WILLIS ORGAN

History of the Organ

 

In 1862 Henry Willis supplied an instrument of two manuals and pedals for use in the original wooden church. After completion of the new church in 1905, this instrument was placed directly on the floor of the South Transept, rather than the purpose-designed, Triforium-level organ chamber provided in the Pearson design for the new stone church.

 

The new church, being over eight times the volume of the original church, rendered the old Willis organ greatly inadequate for the job and in 1938 it was decided to rebuild the organ, the contract being awarded to Ernest Lawson of Aberdeen, who had set up in business with a local man by the name of Osborne. Lawson and Osborne carried out a substantial rebuilding of the organ. In the 1970s there were further modifications made by the local firm of Croft. By this time there was little of the original instrument surviving, though there were several reusable original ranks.

 

Henry Willis & Sons was invited by St Matthew’s in 2006 to appraise the instrument and to recommend a course of action; other recommendations and quotations already having been received from other firms. Their proposal was that only the usable surviving pipework should be retained (amounting to parts of five manual stops) and that an otherwise new instrument of four manuals and 58 stops should be designed and constructed, to be placed within Pearson's organ chamber, and with new cases for both the Transept and the Chancel elevations.

 

The Vestry of St Matthew's had expressed a desire for the new organ to be as much in the style of ‘Father’ Willis as possible, thus maintaining the historical link. Henry Willis & Sons was able to offer an almost complete Father Willis Great Chorus of 1889 and a Father Willis Swell Chorus, both from an instrument from a famous Edinburgh church. All other pipework was to be new, to historical ’Willis’ scales and voiced by Henry Willis and Sons.

 

The entire structure and mechanism of the organ was designed and built to be accommodated within the confines of the space provided by Pearson. The design fully utilises the ’well’ to the south side of the chamber, to house the Pedal basses and the wind reservoirs of the Great, Swell, Choir and Pedal organs — the two reservoirs for the Solo organ are situated directly beneath the Solo Tubas soundboard in the Chancel case.

 

The organ was consecrated at a special service on Sunday, 25 September 2011 (St Matthew’s Day),

for which the then Director of Music, Michael CW Bell composed the ‘Mass for the Patronal Feast’.

Our current Director of Music, Paul Chan, has enjoyed exploring the wide range of tonal colours of the organ and is planning to compose a Mass setting for the St Matthew’s Voices and the Willis Organ.

 

Materials

 

The building frame of the organ is made entirely of American Poplar with fittings of Mahogany.

The Swell and Choir boxes are of the most substantial construction, with a minimum wall thickness of 70mm. The swell shutters are of solid timber, running on double ball bearings. The Manual and Pedal Soundboards are of traditional bar-and-slider construction, designed to withstand all climatic conditions. The soundboard underactions (to a new design made specifically for this instrument)

are built entirely from Mahogany.

 

The console is of solid Oak, simply waxed. The Keys are of Ivory (naturals) and Macassar Ebony (sharps).

 

The Drawstop stems are of Macassar Ebony and run in Rosewood collar bushes.

 

The three Cases are of European oak, simply waxed, and are supported from the floor of the Triforium organ chamber.

 

 

Technical Details

 

GREAT

1. Contre Bourdon                

2. Double Open Diapason   

3. Open diapason No 1         

4. Open diapason No 2        

5. Dulciana                            

6. Claribel flute                    

7. Principal                            

8. Harmonic flute                 

9. Twelfth                               

10. Fifteenth                          

11. Mixture                           

12. Trumpet                          

13. Clarion                             

 

SWELL (enclosed)
14. Bourdon                         

15. Open Diapason             

16. Lieblich Gedact             

17. Salicional                        

18. Vox Celeste                    

19. Gemshorn                    

20. Flute couverte

21. Fifteenth

22. Mixture

23. Oboe

24. Contra Fagotto

25. Trumpet

Tremolo


CHOIR (enclosed)
26. Open Diapason

27. Hohl Flute

28. Viola da Gamba

29. Vox angelica

30. Concert Flute

31. Nazard

32. Harmonic Piccolo

33. Tierce

34. Posaune

35. Corno de Bassetto

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notable Willis organs include those in St Pauls, Westminster, Salisbury, Liverpool, and Truro Cathedrals.

Others are in cathedrals in Aberdeen, Calcutta, Canterbury, Durham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hereford, Lincoln and Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. There are many more in churches and halls in England. Windsor Castle had a Willis organ until it was destroyed by fire in 1992.

In Australia a 4,600 pipes organ built in 1892 was originally installed in the Brisbane Exhibition Building but in 1927 was moved to the Brisbane City Hall.

32

16

8

8

8

8

4

4

2 2/3

2

3-4 rank

8

4

 

 

16

8

8

8

8

4

4

2

4 ranks

8

16

8

 

 

 

8

8

8

8

4

2 2/3

2

1 3/5

8

8

SOLO

36. Flute Harmonique

37. Bombarde

37. Tuba

38. Tuba clarion

39. Trompette Militaire

Tremolo (only acts on 36)

 

PEDAL

41. Contra Bourdon

42. Open diapason

43. Violone

44. Bourdon

45. Quint

46. Octave

47. Violoncello

48. Bass Flute

49. Decima

50. Octave Quint

51. Septieme

52. Super Octave

53. Octave Flute

54. Contre Bombarde

55. Ophicleide

56. Contra Fagotto

57. Trumpet

58. Clarion

8

16

8

4

8

 

 

 

32

16

16

16

10 2/3

8

8

8

2/5

1/3

4/7

4

4

32

16

16

8

4

Number of Pipes = 3004