Norwich Cathedral's historic organ rebuild
The several thousand pipes that make up Norwich Cathedral’s historic 105-stop pipe organ are currently being removed as part of the first stage of a major 15-month project to rebuild the organ to preserve it for future generations.
The organ – a key part of musical life at the Cathedral - is one of the biggest of its kind in the country and this huge project is the instrument’s first complete overhaul since it was rebuilt in 1942, following a fire which partially destroyed the instrument in April 1938.
The organ’s 6,655 pipes range in size from the size of a pencil to an incredible 32ft (almost 10 metres) long, and the bulk of them are now being removed by specialists Harrison and Harrison who will be transporting them to Durham for further work before the organ is rebuilt in 2023.
Ashley Grote, Master of Music at Norwich Cathedral, said: “It is tremendously exciting that, after so many years of planning and fundraising, the work on the cathedral organ has finally begun. We are already looking forward to the reinstallation of the newly rebuilt organ next year. It will be without doubt one of the finest cathedral organs in the country, fit to serve the cathedral and the people of Norwich for many, many decades to come.”
The project – which is costing about £1.8m – is being funded by money raised from the £2.5m They Shall Laugh and Sing Music Appeal which has HRH The Earl of Wessex as patron.
While the organ is being rebuilt, two digital organs will be taking the place of the Cathedral’s organ during services.
Further details about the organ project
Work began on putting the scaffolding up to start the organ project on Monday 16 May and, once the scaffolding was in place, the dismantling of the organ began on Monday 6 June.
Organ builders Harrison and Harrison are now in the middle of spending three weeks removing most of the organ’s 6,655 pipes which will be transported to Durham for further work. Once this is complete, the pipes will be reinstalled between January and March next year.
The scaffolding will be taken down after Easter 2023 and an 11-week ‘voicing period’ will follow. This will involve the fine tuning of each and every pipe. The hope is the work will be completed by July 2023.
A special programme of performances is being planned to celebrate the return of the organ in 2023.
About the history of Norwich Cathedral Organ
There are references to an organ at Norwich Cathedral dating back to the 14th century.
The current organ, a 105-stop pipe organ built by the Norwich firm of Norman and Beard, was installed in 1899 although part of the organ dates back to the 17th century.
It was devastated by a fire that broke out during an Evensong in April 1938 but, despite the outbreak of the Second World War, a project to rebuild the organ was completed in the 1940s. This was the last time major work was undertaken on the instrument which is one of the largest organs in the country.
The organ - which has 6,655 pipes and 105 speaking stops - is used for some 1,500 services each year as well as special events and concerts.
Photo by Bill Smith