The New Nicholson Organ
The first organ in St John’s was built in 1906 by Captain Lindsay Garrard so you can say the journey began 112 years ago. The Garrard organ was replaced in the late 1960s by an instrument built by Alfred E Davies on a low-cost budget. This instrument, with a minor modification in 2000 was in use until our present instrument was installed in 2011. Knowing that we needed to upgrade/replace the current organ, a St John’s ‘Organ Project’ was launched in September 2005 under the chairmanship of our Vicar Rev James Reveley.
There were three options open to us:- to rebuild, to have an electronic instrument or to purchase a new pipe organ. Much debate took place involving the Diocese, our Organ Advisor and the Organ Project committee. In deciding to recommend that we go for a New Instrument it was agreed by all concerned that although it was the most costly option, the life expectancy would be 100 years, and the maintenance would be significantly lower than for the existing 1960 organ. Deciding to purchase a new organ is a lengthy and complex process and we were very fortunate to have Nicholas King as our Director of Music. Nicholas played a major part as Chairman of the Technical Sub Committee, in appointing our own Organ Advisor, Paul Hale and liaising with the organ builder - Nicholson’s of Malvern.
Music at St John’s was launched on 10th June 2006 under the chairmanship of Job Rombout and it played a major role in raising funds for our ‘New Organ’. For the next 4 years, many meetings and a lot of fundraising activity took place to ensure that we were ready to receive our new instrument. The fundraising was activated in many ways. We arranged many varied concerts, and as a complete contrast, MASJ were twice represented in the London Marathon. On the first occasion by Job Rombout‘s son James and on the second occasion by local athlete Jessica Tanner. Quiz Nights, Flower Festivals, Arts Festival, and Christmas Tree Festivals were organised by MASJ to help swell the funds. An Organ Pipe Sponsorship scheme and a ‘Percentage Club’ raised lots of money for the organ fund.
Lunchtime Concerts were organised and the profits from these concerts went straight into the Organ Fund. Several parishioners’ loaned money to the Organ Fund and some even converted their loan into a gift. It was clear from the outset that we would have to borrow a considerable sum of money and we are indebted to Richard Lyne and Chris Angel who together negotiated a loan from The Charity Bank. In 2010, the Annual Parish Outing was arranged to go to our organ builder’s factory in Malvern to see our new instrument being built.
The last service using the old Davies organ was Choral Evensong on Sunday 6th March 2011. Immediately following the end of the service our Vicar James Reveley ceremoniously removed the first organ pipe from the organ case. During the next few months, a lot of voluntary and professional work took place to remove the old organ and to prepare for the new instrument. Although we employed professional architects, builders, and electricians, Trevor Boyce, Ian Packe and I spent most of our day time lifting, going up ladders, bending, painting and making tea!! One very interesting revelation during this time was to reveal the leaded light window in the current organ passageway. For the best part of 100 years, this window was covered on the inside by the rank of 16ft diapason organ pipes as the passageway through the old organ was in the middle of the chamber. After a lot of dedicated work, at last, the organ chamber was ready to receive our new organ. The accommodation was arranged for the Nicholson technicians during the 12-week build. To reduce cost and increase their onsite time, the ladies of our congregation provided their midday meal each day they were on site.
At last, the day arrived when the new organ would be delivered to St John’s. Around 10.00 am on Monday 14th, June 2011 a very large removal pantechnicon arrived and reversed up to the main doors of the church. We were all very excited when the rear doors were opened and there it was our new organ. All the various framework, pipes and mechanisms were carefully removed and laid on top of the pews in the South Aisle which was closed to parishioners during the build. Paul Hale – Rector Chori and Cathedral Organist at Southwell Minster gave the Inaugural Recital on our new Nicholson Organ on Tuesday 20th September 2011.