The Organ at St. Oswald's was built by the well known organ builders William Hill & Co. in 1875. It was soon found to be too small to sustain the music in the church and was therefore enlarged and put under tubular pneumatic action in 1911. The Organ comprises three manuals and pedals and is considered one of the finest examples of late romantic organ design in a parish church in the Midlands.
William Hill studied in Paris with Cavaille-Coll and this probably accounts for the romantic flavour of the instrument and the fact that it is ideally suited to the playing of French Romantic music. Nonetheless, the organ is an extremely versatile instrument and music of all styles can be successfully rendered on it. It is equally possible to give an authentic interpretation of Baroque music and the works of J.S.Bach in particular.
The organ was rebuilt in 1958 by Rushworth & Dreaper and the old action was replaced by electro-pneumatic action. Rushworth & Dreaper cared for the instrument until 2002 when they ceased trading.
In 2007 a Committee was set up to raise funds for the restoration of the Organ. This was led by Veronica Donkin, Joint Director of Music with her husband Mike. Veronica undertook an adventurous programme of events including two gourmet dinner excursions on the Orient Express, an ABBA tribute band concert in church and a promises auction at the Walls Restaurant.
The restoration was completed in March/April 2014 and the old and worn out electro-pneumatic action was replaced. The console was also updated with the addition of the latest digital electrics and programmable pistons..
An explanation of what an organ is, how it works and why we needed to restore the St. Osawld's organ is given on the Layperson's guide to the organ page.
Veronica put a great deal of time and effort into the Organ Restoration Appeal. Sadly she was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2012 and was not well enough to play it in its restored state. She would have been thrilled to hear its grand and subtle sounds. She died on 27th June 2014 and an annual memorial organ recital is given on the Saturday nearest to the anniversary of her death.
A Layperson's guide to the organ.
Our organ is actually 4 instruments in one - 3 are played from one each of the 3 keyboards (manuals in organ terminology) and the fourth is played by the feet on the pedal board. Essentially each division of the organ is a set of pipes which sits on a box of compressed wind. The wind is supplied by an electrically operated blower. The wind is stored in large bellows or reservoirs made of leather or sheepskin supported on a wooden frame. Pressing a key with either a finger or a foot pulls down a mechanism that allows the wind to travel into a pipe thus producing sound in the same way that sound is produced in any other wind instrument. Normally there is one pipe per note for each different sound.
Inside the organ there is a variety of different sounds produced by pipes of different shapes, sizes and materials. Pipes that produce the same quality of sound are placed in rows. These rows form what is known as a rank of pipes. Each of these pipes is under the control of a white knob on the console called a stop.
There are many different sounds that an organ can make. Firstly there is the sound that all of us associate with an organ. This is known as a Diapason and each manual has its Diapason Chorus. Additionally there are pipes which imitate flutes and other woodwind sounds, strings and brass (the Reeds). So with one pipe per note for each type of sound an organ may contain many thousands of pipes.
The organ has had a thorough overhaul and rebuild to maintain it through the 21st century. The work was carried out by Nicholsons of Malvern, and the workmen were careful and competent, allowing the life of the church to continue normally as far as possible.
Click here to see pictures of the dismantling of the organ.