Sited in the 12th century Quire, the organ at Canterbury Cathedral had lost its once magnificent orchestral colour. Trusted organ builders, Harrison & Harrison, and the Cathedral’s expert team of craftspeople are sensitively restoring the organ to its full and beautiful voice in time for the Lambeth Conference in July 2020 and indeed for the hundreds of thousands of people who journey to this special place each year
In 2017, the Provinces of East Kent, West Kent, Surrey and Sussex generously donated the sum of £200,000 to go towards the Building Restoration Project of Canterbury Cathedral. The Province of East Kent also gifted £50,000 towards the Organ Restoration Project.
Samantha Royle, Trust and Research Manager said: ‘All at Canterbury are enormously grateful to the East Kent Freemasons for your outstanding support of this transformative project. Thank you so very much.’
With the organ off-site for restoration, there is a once in a lifetime opportunity to address urgent fabric repairs in the historic Quire. With claims to be the earliest Gothic structure in Britain, the Quire’s style was a direct import from France and changed the face of English medieval architecture.
The coherence and almost perfect homogeneity of its choir, east transept, unfinished eastern tower, and Romanesque side chapels are still evident and these were seen at the time of inscription as one of the most beautiful architectural spaces of Early Gothic art. 2,240 pipes forming the Pedal Open Wood, Choir, Solo and Transept Great organs have been installed and voiced in the North Triforium.
A further 3,367 pipes for the South Triforium organ, consisting of the Solo Tubas, Pedal, Great and Swell organs are scheduled to arrive in late July. The separate Nave organ, playable from the Quire console, has its own 498 pipes, bringing the total number of pipes controllable from the Quire organ console to 6,105. Working in a busy Cathedral such as Canterbury has many challenges. Loading and unloading wagons and voicing has mostly had to happen after hours.
Programming and dovetailing the organ work alongside not only the Opus Dei but also many other ongoing projects and events has to be carefully planned so that all can somehow co-exist. The console includes all the aids which an organist can expect in order to make the very best use of this large instrument. It has been designed by Harrisons’ craftsmen and is similar to the console in the Royal Festival Hall. It has been kept as low as possible so that it fits neatly into the aspect of the Quire and it looks very elegant.
2019 will see the organ complete but not entirely finished, since the voicing and fine adjustment of the south side in tandem with the north will take the project into 2020.
Neil Johnstone, Provincial Grand Master of East Kent, said: ‘Supporting the restoration of such a wonderful musical instrument has brought pleasure to so many over the years, and long may it continue to do so. We are always pleased to help the Cathedral when we can.’