Organ update with James Atherton

24 July 2023NewsMedia Release

James Atherton from Nicolson & Co Limited (Nicholsons) Organ specialists, UK visited the site in March 23 to support the Organ removal by South Island Organ company. 

The organ has been construction cleaned, boxed, and components including 64 speaking stops and nearly 4000 pipes assessed for future use.  The reused pipes are now in storage until they are sent to Nicholsons in late 2024 to be used in the fabrication of a new organ.

Nicholsons plan to incorporate elements into the new organ from all the builders to preserve its rich history. For example:

• Leading British organ-builders William Hill & Son (of London) in 1881/2 Made the original organ.
• In 1926/7 the organ was almost entirely replaced and much enlarged by Hill, Norman & Beard, with tonal additions, a new mechanism and a new console.
• External casework,designed at Bishop Warren’s invitation by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, was added as late as 1966 on both the west and south sides of the organ gallery
• NZ’s South Island Organ Company (SIOC) rebuilt the organ during 1979-1980, modernising the mechanism and making tonal alterations with eleven new stops Additional work was carried out by the SIOC in 1991, 1999 and 2006, including adding a mobile console situated on the south transept area of the nave floor.  

During James’ visit he was ecstatic to find the rare Harmonic Clarabella stop.

The stop is beautifully made of the finest pine, open to the bottom c (itself quite rare).

The pipes are called ‘harmonic’ because in the middle octave they are double the speaking length, but with a hole drilled into the front face. This makes the pipe over-blow and speaks one octave above its speaking length creating the most beautiful flute-tone imaginable. We are only aware of two other examples of this stop (there will be others but more research is required to find out how many).

Rugby School Chapel has one in the Solo organ, and Norwich Cathedral, until very recently, had one in their Solo organ. This has since been moved to another department of the rebuilt organ and revoiced, rather a shame.

To say that I was excited to discover one of these ranks, in its original condition, in the organ at Christchurch is somewhat of an understatement. We will carefully restore this stop in our workshop, and it will once more sing into the reinstated Cathedral in 2027, a sound I cannot wait to hear!

James Atherton, Head Voicer