SOME QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

about the

CATHEDRAL ORGAN REBUILD

1.                  When was the present instrument installed?

After the Napier Earthquake in 1931 a 3 manual (keyboard) instrument originally built by the English organ builders, T C Lewis, was purchased from Knox Church in Dunedin and placed in the temporary pro-cathedral. This organ was reconditioned and enlarged by J Lee of Feilding when the present cathedral was opened in 1960.

The larger present instrument was built and installed 35 years ago in 1974 by G Croft and Son, Auckland. Parts of the present instrument still contain the original Lewis pipes.                   

 

2.                  How big is the present instrument?

The present instrument contains nearly 3000 pipes.

The current specification features 53 different speaking "stops" or ranks of different pipes. Each rank consists of 61 pipes corresponding with the 61 notes on a manual, or 32 pipes if it is played on the pedals.

 3.                  What are the other parts of the organ?

The pipes sit on sound boards which contain the mechanism to select which pipes will play. The electro-pneumatic action under each pipe involves electro-magnets, leather pallets, air inlet and exhaust valves.

Nine boards of solid state resistors and capacitors convey the required instructions. Air is supplied from a large electric blower which feeds a series of large bellows which in turn feed the soundboards. Air pressure is also used to open and close the shutters of the "swell - box" - a chamber which contains about ¼ of the pipes and is used to create a crescendo effect when required. All this is operated from the console on the opposite side of the cathedral which is connected to the chamber by 100's of wires (similar to former telephone connections).

 4.                  How is it played?

It is played from the organ console which has three manuals and a pedal board, stop knobs which cause a rank of pipes to sound when they are pulled on, other stops which connect the different manuals/pedal board as required, a crescendo pedal to operate the swell- box, and "piston" buttons under each keyboard which select different groups of stops at the push of a button and can be set when the back of the console is removed.                                 

 

5.                  What is involved in the restoration?

o        Well first of all there is the need to remove 35 years accumulation of dirt and dust, to clean and check and adjust all the pipes and mechanism in the sound boards and replace if necessary.

o        It is appropriate to replace keyboards, the blower, swell shutters and other moving parts so that they may provide another 35 years of service.

 

o        It is also a time to introduce digital technology, install a humidifier and make any appropriate additions to the instrument reflecting the requirements and use of the instrument today.                                      

 6.                  Why do we have to do this now?

We are at a stage where parts of the organ are no longer working. It is becoming increasingly unreliable. Visiting organists and recitalists expect an instrument of this size and calibre to have digital technology (computers) to preset registrations and assist with their playing. Better cathedral heating in the winter and the dry summers demand more sophisticated humidifiers rather than the crude approach of twenty or so buckets of water currently scattered around under the instrument.

 

7.                  What other additions are being made?

The cathedral organ has always been regarded as a fine classical instrument in the European style. A rebuild and restoration also provides an opportunity to further enhance and make additions to the instrument. It is proposed to add a further rank of pipes to two of the manuals and to add a fourth manual with further ranks of pipes increasing the variety of sound and creating greater flexibility for the player. Four manual instruments are the norm in many cathedrals and other large venues.

 

8.                  What are the costs of the rebuild?

The total cost if $746,000, which includes the pipes for the fourth manual.  This is the ultimate goal, but the current focus is on the work listed above.  A contract to do this work for $618,000 has been signed with the South Island Organ Company.  So, we need an additional $150,000 to complete this stage of the project.  Preliminary work has begun, and the organ will be dismantled and removed from the Cathedral in January 2012.

 

9.                  What happens if we are unable to raise this money?

The fourth manual and additional pipe work will be deferred;  they could be installed at a later date as/when funds became available. 

10.              Who uses the organ?

The cathedral organ is put to much use - and not only for regular services.

  • It has featured in recordings and on TV. 
  • It has attracted concerts by visiting artists, choirs and orchestras.
  • It is used on many occasions by local choirs, orchestras, school events, ecumenical and civic occasions.
  • It is also a teaching facility for students young and old.

 

 

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