Refurbished Grand Temple pipe organ wins silver industry award
Hayles and Howe are very proud to be able to showcase and highlight their involvement in the installation of a new organ case in the Grand Temple of the Grade II * listed Art Deco, Freemasons' Hall in London
'The organ case takes pride of place and is very well executed,' said the judges. 'One might suggest the enriched mouldings – made of composite resin – is not a plastering award entry, but the skills used in taking copies of existing enrichments and adapting them to make new ones certainly are plastering skills.'
The commission was to create a new organ case in composite resin replicating the detailed enrichments of the two original organ cases situated on the side walls of the temple. The new organ casing though wider and projecting further forward than the originals successfully fulfilled this brief creating a focal point in the Grand Temple.
The Hayles and Howe team took great care in taking over 12 thixotropic moulds from the enrichments on one of the original organ cases. The Bristol workshop replicated the detailing in plaster, remodeling ornament to create master moulds prior to casting all the required positives in composite resin.
The Hayles and Howe project manager and site foreman liaised closely with Laurence Beckford, Carver, Howard Bros Joiners and Adam Architecture to ensure the project was completed on time and within budget.
Charles Grace, the client’s representative said: 'We are very glad to have had the expertise of Hayles and Howe on this important project. I have been most impressed with the skill these craftsmen showed in taking moulds of very intricate and delicate decorations, and we are all delighted with the end result.'
Henry Willis and Sons built the original organ casings in 1933. The new section supplements and greatly improves the sound of the refurbished main organ, thanks to the skills of the organ builders, Harrison and Harrison of Durham.
Notice of the silver award was given in the Magazine of the Finishes and Interiors Sector
Striking the right chord
Freemasonry Today caught up with renowned musician Thomas Trotter as he practised on the Grand Temple’s newly refurbished pipe organ for its inaugural concert
The pipes of the Grand Temple organ positively gleam as Thomas Trotter runs through the programme for a special concert to be held in the Temple the next day. The organ’s restoration has used enough gold leaf to cover the surface of a tennis court and introduced a new organ chamber in the centre of the Temple’s east wall. As he practises, Trotter’s hands dance over the three manuals while his feet expertly work the pedals beneath to create an epic sound from Bach’s Toccata in F.
The concert will not only be the culmination of the organ’s refurbishment but also the first of many celebratory events linked to the 2017 Tercentenary. One of Britain’s most widely admired musicians, Trotter is looking forward to playing to a full house: ‘The Grand Temple is a unique space, it’s incredibly plush and sumptuous. The carpets dampen the sound quite a lot so I’m going to have to work hard.’
A grand history
The organ was built by Freemason Henry Willis III for the inauguration of the Grand Temple in 1933.
It included numerous state-of-the-art developments that Willis had adopted following visits to the US, many of which were designed to help the instrument cope with its setting: a modern, efficiently heated building. Some 80 years of accumulated wear, however, threatened to irreparably damage the tonal accuracy of its pipes.
Thanks to funding from the Supreme Grand Chapter’s reserves, organ builders Harrison & Harrison of Durham have been able to restore the instrument to its former glory, retaining its console, mechanism and pipework. The projection and presence of the sound has been markedly improved by giving a greater degree of opening to the expressive swell enclosures, within which much of the pipework is situated, and also by removing heavy fabric hangings from the east wall.
‘The curtaining would have soaked up the sound like a sponge. Now with the marble walls exposed, the sound is reflected off into the hall. It’s like having your windows cleaned – before it would have been a bit musty and unfocused,’ says Trotter. ‘I’m thrilled that people are still spending money on their instruments and buying new ones. There are far fewer organ builders than there were 50 years ago, but the standard is as high as it’s ever been.’
‘All the comments I have received show that the audience really liked being able to see Thomas’s remarkable dexterity, as well as hear the beauty of his playing.’ Charles Grace
Past in tune with present
The refurbishment has seen the addition of a new case on the east wall, clad to match the original design. It contains a chorus of five stops, balanced to augment rather than dominate the Willis sound, and a solo stop for special occasions – the Grand Tuba. ‘In the recital I’m going to use some of the old pipes and compare it with the new stops, which have made a big difference and are quite striking.’
The Grand Temple is in good company, with the organs at Westminster Cathedral and Liverpool Cathedral also built by Henry Willis III. ‘Every organ is different, but there are certain characteristics that follow through all the Henry Willis III organs and I can hear them here,’ says Trotter. ‘There’s a certain brightness about some of the stops that are representative of what Willis was doing in the 1930s.’
As the audience take their seats in the Grand Temple the next day, there is an almost palpable sense of expectation about how the organ will sound. With Trotter hidden behind the organ, a camera positioned behind his shoulder will stream his performance onto the wall of the Temple for the audience to see. He does not disappoint.
‘I was very pleased with the way the concert was received,’ says Charles Grace, Project Manager for the Grand Temple organ restoration. ‘All the comments I have received show that the audience really liked being able to see Thomas’s remarkable dexterity, as well as hear the beauty of his playing.’
In addition to performing pieces by Bach and masonic composers Mozart and Liszt, Trotter plays Reginald Goss-Custard’s Chelsea Fayre. It’s a fitting nod to the instrument’s proud history, with Goss-Custard’s brother Harry the recitalist at the opening of the Temple organ in 1933.
Thomas Trotter has performed as a soloist with conductors Sir Simon Rattle, Bernard Haitink and the late Sir Charles Mackerras, among many others. He regularly gives recitals in venues such as the Berlin Philharmonie; Leipzig’s Gewandhaus; the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam; the Musikverein and the Konzerthaus in Vienna; and London’s Royal Festival and Royal Albert Halls. In 2012 he was named International Performer of the Year by the New York Chapter of the American Guild of Organists.
Letters to the Editor - No. 33 Spring 2016
Among your readers there may be many who enjoyed the inaugural organ concert given by Thomas Trotter last September.
This year, again as part of the UGLE Tercentenary celebrations, there will be two further hour-long concerts.
The first will take place at 5pm on Wednesday, 8 June, featuring Ian Tracey, organist at Liverpool Cathedral, in a wide-ranging programme.
As before, you will be able to see what the organist is doing, with a filmed display on the walls of the Grand Temple. Tickets (for which there is no charge) can be booked at https://goo.gl/zHW67w, and I do hope that many will take advantage of what should be another great occasion.
Charles Grace, Project Manager for the Grand Temple Organ, Freemasons’ Hall, London
Grand organ rings out again
The final part of the renovation of the Willis organ in the Grand Temple has been completed, with the front panel of the console now in place. The refurbished organ was played for the first time at the two Investiture meetings in April.
The organ was renovated at the Harrison & Harrison workshop in Durham before being reinstalled in the Grand Temple in January 2015. In the meantime, the new case was built over the console on the east wall. Project Manager Charles Grace thanked the craftsmen who worked on the organ and said: ‘I hope it will be used for many recitals in the years ahead.’ The inaugural concert will be given by the celebrated organist Thomas Trotter on 30 September.
Tickets for this event are now sold out.
11 March 2015
Order of Service to Masonry citation for VW Bro Charles Raymond Grace, PGSwdB
Bro Charles Grace was made a mason in October, 1966, at the age of 27, in his old school lodge, Old Marlburian Lodge, No. 3533, in London and became its Master in 1983. In the meantime he had joined, and in 1981 served in the Chair of, St. George's Lodge of Harmony, No. 32 in Liverpool, where he was at the time working in shipping. He is a member and Past Master of three other lodges in London. He was exalted into the Royal Arch in Jerusalem Chapter, No. 32 in 1978, and ten years later joined Old Union Chapter, No. 46 in London, becoming its First Principal in 1997. He is a member of two other London chapters.
Bro Grace was appointed to the office of Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies in the Craft in 1997 and that of Grand Standard Bearer in the Royal Arch in 2000. With the evolving reorganisation of London masonry he was promoted, as one of over twenty Group Chairmen under "London Management", to Junior Grand Deacon in 2000. On the formation of the Metropolitan Grand Lodge (and Chapter) of London in October 2003, he became the Metropolitan Group Chairman for the Ripon Group, and following a further reorganisation of London he was appointed as one of the first batch of Assistant Metropolitan Grand Masters and Assistant Metropolitan Grand Superintendents in 2007 until his appointment as Deputy Metropolitan Grand Superintendent from 2009 to 2011. He currently holds the rank of Past Grand Sword Bearer in the Craft and Past Grand Scribe Nehemiah in the Royal Arch.
Bro Grace's service to Freemasonry, however, has by no means been confined to London. He served from 1995 to 2003 as Deputy Chairman of the Public School Lodges' Council and for a further year as its Chairman. He has also been a member of the Committee of General Purposes of Grand Chapter since 2005, and in that capacity has been a strong contributor to the Committee's deliberations, including those in relation to the arrangements for the Royal Arch bicentenary, which took place in October 2013. Most notably, however, he has acted as the unpaid project manager for the refurbishment and extension of the Henry Willis Organ in the Grand Temple at Freemasons' Hall, which has been in progress since the beginning of 2014 and is due to be finished later in the spring. Although the Organ cannot be heard in all its glory today, much – but not yet all – of its glistening pipework is already enhancing the visual impact of the Grand Temple.
It is gratifying to know that, at the age of seventy-five, he is active enough to continue to be able to give us the benefit of his counsel and experience for many years to come.
The restoration of the Grand Temple pipe organ at Freemasons’ Hall is helping to preserve a vital piece of this Art Deco building’s history. Charles Grace tells Sarah Holmes how the project came about
With a firm grip on the scaffolding in front of him, Charles Grace takes a moment to appreciate the elevated view over the Grand Temple. Behind him, a golden wall of freshly gilded organ pipes stand caged in a rigid rig of steel rods and orderly wooden planks.
It’s been a particularly busy year for the senior Freemason, who has been overseeing the restoration of the Grand Temple’s pipe organ. Although the work has been progressing steadily since January 2014, few masons will have noticed anything different going on at Great Queen Street. For Charles, this is a good thing. Despite the size of the project, he has gone to great lengths to make sure that the renovation work doesn’t disrupt the normal running of Freemasons’ Hall.
As a long-serving member of the Committee of General Purposes, Charles played a central role in the decision to renovate, rather than replace, the Grand Temple’s eighty-one-year-old organ. ‘It’s part of the heritage of Freemasons’ Hall, so we have a duty to protect it,’ he says. ‘This building pays tribute to more than 3,000 Freemasons who lost their lives in World War I, so it’s apt that the organ is being restored during the centenary year of that terrible conflict.’
The idea for restoring the organ first came about in 2009 when an inspection by the organ consultant, Ian Bell, revealed the need for extensive repairs. With most organs requiring a professional overhaul every twenty-five years, the Grand Temple’s organ had survived three times longer than that thanks to the constant temperature and humidity levels as well as its dedicated maintenance. Nevertheless, eighty years of accumulated wear threatened to irreparably damage the tonal accuracy of its pipes.
But now, thanks to funding from the Supreme Grand Chapter’s reserves, the organ will be restored to its former glory with roughly half of the money being spent on cleaning, repairing and re-voicing the existing mechanisms, which include an astounding 2,220 pipes and forty-three stops. The remainder of the funding will be spent on mounting a new case of some four hundred pipes on the east wall of the Grand Temple.
The result of all the renovation work will be a clearer, louder sound, and a focal point from which the organist can lead the Grand Temple’s 1,700-strong congregation in song. It’s a rousing quality that the present organ peculiarly lacks.
‘This is quite an unusual design,’ explains Charles. ‘Most organs have a focal point, but the present instrument comprises two cases of pipes that shout at each other across the dais. When the Grand Temple is full and everyone’s singing lustily, it’s difficult for those in the west to hear the organ, so the new case will make a huge difference, as well as giving the Grand Temple an extra visual wow factor.’
The craftsmen undertaking the restoration are from Durham-based organ builders Harrison & Harrison – a company responsible for rebuilding and maintaining some of the UK’s most famous organs, including those at the Royal Festival Hall and Westminster Abbey. Their experience of working with traditional organs is reassuring to Charles, who is eager that the new section remains consistent with the look and sound of the original. The new pipes will be made from a tin-and-lead alloy in keeping with the design of Brother Henry Willis, who built the organ in 1933.
‘I’d love to get a series of subscription concerts going as we’re transforming a good organ into a magnificent one.’ Charles Grace
It’s an extensive undertaking for Harrison & Harrison, who also face the added challenge of working around the Grand Temple’s busy schedule of events.
‘It’s been quite a juggling act to make sure we don’t interfere with the day-to-day running of the Grand Temple,’ explains Charles. ‘We’ve relied on the occasional spare periods of time to carry out some of the work. But from mid-December, when the Temple is quietest, we’ll be able to get the bulk of the work done.’
Fortunately, much of the early work has been completed in Durham, where the existing organ and console were moved for cleaning and repairing in January. ‘It’s a vitally important part of the renovation process,’ explains Andy Scott, head voicer at Harrison & Harrison. ‘As soon as the dirt starts to build up, it can dull the pitch and sound quality of the pipes, and adds to the deterioration of the worn mechanism, causing notes to stick on or not play at all.’
The length of the pipes, as well as the material they’re constructed from, both play a fundamental role in determining their pitch – so it’s important that the correct techniques are used to clean them.
The longer, wooden pipes, which create the deeper notes, can reach up to sixteen feet in length, and have to be vacuumed and varnished. Meanwhile, the shorter metallic pipes, which create the higher notes, and can be as short as a few inches, have to be soaked and scrubbed in soapy water.
The pipes will then be returned to the Grand Temple and divided between chambers hidden in the opposite walls of the eastern dais. The case containing all the new pipes will be mounted on the east wall above the console, facing directly down the Grand Temple.
Like the other two cases, the new case will be decorated with the same elaborately carved Art Deco motifs and poly-resin embellishments. A grille of eighteen pipes, all gilded in gold leaf, will be visible at the front. ‘It takes three different crafts alone to build its case,’ explains Charles. ‘That’s how complex a pipe organ is. It’s more than just an instrument – it’s an actual fixture of the building.’
As well as the pipes, Harrison & Harrison must also refurbish the whole mechanical structure, including the enormous wind chests that sit underneath the pipes. By driving pressurised air through the pipes, the wind chests help to produce the organ’s distinctive, multi-tonal sound. Electric blowers located underneath the Grand Temple supply the wind chests with air.
‘It takes three different crafts to build the case. That’s how complex a pipe organ is. It’s more than an instrument – it’s an actual fixture of the building.’ Charles Grace
‘Each pipe produces a single note,’ explains Charles. ‘All pipes are arranged in ranks of common sound and pitch, and when the organist wants to play a particular rank, he selects the corresponding stop. This releases air from the wind chest to a particular rank of pipes. The keys on the main console then control which pipes the air passes through.’
It’s a thoroughly complicated system, and one that has taken Charles hours of surfing the web and scouring YouTube videos to understand. As part of the renovation, a new electronic feature will be fitted that allows the organ to store digital recordings of the music played on the keyboard. This means that a wide range of pre-recorded music will be able to be played on the organ at the touch of a button.
It’s something that will add impact to the public tours of the Grand Temple, and is a key example of the way in which the latest renovations not only safeguard the heritage of the Freemasons’ Hall, but also enhance it.
With all things going to plan, the restoration work is due to be completed by March 2015 and Charles hopes that the new organ will become a symbol of celebration not just for United Grand Lodge’s approaching tercentenary, but for everyone who visits the Hall.
‘I’d love to get a series of subscription concerts going, as we’re transforming a good organ into a magnificent one – so I’d hope a few great organists would play here,’ says Charles.
In keeping with this vision, Charles hopes to establish a partnership with the Royal College of Organists to give aspiring musicians an opportunity to rehearse and perform on the Grand Temple’s amazing instrument.
‘It’s a fantastic opportunity to open ourselves up to the public, and to get this incredible organ being played more than ever,’ says Charles. ‘We need to make the most of it.’
The original surround sound
A pipe organ produces music through a vast array of real pipes placed in different locations around the room, effectively making it one of the first surround sound systems. In contrast, electronic organs only simulate the sound of the pipes from a central loudspeaker. The result is noticeably flatter and lacks the true fullness of many individual pitches blending together.
Letters for the Editor - No. Summer 2016
The spring issue of Freemasonry Today contained letters from two brethren asking about the specification of the splendid refurbished Willis III organ in the Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall, London. A downloadable colour leaflet containing this is available under ‘H&H specifications’ from the website of Harrison & Harrison (www.harrisonorgans.com), the firm that carried out the work, and more information can be found online in the National Pipe Organ Register.
Carl Jackson, Grand Organist from April 2016, St Cecilia Lodge, No. 6190, London
In the spring issue there were two letters relating to the specification of the organ at Great Queen Street.
May I suggest they go to the National Pipe Organ Register at www.npor.org.uk, which has the details your correspondents want – although it has not been updated to the new rebuild. The site has details of thousands of organs in the UK, which can be searched for by name or postcode or reference number (Great Queen Street is N16533).
Peter Edwards, Sutton Coldfield Lodge, No. 8960, Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire
Letters for the Editor - No. Spring 2016
I would like to congratulate all those involved in the refurbishment of the pipe organ in the Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall and the excellent write-up in Freemasonry Today. I am 86 years of age and partially disabled. I joined the John Compton Organ Company, London as an apprentice in 1944, and trained as a voicer and tuner under John Degens, a former Walkers employee. After two years’ national service I then spent the next few years as a voicer and tuner for Nicholson of Worcester. I would very much appreciate knowing the specifications of the magnificent organ.
Doug Litchfield, Zetland Lodge, No. 1005, Gloucester, Gloucestershire
Recent articles in Freemasonry Today about the organ refurbishment are much appreciated. Lodge organists and organists in general would, I feel sure, appreciate even more to see the full specifications, old and new: that is, names of stops to each department, list of accessories, etc, so as to get a sense of the full tonal architecture and its possibilities, past and present.
Malcolm Dilley, Warton Lodge, No. 8411, Carnforth, West Lancashire
Letters to the Editor - No. 30 Summer 2015
I read the articles by both Charles Grace and Ian Bell regarding the Grand Temple Willis pipe organ restoration with great interest. I am a masonic organist in the South Wales Province, where most masonic centres are furnished with electronic or digital organs.
Your articles reveal that there are two other Willis pipers in the Great Queen Street building but that they are not in working order. I visited Great Queen Street last November to play the organ for the installation ceremony of the American Lodge. The ceremony was allocated to Lodge Room No. 8 where I was horrified to find that the organ was little more than a squawk box. I looked into several of the other lodge rooms to discover similar disappointing instruments.
Whilst the Grand Temple organ restoration and necessary enhancement is to be applauded, I wish to have the Great Queen Street management reminded that if ceremony’s musical accompaniment and enhancement is really desirable, then it is absolutely necessary to encourage masonic brethren to aspire to be a lodge organist by furnishing the best tool for the purpose, and that a pillar of attainment as a lodge organist might be to eventually play the Grand Temple organ.
Michael Hayes, Venables Llewelyn Lodge, No. 3756, Porthcawl, South Wales
Charles Grace, Project Manager for the Grand Temple organ restoration, responds:
We have recently evaluated two one-manual organs and decided on the Viscount Cadet, 10 of which are being delivered in mid May and 10 in September, funded by UGLE from the normal charges made to lodges and chapters for room hire and storage.
The organs, which are versatile enough to be played by all masonic organists, will be installed in most of the lodge/chapter rooms. The choice of organ in No. 10, where a larger instrument is required, is under consideration.
Letters to the Editor – No. 29 Spring 2015
Direction in the Temple
You published two letters in the last issue on the subject of the square and compasses being upside down on the organ cases in the Grand Temple. I too made enquiries of those who might know the answer, but regrettably it remains a masonic mystery. On the bright side, I can reveal that, in the same position on the new case being erected on the east wall above the organ console, there will be a Royal Arch triple tau – and I will ensure that it is the right way up!
Charles Grace, Project Coordinator, Grand Temple organ restoration
‘The earth constantly revolving on its axis in its orbit round the sun, and Freemasonry being universally spread over its surface, it necessarily follows that the sun must always be at its meridian with respect to Freemasonry.’
Similarly, the square and compasses will always be the right way up with respect to Freemasonry. Given that the building was built as a memorial to those Freemasons who died in the First World War, and that some may have been from other parts of the Commonwealth, it is perhaps possible that the square and compasses was positioned accordingly.
Mark Northway, Suffield Lodge, No. 1808, Aylsham, Norfolk
Letters to the Editor - No. 28 Winter 2014
Compass and square
I am a young Master Mason. However, in your otherwise interesting and informative account of the restoration of the pipe organ in the Grand Temple of Freemasons’ Hall, the square and compasses adorning the organ case (while beautifully gilded) are clearly upside down. Does this pertain to some ancient and mysterious side order, of which I am neither a member nor even aware, or perhaps has it just been affixed the wrong way up?
Tim Myatt, Apollo University Lodge, No. 537, Oxfordshire
In discussion with a number of brethren in my lodge, we are curious to know why the square and compasses visible behind the left shoulder of Charles Grace are upside down. The popular view among us all is that they are positioned to face in the direction of the Great Architect, in whose glory the beautiful music that emanates from this magnificent instrument is played. None of us considers it to be an error of any kind – knowing as we do that no such fundamental mistakes are likely to have been made by those who either commissioned or made the instrument. We look forward with great interest to any information you are able to provide.
Guy R Purser, Pagham Lodge, No. 8280, Sussex
Note from the Editor
Having received several queries about the compass and square visible in the picture of the Grand Temple organ in the autumn issue of Freemasonry Today (page 29), we enquired of our best in-house historians. Unfortunately, nobody seems to know of any reason why, on the Grand Lodge organ, the square and compasses should be orientated in the opposite way to how they are normally depicted.
There was in the past a tradition among some craftsmen to incorporate a deliberate mistake as an act of humility so as not to vainly compete with the perfection of God’s creations, but we have no idea whether this was the intention in this case. We do know from an original photograph, however, that it has been that way since the organ was installed. We will be pleased to hear from readers of any theories on this mystery.
In 1872, the Lodge of Harmony, No. 1411, was consecrated in ValparaÍso, Chile. It is the only English Lodge meeting on the west coast of all the Americas and comes under the immediate supervision of our District for South America Southern Division. It was formed with the agreement of the Grand Lodge of Chile, then just 10 years old, and has always had happy relations with that body and its lodges.
There was no tradition of Royal Arch Masonry in Chile, where Master Masons who wished to extend their masonic experience joined the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of 33 degrees. That changed last year when the Grand Lodge of Chile agreed to its three lodges being able to work the Royal Arch. The Lodge of Harmony immediately contacted one of their initiates, now resident in England, Nicholas Bosanquet, Grand Sword Bearer and a former Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies, and asked him to liaise with Grand Chapter on their behalf.
Nicholas contacted the then Deputy Metropolitan Grand Superintendent for London, Charles Grace, who put him in touch with Wandle Chapter, No. 2699. This Chapter was in the sad position of being about to close only two years short of achieving their centenary. The Wandle companions were delighted that their Chapter would be able to continue, rather than dying, albeit many thousands of miles from London. They readily agreed to be taken over, and on 15 February 2011, 15 companions from South America Southern Division became joining members of Wandle Chapter. The first meeting was held in ValparaÍso, with great celebrations, on 16 May.
On 16th May 2011 one of the most far-flung lodges of our English Constitution realised its dream of over a century to establish a Royal Arch chapter attached to it.
In 1872 Lodge of Harmony No. 1411 was consecrated in Valparaiso, Chile, the principal port and trading post of the country, dominated at the time by English merchants. It still meets in the same building where it started life, in a side street off one of the main thoroughfares and under the steep hills (cerros) of this rather scruffy but enchanting typical port city. It is the only Lodge under the jurisdiction of UGLE on the West Coast of all the Americas and falls within our District of South America Southern Division, which has its headquarters in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
So, why has it taken so long for the Royal Arch to reach Chile?
Lodge of Harmony was formed in the days before the current convention was agreed between Grand Lodges of the World, that no foreign Grand Lodge should form a lodge under its jurisdiction in a country with a local Grand Lodge already established. By 1872 the Grand Lodge of Chile had already been in existence for 10 years: so their support was needed by the Harmony founders to form an English lodge under the jurisdiction of UGLE, which was duly given.
The Grand Lodge of Chile works the first three degrees under the Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite, which enables brethren to pass on to ‘higher degrees’ after reaching the final Craft degree of a Master Mason. Under this Rite, the Royal Arch is neither recognised nor required as a completion of the Third Degree, principally as the story of the Royal Arch is covered in ‘higher degrees’, particularly the 14º to 16º, albeit differently. Consequently, in Chile, particularly owing to this difference, there has been long resistance to allowing the very few Chilean lodges (3) that exceptionally practise the Emulation or York rites to attach a Royal Arch chapter to their lodges. Several appeals were made to the Grand Lodge during the 20th Century by these lodges to grant them leave to form Royal Arch chapters, even under foreign jurisdictions. It was not until June 2010 that the Grand Lodge of Chile, acting under the initiative of its outgoing Grand Master, Juan José Oyarzún, eventually passed a decree permitting Chilean lodges that practise the Emulation or York rites to form Royal Arch chapters.
Lodge of Harmony, as an English lodge, has never been under the same restrictions, a fact that was recognised under treaty between our respective Grand Lodges. However, as Harmony owes its formation to support from the Grand Lodge of Chile, lives isolated from other English lodges making inter-visiting only possible with Chilean lodges and consequently has not wanted to risk any potential offence to the Grand Lodge of Chile, with whom UGLE has been in amity since 1862, the Lodge has hitherto refrained from pursuing this course out of respect for Chilean masons. That self-imposed restraint was released with the issue of the decree from the Grand Lodge of Chile last year.
Knowing of the intentions of the Chilean Grand Master and in anticipation of realising the Lodge’s dream, 6 members of Harmony were exalted together into Lomas Chapter 2517 in Buenos Aires in April 2010 with another member, already a RA mason (exalted in London), joining at the same time.
The members of Harmony, supported by the District Grand Superintendent, E Comp Jock Rodger, lost no time in setting about establishing a RA chapter for the Lodge with the objective to be the first in the country to do so, after the issue of the Chilean decree. Having aborted an initial idea to consecrate a new chapter, the decision was taken for expediency to take over an existing chapter from England. As the only member living in England and best placed to make the necessary arrangements, E Comp Nick Bosanquet PDepGDC initiated the process last autumn and with strong support from Metropolitan Grand Chapter and the then Deputy Metropolitan Grand Superintendent, E Comp Charles Grace PGSN, in particular, a struggling London chapter was soon found as a potential candidate for transfer out to Chile.
After hearing the story and attracted by the historic nature of the project, the members of Wandle Chapter No. 2699, persuaded by their charismatic Scribe E, E Comp Alan Linton, readily agreed to the transfer, encouraged by the fact that their Chapter would not now sink into oblivion within just two years of celebrating its Centenary, but play a leading role in establishing the Royal Arch firmly in Chile. On 15th February this year, 14 Companions joined Wandle Chapter from the District of South America Southern Division – 8 from Chile (including E Comp Bosanquet) and 6 from Argentina, including the GS, the 2nd District Grand Principal, the 3rd District Grand Principal, the District GDC and District Scribe E. Meeting in a small chapter room at Clerkenwell Masonic Centre, it was perhaps fortunate that not all of these joining members could attend. The South Americans were represented by E Comp Bosanquet, who was elected Scribe E of the Chapter during this last meeting in London, a very sad occasion for the stoic ‘old’ members. In recognition of and gratitude for their magnanimous generosity, the South Americans subsequently elected all the London members to Honorary Membership.
There then followed a frantic period of sourcing chapter furniture and regalia as none existed in Chile. Following appeals to Provinces by E Comp Bosanquet, many generous Companions responded promptly to the call. Some items could be made up locally, for which copious specifications with supporting photographs from a chapter room set up in Duke Street, St James’s, were sent out to Chile. The most difficult items to find were going to be Banners and Ensigns, as these typically belong to Masonic centres rather than individual chapters, with Robes and Sceptres likely to prove challenging too. Furthermore, everything had to be in Chile well before 16th May, the day set for the first meeting of the Chapter in its new home.
Out of the blue and to enormous relief, through assiduous action by Provincial Grand Officers in Shropshire, Fitz Alan Chapter No.1432 in Oswestry, which had commissioned new Banners and Ensigns in 2010, most generously donated their old set. These were delivered to an exceedingly grateful E Comp Bosanquet by E Comp Mike Parry PPrGSN of Fitz Alan Chapter within days before a large box of kit was shipped out to Chile with everything else acquired from England.
Supreme Grand Chapter presented the Chapter with a fine set of Robes and surplices, whilst a set of long-forgotten Sceptres was discovered still in good condition in Buenos Aires during refurbishment of the District Grand Lodge premises earlier in the year and donated to the Chapter by the District Grand Chapter together with tools and an engraved trowel, the latter a personal gift of the Third District Grand Principal, E Comp Neville Glynn.
The day of the first meeting in Valparaiso fell on a Monday. So, in true South American fashion, the weekend before was fiesta time to celebrate the historic event. Six members of the District flew over from Buenos Aires to join the Harmony brethren for three days of parties, lunches and dinners in Valparaiso and along the coastal resort towns nearby, indulging in copious quantities of Chile’s famous seafood, wines and, of course, pisco sour – pisco being a 40-proof local liqueur made from grape. Between the partying, just enough time was squeezed in with the help of wives, girlfriends and even sons and daughters to provide finishing touches to the furniture and rig the temple for the momentous meeting.
The Masonic Hall in Calle Wagner is owned by Harmony along with two smaller lodges – one American, one German. The building has been ravaged by several earthquakes in its time and was largely rebuilt in the 1970s, like a ‘bunker’, with the help of funding from UGLE, after a particularly violent quake. As a consequence, the building was able to withstand the second most violent earthquake in the country’s history, in February 2010, without suffering too much serious damage. The last of the repairs (to damaged lavatories), again assisted by funds from UGLE, were being completed as the temple was being rigged for the first Chapter meeting. Miraculously, the large temple, with its magnificent entrance columns and painted wooden ceiling of the night sky, has survived these natural disasters and looked magnificent in its new livery as a Royal Arch chapter
The first meeting of Wandle Chapter in Chile conveniently coincided with its annual Installation meeting. Sadly but understandably none of the London members were able to make the long journey out. However, besides the 14 members, 9 guests attended to witness the historic occasion, mostly Chilean RA masons who were members of an Argentine chapter in Mendoza, the wine capital of Argentina just across the Andes from Chile’s Capital City, Santiago.
E Comp Jock Rodger, District Grand Superintendent, accompanied by E Comp Philip Thompson, Second District Grand Principal, and E Comp Neville Glynn, Third District Grand Principal, opened the Chapter soon after 8 in the evening. After important administrative matters to deal with the transfer from London to Valparaiso, a short ceremony was performed to reconfirm the dedication of the temple to include Royal Arch masonry, before installation of the new Principals – E Comps Philip Thompson as MEZ, Neville Glynn as H, and John MacGregor as J. E Comp Nick Bosanquet handed over as Sc E to Comp Francisco Díaz, only to find the Principals with typical local humour appointing him at the end as Steward, a task that he will find difficult to administer from over 7,000 miles away. Other offices were taken by Comps Dragutín Paic as Sc N and Fernando Bórquez as Treasurer, E Comps Dennis Crisp (DGDC) as DC and Ernesto Marcer (DGScE) as Principal Sojourner, Comps Germán Buchheister and Enrique Cánepa as 1st and 2nd Assistant Sojourners, Erwald Finsterbuch as ADC and Kurt Baum as Janitor.
Proceedings were completed by 10:15, when members and their guests, after viewing a display of Wandle Chapter artefacts brought out from England, retired downstairs to the bar with a roaring fire (being winter in the Southern Hemisphere) for Scotch and pisco sours before dinner of traditional Chilean fare and wines. Toasts as usual were not proposed until after midnight.
It is gratifying to see English Freemasonry leading the initiative to establish the Royal Arch properly in Chile. The determination and dedication of the Harmony brethren has enabled this. However, with a lack of experienced companions in Valparaiso, the commitment of the six members from Buenos Aires to fill key offices and enable the Chapter to function is nothing short of heroic, especially without the benefit of an EasyJet or RyanAir in South America.
The Chapter expects most, if not all, MM of the Lodge of Harmony to join and hopes also to attract Chilean masons in the future … but they will have to speak English.
Since this first meeting in Valparaiso, there have been two further meetings with double Exaltation ceremonies at each. The first of these, in early July, took place soon after the volcanic eruption in Southern Chile cast a dense ash cloud across the Argentine halting flights out of Buenos Aires. This prevented the Argentine members of the Chapter from flying across to Chile for that meeting. Without these senior experienced companions the meeting would have had to be abandoned. The MEZ of the Chapter sent a message to the Chilean members - “maybe The Almighty is testing us to see if our Chapter is strong enough; look for Plan B”. An SOS was sent to the Chilean companions of the Mendoza chapter, who had attended the May meeting, for help. In a display of true Masonic fraternity they appeared in force to assist - in itself another historic moment for RA Masonry in Chile. Since these events these Chilean companions have been given permission by the Grand Lodge of Chile to move the meetings of their Chapter from Argentina to Chile.
Overall a great result!