far corners of the church. This meant that the 1888 position in the left or liturgical North transept was the best place.
It was in fact the South facing transept and was the coolest and most stable area of the church. This was important for reliable mechanical action.The manual soundboards were positioned above head height but low enough to speak into the nave through a side arch. The Swell shutters aim straight through this arch for this maximum projection. The top panels of the bass-side case were filled with brown cloth to further permit the sound to travel through this important arch and the Pedal reed soundboard was kept low for the same reason.
There were some parameters that had to be met. The organ case had to be low enough to allow the two transept windows to be viewed over the show front but high enough to miss the heritage listed wooden screen in front of the doors at the rear of the transept. The case also had to allow access from these doors down either side from the vestries behind the transept.
The front case was cantilevered so that the view of the side chapel was preserved from the side aisle. This has meant a few large pipes of the Great may be seen over the front case when viewed from certain positions but this was the compromise necessary to achieve the main goals.
The action is the same design as our new organ at All Saints' Church, Wickham Terrace. This has proved extremely reliable and yet still sensitive in the sub-tropical climate of Queensland. Whilst we have built wooden actions for smaller organs, aluminium actions were the best for large ones. The aluminium trackers are run in a floating aluminium frame that also contains the squares and roller boards. The frame is only fixed at the keyboards and the pallet table. Likewise, the pallets are made of aluminium.
The new soundboards were based on traditional English layouts for the pipes and bars to ensure the pipes received plenty of wind. They were built using our CNC router in-house which sped up the building process considerably. The router was used for the rollerboards and parts of the casework.
The stop action is worked by large electric solenoids which allows a modern capture system to be used. We used the Artisan system for this which we programmed in-house.
The winding has been discussed elsewhere but it is interesting to note that the Choir Bourdon and Great Open Diapason II still sit on their restored Whitehouse cone-pallet chests so that they can be borrowed. This is the only borrowing in the organ. The electric couplers work by the magnets in the soundboards through which the mechanical
pull-downs run. It has proved reliable and quick.
The 'proof of the pudding is in the eating' as they say. It is better to listen to the organ to make your own judgement. However, I believe we have achieved a real tonal blend with all the disparate pipework. The organ has a real presence throughout the building and, yet, the quietest stops can be heard at the back of the church when full of people. The reeds are distinctive and full of colour. The choruses are vigorous and the flutes have great charm.
This good variety of tones and colours making it an ideal recital instrument. I believe it is possible to hear the original Walker sound and character in the original 1860 pipework. I am very pleased we have achieved this. But it is just as important that this pipework also then blends and creates a new vision with rest of the other pipework. I believe it is now difficult to pick the multitude of origins of the pipework when you are sitting at the console.
The Great Mixture needs a special mention. It is not a lightly voiced stop to sit on top of the Great chorus. It was designed as a " 16' Plein Jeu' with plenty of body and gravitas to be used to brighten the full organ when the building is absorbing all the upperwork. As such, it is very successful and gives the organ a certain character. It can be used alone with the Great chorus as it is not sharp. It is typical of some of the big mixtures of Classical and Romantic organs.
I can only quote a recent email from the present organist, Ross Windsor
I am really pleased with the voicing, tuning and operation of the organ... The tonal finishing has really made a difference and there is a real cohesion about the sound now. Given the weather we have been having over the past week or so, the reed tuning stability is impressive. I truly believe the instrument now does most of the repertoire very successfully. In particular, the instrument plays the French Romantic, French Baroque, German Baroque and English 18th and early 19th Century repertoire very well indeed. We have very few instruments in this country well suited to playing English Trumpet and Cornet Voluntaries of the 18th century - this repertoire is a particular joy to play on this instrument.
Charles Clark, the well-known Brisbane Church Music Identity writes
Swell and Choir together are useful for much of the requirements of week by week liturgy; but then there is the Great. The Great contains some lovely ranks of pipes and as it is named, produces a bigger, firmer sound than the other two departments. Combined Great, Swell and Choir are capable of producing a big sound which, with the addition of the reed ranks, can be excitingly brusque and festive; too big perhaps for average Sunday worship, but essential for those big festive and civil/community occasions and for recitals. The Pedal Department has a satisfying range of ranks to produce the under-pinning support for all tonal and dynamic levels
New, Rebuild or Restoration?
Lastly, what exactly have we done? Is it a Restoration, Rebuild or New organ?
Is this organ Classical, Symphonic or Romantic?
The casework, console, action, one bellows, all wind trunks and the blowers, together with four of the slider soundboards are all new. And yet, as I have pointed out, the historical elements of this organ are still present and distinctive, even in the way we have designed the new parts. We have also used the latest technology to build the organ. We extensively used a cnc router in its manufacture and the angels on the top of the case are 3D printed.
The pipework is a mix from over 150 years and a total of three organs. It ranges from the rather classical sound of the Walker through to the Edwardian and Twenties additions and then on to the Neo Baroque pipework added in 1975, completed by the 2016 additions. I believe it can only be successful when each rank sings its own story whilst blending or paying homage to those around it. Far from changing or disguising history, the pipework must be its own tale.
Perhaps it is like our modern penchant for telling our own stories with the myths and sagas of our forefathers. "Game of Thrones" or even "The Lord of the Rings" are cloaked with history but could they have been written or filmed as they are in any other age? Perhaps this organ is like them, a mixture of all these elements that is worth the telling.