Our organ: The Facts...
The Sir Malcolm Sargent Memorial Organ in St Mary’s Church, Melton Mowbray
The earliest mention of an organ in St Mary’s Church was in 1547 but the history of the present instrument dates from 1832. In 2017 the organ was part of a massive reordering project in the church and a full refurbishment and extension of the organ was undertaken. The following information and the revised specification have kindly been put together by Paul Hale, our organ consultant for the refurbishment.
*Our popular Lunchtime Organ Recitals begin again in St Mary's Church, Melton Mowbray, on 9th October. For a list of who is playing when click here.
The Restored Organ, by Paul Hale
The organ in St Mary’s started out in 1832 as a small one-manual instrument, built by John Gray of London. Moved to the chancel in 1850 it was enlarged with the addition of a Swell manual, then rebuilt again in 1869 and 1880, when a third manual, the Choir Organ, was added.
In 1896/7 William Hill & Son completely rebuilt and again enlarged the instrument in the current organ chamber on the north side of the chancel, speaking into the chancel and down the nave. This was the organ played by Malcolm Sargent during his ten years as organist and choirmaster at St Mary’s from 1914.
A minor restoration by Haydn Morton of Oakham in 1929/30 was spoiled by war damage in 1941, necessitating a complete post-war reconstruction. This was carried out in 1955 by J. W. Walker of London, resulting in the organ we see today, with a Choir Organ on the south side of the chancel, a fine pair of oak cases containing the bulk of the organ on the north side and a large detached console. Walkers added many pipes and stops and left behind them a modern instrument of cathedral size and quality.
In recent years the 1955 wiring and electrical switchgear has – unsurprisingly – become worn out, unreliable and on the verge of becoming a fire hazard, as all the low voltage cabling was insulated with cotton or rubber. The organ was very dirty, some of the pipes were blocking others and many pipes and mechanisms were in need of repair, refurbishment or replacement. In addition, after being played for over sixty years – decades in which the physical and tonal design of organs has moved on in leaps and bounds – the instrument was considered by musicians to be seriously under-performing as an organ fit for twenty-first century liturgical and concert use.
The long-established Nottingham firm of Henry Groves & Son (under the direction of Jonathan Wallace) was contracted to restore and enhance the organ. The console was sent to Renatus of Bideford, specialists in building and rebuilding consoles, and in installing organ control systems. It has been completely rebuilt, on a mobile platform, with new keyboards and all its electrical components replaced. The pipework has all been cleaned and restored, with some ranks moved to allow them to speak out better, and some significant new stops added: a 32ft Contra Trombone, a Great Cornet (five ranks of pipes), a Choir Celeste, Fifteenth, Tierce, Mixture (three ranks of pipes): in all, more than 200 additional pipes.
All mechanisms have either been restored or replaced, the whole organ re-wired, and the wind system releathered or repaired, with two additional small wind regulators. The organ blowers have been restored by a blower specialist. The oak cases have been re-stained to match the other new oak woodwork in the north transept and the lower panelling has been elegantly pierced to help let out the sound of those ranks which sit near the floor.
The organ now has 69 speaking stops, and a full modern complement of controls, including the ability to ‘play itself’ once an organist has recorded a performance at the console. In musical flexibility and variety, it is the most significant organ in the county, along with the famous (if smaller) Harrison & Harrison organ in Leicester Cathedral. It will now serve St Mary’s with added distinction for many decades to come.
In 2010 the instrument was dedicated as the Sir Malcolm Sargent Memorial Organ in memory of his time at St Mary’s.
SPECIFICATION AS REVISED, 2018
GREAT ORGAN rank
1 Double Open Diapason 16 B trebles under main Great
2 Contra Gedeckt 16 A on Swell box roof
3 Open Diapason No.1 8
4 Open Diapason No.2 8
5 Open Diapason No.3 8 B under main Great
6 Wald Flute 8
7 Gedeckt 8 A on Swell box roof
9 Octave 4 replacement treble
9 Principal 4 B under main Great
10 Harmonic Flute 4
11 Twelfth 22/3
12 Fifteenth 2
13 Mixture 17.19.22 III breaks on C25 [12.15.19], G#45 [8.12.15]
14 Sharp Mixture 26.29 II breaks on C13, C25, C37, C49
15 Cornet (G20 to G56) 188.8.131.52.17 V new, on Swell box roof
16 Double Trumpet 16 C trebles under main Great
17 Tromba 8 D under main Great
18 Trumpet 8 C under main Great
19 Clarion 4 C under main Great
Swell to Great
Choir to Great
SWELL ORGAN enclosed (stepless electric swell engine)
20 Open Diapason 8
21 Stopped Diapason 8
22 Salicional 8
23 Voix Celeste (ten.C) 8 tuned flat
24 Principal 4
25 Suabe Flute 4
26 Twelfth 22/3
27 Fifteenth 2
28 Mixture 22.26.29 III breaks on F#19, F#31, F#43, F#55
29 Oboe 8
30 Double Trumpet 16 bass / tenor loudened to match treble
31 Cornopean 8
32 Clarion 4
CHOIR ORGAN [unit chests – main one new] enclosed in a box with shutters in the roof
and facing across the Chancel to the North.
33 Contra Gamba 16 E
34 Lieblich Bourdon 16 F
35 Open Diapason 8 H
36 Lieblich Gedeckt 8 F
37 Viola da Gamba 8 E
38 Voix Celeste (ten.c.) 8 vintage rank introduced
39 Prestant 4 H
40 Lieblich Flute 4 F
41 Gambette 4 E
42 Nazard 22/3 F
43 Fifteenth 2 H a new extension
44 Flautino 2 F
45 Tierce 13/5 new, flute tone
46 Mixture 22.26.29 III new, 37-notes repeating at C25 and C49
47 Double Clarinet (ten.C) 16 I
48 Clarinet 8 I
49 Contra Tromba 16 D/M using Ophicleide bass
50 Tromba 8 D
51 Trumpet 8 C
52 Clarion 4 C
Choir Octave in place of Doubles Off
Great to Choir in place of Double Touch Cancelling
Swell to Choir
St Mary's Church Musical Director, James Gutteridge, at the completely rebuilt organ console.