THE ORGAN OF ST JOHN’S CATHEDRAL, BRISBANE
With over 4,500 pipes, the organ of St John’s Cathedral is one of the largest and finest in Australia. Its stop-list is eclectic, and can accommodate a large range of styles, but it is arguably most comfortable in the Romantic repertoire, where the interplay of generous acoustic and mellifluous timbres comes into its own.
The original specification of 1909 was drawn up by the first Organist and Master of the Choristers at St John’s Cathedral, Mr George Sampson. The Cathedral’s architect, John Loughborough Pearson, who had designed Truro Cathedral in England (famous for its magnificent Willis instrument) created a similar design where the blend of high stone ceilings and gothic arches created a fine acoustic for organ sound. In common with many organs of this period, the renowned English organ-building firm Norman and Beard were contracted and produced an instrument of rich and sonorous tone without abrasive upper work, strings, mixtures or mutations. There were additions in 1912, 1914 and 1915, leaving an organ with 3 manuals, 30 speaking stops and pneumatic action.
Following the enlargement of the Cathedral in 1968, the opportunity was taken to reflect the contemporary understanding of the organ (with regard to the Organ Reform movement) and its place in the Cathedral’s life as both a liturgical and recital instrument. The firm of Hill, Norman and Beard completed this rebuild in 1971 under the guidance of Robert Boughen, then Organist and Master of the Choristers, leaving an organ of 4 manuals and 81 speaking stops. The Positive division was added to support the instrument’s projection, and a large range of colourful stops was added to increase the palette available to the player. As well as thrilling reeds, vibrant mixtures and piquant mutations, there are some Solo Strings which may have come from the Harrison and Harrison organ formerly in Gloucester Cathedral in England.
With the addition of the main bell tower, final two nave bays, West End towers and other features in 2009, further tonal work was done to enlarge the sound in response to the extra size of the completed building. The work, carried out by Pierce Pipe Organs, involved revoicing, the addition of a small number of new stops, such as the Clarabella 8’, Sw. 16’ Bassoon and Open Diapason I on the Great, and the restoration of the tonal scheme with reference to the original 1909 scheme with regard to the Norman and Beard sound-world, as well as George Sampson’s voicing notes.
The transept organ case was given by Brisbane City Council in 1924 to commemorate the centenary of British settlement in Queensland. Situated on the East side of the North transept, the organ speaks well into the building. The Swell division is housed nearer the choir, and there are even two possums on the organ case! The organ is under the care of Pierce Pipe Organs.
The chamber organ, made by Pierce Pipe Organs of Brisbane, was completed and installed in March 2019. The casework of Tasmanian Oak, made by Derek Smart, incorporates pipe shades and decorative panels of Silver Ash. The pipe shades were designed by Imogen Pierce, featuring native flora and fauna reflecting aspects of Colin Blumsden’s screen on the main organ.
The soundboards and pipe shades were created with the aid of a CNC machine, operated by Lachlan and Imogen Pierce. The pipework, by Tim Gilley of Melbourne, includes a spotted-metal façade with a decoratively embossed central pipe.
Stopt Diapason 8
Chimney Flute 4
Compass: 56 notes
Transposing mechanism (440/415).