ST GILES ORGAN


 
A project to rebuild and modernise the organ at St.Giles was started in January 2019, with an expectation that it would be finished in time for Easter.  This turned out to be very optimistic.  A number of difficulties were encountered along the way, and the work was not completed fully until toward the end of the year.  A period of settling in then started and this was still underway when Covid19 hit. Use of the organ had to be suspended, together with the opportunity to complete the fine tuning.

The project was managed by our Organist Clive Brearley, and he produced a number of progress reports while the work was underway. These were published on this website during 2019.  Now that all is complete, Clive has gone on to prepare a comprehensive description and history of the organ, drawing on material written by past organists.


The full document is available as a pdf download, the link to which is at the bottom of this page. Here is the introduction to set the scene.


Introduction

Little about the St. Giles organs seems to have been documented in the past. On occasions when considerable expense has been involved little is recorded concerning how it all happened and there are a couple of occasions when lesser works were carried out but the only thing we have recording it is a brass plate on the wall. As a church organ is usually the most expensive single item in a church building this seemed a bit of a shame so I have tried to bring together everything that we know, adding in a few things that we don't know but can take a fairly good guess at and make it into some sort of a record. There would have been far wider gaps and (even more) inaccuracies had it not been for the help of John Wade, who was assistant organist at St. Giles in the 1960s. Most of the history of the organ up to 1963 is his work and the guesses are mine.

When organists discuss what to do about an organ project the conversation quickly degenerates to jargon. Pneumatics, power motors, sliderless soundboards, 'bad breaks in yer mixture', reversible pistons, Swell engines, ODs, mounted cornets, stop solenoids, mutations, beards, open foot, closed foot, nicking..........the list is endless. The terminology has built up over many years and is very handy if you want to blind people with science. The eyes of the clergy, treasurers, PCC members and congregation glaze over quickly, they give up trying to understand and leave it to the organist to argue the toss with organ builders, Diocesan representatives etc. Of course, organists just might be more keen on satisfying their ego rather than putting the needs of the church first and sometimes get away with having expensive work done that suits them but not necessarily the needs of the Parish. Organists have in the past sometimes been attracted to playing the organ due the amount of noise they can make and the complex mechanisms but things have changed: plenty of other opportunities for playing around with technology have emerged through the years and now organists tend to be much more interested in craftsmanship and artistry and making a musical sound. It is something of a challenge to be involved with a project like the St. Giles organ. There are so many reasons why perfection will not be achieved. But no organ is perfect.

Whilst what follows is primarily for record purposes and, while I have tried to make it readable, some of it will probably seem a bit 'dry' to non-organists. I hope that those who are interested in what has been done through the years will want to read it all. In an attempt to facilitate this, where I have used terms that make no sense to the non-organist and not explained them in the text I have included them in a sort of glossary of jargon at the end in the hope that non-organists can get some idea of what I'm on about. I have tried not to make this too involved so there are generalisations and by no means every term is explained. The terms included in the glossary are shown in the text in Italics. I have also included a bit about the role of the organ in the Anglican Church through the years in an attempt to give a background to why things happened when they did and to put things into perspective.

Download full History (pdf)

Clive Brearley