East Kent Freemasons hit the right note at Canterbury Cathedral.

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.

Samantha Royle said, “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 claim 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 [sic], 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. The terrific impact of your wonderful gift. All at Canterbury are enormously grateful to the East Kent Freemasons for your outstanding support of this transformative project. Thank you so very much.”

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.  Our organ builders have greatly enjoyed working in Canterbury and getting to know the Cathedral staff and volunteers, and we are looking forward to returning soon as we head towards completion of the project.”    

Picture of a skilled workman undertaking work on the organ.

Picture of a skilled workman undertaking work on the organ.

Dr David Flood, Organist and Master of Choristers  “The most visible part of the project to congregations, visitors, volunteers and staff has been the introduction of the new organ console platform in the North Quire Aisle, just behind where the choir stalls are. This platform is designed to bring the organist in closer contact with the organ itself and, very importantly, with the choir. Having done lots of tests (including climbing ladders to hear over the top of the Eastry screen) it is now obvious what an amazing difference it makes for the organist to be able to hear what is going on! The console was installed during May and is made of the same timber as the platform – American walnut. 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 us into 2020. “It is not difficult to imagine the excitement, especially amongst the musicians!”


Picture of David Flood at new console (May 2019)

David Flood at new console (May 2019)

Picture of Mark Sharratt in South Quire Tribune

Mark Sharratt in South Quire Tribune

For more information about this restoration, head over to Canterbury Cathedral website here. https://www.canterbury-cathedral.org/support-us/supporting-us/the-canterbury-voice/the-cathedral-organ-project/

Pictures also taken from Canterbury Cathedral.org website.