The DONALD BARRIBALL MEMORIAL CHAMBER ORGAN
Noel Mander, London, 1981
(click to enlarge)
In August 2006 the choir became the proud owners of this magnificent chamber organ. Musica Sacra acknowledges with gratitude the generous contributions of the estate of the late Donald J Barriball; of Mr Barriball's sister Margaret; and of the Chisholm Whitney Family Charitable Trust: these donations made the purchase of the organ for Musica Sacra possible. The organ is now known as the Donald Barriball Memorial Chamber Organ.
The organ was inaugurated by John Scott in a special concert in Auckland on 26 August 2006: click here for more information and photographs from the concert. The souvenir programme book, described as "sumptuous" by The New Zealand Herald, can be downloaded from our Downloads page.
The organ was originally built for use at St. John’s, Smith Square in London. This former church near Westminster Abbey is now a prestigious concert hall. The organ was first heard at the Royal Wedding of HRH The Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer in St Paul’s Cathedral, where it was played by John Scott to accompany (with orchestra) Dame Kiri Te Kanawa’s performance of Handel’s Let the bright seraphim, conducted by Sir David Willcocks.
After the Royal Wedding the organ went to its intended home at St John’s, Smith Square. It was subsequently sold to Princeton University, who used it in the University Chapel while their main organ was being rebuilt. It also visited Houston in Texas on its way to Princeton where it was exhibited at the American Guild of Organists’ congress there in about 1990. For unknown reasons Princeton University put the organ up for sale on EBay; it was eventually bought by Musica Sacra.
This organ is specifically singled out for mention in The Daily Telegraph’s 2005 obituary of Noel Mander, founder of the Mander organ company, where it is described as “a stunning chamber organ”. Mander Organs is one of the world’s leading organ builders, perhaps most famous for the the massive restoration of the St Paul’s Cathedral organ and, more recently, for the complete restoration of the organ in the Royal Albert Hall, London.
The organ was designed by Noel Mander’s son John; he also designed the carving. The centre section depicts sun shining through foliage. There are two similar instruments: one presently in St John's, Smith Square, London (this replaced the present organ after it was sold to Princeton and is informally known as the "raspberry ripple" because of its distinctive red marbled colouring); and another at the Peabody Institute, USA. Each of these two other organs has been used by Sir John Eliot Gardiner during the course of his Bach Pilgrimage concert series; the St John's instrument features prominently in the DVD of Bach's St John Passion from King's College, Cambridge.
The organ is built of solid timber throughout. Even the slides are timber with the slider seals being of red cloth (a felt-like material). The casework is made of Quebec Pine. The soundboard is mainly pine with mahogany upperboards. The front pipes sit on the soundboard upperboards which go right up to the front of the organ.
All the stops are divided at middle C (split stops) with unusual stop knobs designed so that the complete stop can be drawn easily. The specification is:
8’ Stopped Diapason (wood)
4’ Flute (metal)
2’ Fifteenth (metal)
1 1/3’ Nineteenth (metal)
The player sits behind the instrument. Some players have found this a little disconcerting, but it has the distinct advantages that the pipes are raised so projection is better, and also that the pipes do not speak right into the face of the player, so affording a better impression of balance with other instruments. When playing the organ, some players remove one of the panels on each side of the organ (there are four on each side) and angle the doors to reflect some of the sound back towards the player which is effective. The wind pressure is 45 or 50mm. It is gently voiced, but projects well and almost any combination of stops can be used. The compass is C to f3 (54 notes).
The organ is tuned to A440 and was designed for that pitch. It is not transposing. It is tuned in a modified Vallotti - a mild unequal temperament. Tuning is cone tuned, flaps, and soldered caps - no sliders on any metal pipes. The latter means that the tuning is stable, but precludes the possibility of tuning it to other unequal temperaments or to adjust the pitch to different ambient temperatures. The only minor drawback of the instrument, apart from the inability to see through or over it, is the lack of ability mechanically to transpose to baroque pitch.
The winding is by traditional wedge bellows of which there are two, one to break and regulate the blower pressure and a second as a reservoir. There is also a concussion bellows to mitigate unsteadiness, but the winding is not rock steady: Mr John Mander believes there should be a little life in the winding, but not to the point that it is disturbing.
The top lifts off the bass easily, so transportation with a suitable vehicle is easy, but it is too large to fit into an average estate car. The instrument is able to be moved within a building since it is on casters. For a more extensive move, it separates in two sections, the bottom section measuring 43” wide x 32” high x 24” deep. The top section measures 45” high x 47” wide x 30” deep including keyboard. Total dimensions are 30”x47”x77”. All pipes except the bottom third of the 4’ stop may be left in the instrument. It is necessary to remove about eighteen pipes as they may rotate during a long road trip, and allow the ears to bend. For air travel, as with any organ, all pipes need to be removed and packed.
The organ has been completely disassembled, thoroughly cleaned and regulated and some minor chips in the paintwork have been touched up. It is in excellent, as-new condition.
The wonderful instrument adds immeasurably to the visual and sonic beauty of Musica Sacra's performances, and is a most important and significant enhancement to the musical and artistic life of the choir, the city and the country as a whole.
Musica Sacra expresses its gratitude to St Matthew-in-the-City, Auckland (The Ven. Glynn Cardy, Vicar) where the organ is housed.
In some circumstances the organ may be available for hire, subject to its availability and various other considerations. Its connection to the Royal Wedding makes it particularly attractive for use at weddings. If you would like to apply to hire the organ, please contact Kevin Bishop, General Manager of Musica Sacra, by using the details on our Contact page.