The John Nebe organ in the workshop of W.J. Simon Pierce (2001)
[Photograph supplied by Thomas Campbell]
Historical and Technical Documentation by Geoffrey Cox
© OHTA 2011, 2013 (last updated May 2013)
This organ is thought to have been built between c.1923 and 1927 by Mr John Nebe of Brisbane. It was the first of two instruments that Nebe built, both located initially at his residence, cnr Fifth and Sixth Avenues, Coorparoo, and both subsequently moved to the Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Warren Street, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane.
Mr John Nebe, playing an unidentified organ
[Photograph from: Naomi Aird, A Pictorial History …
of Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Warren St. Fortitude Valley (2004), p. 13]
The extent to which John Nebe was responsible for building this organ is uncertain. Indeed, an entry headed 'Mr Nebie' in the Whitehouse Bros ledger suggests that all or part it may have been supplied second-hand in 1923:
|Small pipe organ £10.||
|Six new pipes March||
The instrument is reported to have been completed by Nebe around 1927.2 It was removed from his residence at Coorparoo and installed at Bethlehem Lutheran Church by Whitehouse Bros of Brisbane, at which time they also supplied and fitted an octave coupler.3 The organ was installed in the church in time for the opening and consecration of the building on 1 December 1929, when Mr Nebe himself played the instrument:
After an opening prayer by Pastor Reimers, the choir (Mr. J. Nebe playing the pipe organ, and a 'cellist and five violinists assisting) the whole of the congregation sang the first hymn.4
The John Nebe organ at Bethlehem Lutheran Church
[Photograph of American Thanksgiving Observance, November 1943, from Naomi Aird,
A Pictorial History … of Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Warren St. Fortitude Valley (2004), p. 33]
Photographs of the organ as it appeared at Bethlehem Lutheran Church between c.1932 and 1944 show that it did not then have the present non-speaking façade. Earlier origins for all or part of the organ are also supported by recent observations that the soundboard, which has German-style pallets, that it may date from the nineteenth century, and that some aspects of the façade have strong affinities with the chamber organs built by Flight & Robson in the first half of the nineteenth century.5 The present owner of the instrument has noted that the fretwork in the façade is of polished northern European Oak, while most of the remainder of the cabinet is of polished silky oak and Queensland maple.6
The organ remained at Fortitude Valley until November 1944, when it was dismantled and re-erected in the Methodist Church, Brighton (a northern suburb of Brisbane).7 It was moved from the Methodist Church to the Baptist Church at Brighton in 1959, where its arrival was recorded on a small plaque as follows:
Presented by the Christian
Endeavourers of this church.
Dedicated to the Glory of God
on 1 March 1959.8
After more than twenty years at the Baptist Church, Brighton, the organ was installed at Calvary Catholic Church, Miami (on the Gold Coast) in 1983 by Ken Beech. In 1985, Beech removed the Octave Coupler and added a Salicet 4ft on one of the two spare slides. The stop knobs were left intact, one still remaining blank. No stop action was provided at this time for the Salicet 4ft.9
John Maidment has observed a strong similarity between the façade on this organ, which is clearly a later addition, and the one that existed until c.1970 at the Baroona-Road Congregational Church, Milton. It is possible that the Baroona-Road façade found its way to the Baptist Church, Brighton, after c.1970, although there is currently no documentation to support this. The façade was certainly already in place at Miami:
The organ at Calvary Catholic Church, Miami,
including the façade apparently added after c.1970
[Photograph by David Vann (1984)]
The instrument was purchased in the late 1990s by Fr Martin Doyle, who had it stored in the Hall at Infant Saviour Catholic Church, Burleigh Heads, with a view to installing it in a new church at Mt Tamborine.10 Following Fr Doyle's ill health and retirement, it was purchased in 2000 by the present owner, and was restored in 2001-02 by W.J. Simon Pierce for installation in the present location. Some minor alterations were made to the case and console, some new Flute 4ft pipes were made, and a new stop action was provided.11
Details of the organ in the workshop of W.J. Simon Pierce (2001)
[Photographs supplied by Thomas Campbell]
None of the original stop knobs included any pitch indication. The pipework is entirely enclosed apart from the bottom notes of the Clarabella, which also serves as the bass of the Open Diapason.
[enclosed, except for bottom octave of Clarabella]
[originally Tenor C; completed 2002?]
[1985, on spare slide]
Compass: 56 notes.12
1 Whitehouse Bros Ledger (1922-1940), p. 110.
2 Date supplied by Ian Tucker, presumably through personal communications from Whitehouse Bros and/or Bethlehem Lutheran Church, c.1970.
3 Whitehouse Bros Ledger (1922-1940), p. 488. The date of the entry is unclear, apparently 1929 or 1930. Ian Tucker recorded that Nebe gave the organ to Bethlehem Lutheran Church in 1930.
4 The Brisbane Courier (2 December 1929), p. 16.
5 OHTA News, vol. 26, no. 4 (October 2002), p. 9; The Organ Voice, vol. 28, no. 4 (December 2002), p. 42.
6 Comments by Dr Thomas Campbell, April 2006.
7 Whitehouse Bros Ledger (1940-1954), p. 414.
8 Noted by G. Cox at the workshop of W.J. Simon Pierce, January 2001.
9 Personal communication to G. Cox from Ken Beech, c.1985.
10 Personal communication to G. Cox from Tom Campbell, September 2005.
11 Personal communication to G. Cox from Simon Pierce, January 2001; The Organ Voice, vol. 27, no. 1 (March 2001), p. 29; OHTA News, vol. 26, no. 4 (October 2002), p. 9; The Organ Voice, vol. 28, no. 4 (December 2002), p. 42. OHTA News reported incorrectly that the entire Flute 4ft was new.
12 Specification noted by G. Cox, 1973 at the Baptist Church, Brighton, and January 2001 at workshop of W.J. Simon Pierce.