St Mark's Anglican Church
George Street, Fitzroy
Harrison & Harrison, Durham 1938, for St Luke's Church, Cowley, Oxford, UK
2 manuals, 14 speaking stops, 4 couplers, tubular-pneumatic action
Restored & installed 1999 Peter D.G. Jewkes Pty Ltd, Sydney
from Melbourne Organ Weekend October 21-22, 2000
The organ at St Mark's was built in 1938 by Harrison & Harrison Ltd, Durham for St Luke's Church, Cowley, Oxford; the wainscote oak case was designed by Alderman H.S. Rogers. It was meticulously restored by Peter D.G. Jewkes Pty Ltd, Sydney, and installed in St Mark's in 1999 as part of the overall restoration programme for the church. The instrument stands close to 25ft high and is built on a grand scale with lavish use of materials.
Click here to download an mp3 (3.8MB) of "Praise to the Holiest" (Gerontius)
as sung at Lindsay O'Neill's funeral service with Peter Jewkes, organ
A Review of the Harrison Organ
by John Maidment
One of the most successful examples anywhere of a pipe organ transplanted to a new home can now be found at St Mark's Church, Fitzroy. Built in 1938 by the firm of Harrison & Harrison, of Durham, for St Luke's Church, Cowley, on the outskirts of Oxford, it had become redundant owing to the closure of the church, which had been built by Lord Nuffield for the employees of the Morris car factory nearby.
The spacious church was a notable example of interwar Gothic, designed by local architect Alderman H.S. Rogers, and contained a striking rood screen and rood figures apart from the organ. Harold Rogers was a noted Oxford architect who wrote the following about the organ case in 1952: "The organ case is of Crown Wainscot Oak stained down very dark as is all oak furniture of the church. It was made by A R Mowbray & Co Ltd, of Oxford, who also made the choir seats and communion rail." Elsewhere, Rogers wrote (to Cuthbert Harrison) "Do you really think it [the case] is worth illustration? It satisfies myself, and I believe fulfils its purpose without fuss." The case measures 25ft 6in high and 11ft 6in wide.
The organ was designed by Dr (later Sir) Thomas Armstrong, who was Director of Music at Christ Church,Oxford where the organ at the time was a four-manual Father Willis rebuilt by the Harrison firm. Harrisons had built many organs in Oxford and was considered the pre-eminent British organbuilding firm in the interwar era.
St Mark's was highly fortunate to acquire the organ, which was in mint condition and had escaped the ravages of the 60s and 70s unscathed. Mark Venning, Managing-Director of the Harrison firm, noted in 1997 that "the pipework is splendid, suffering only from dirt. It is totally original and no revoicing whatsoever has taken place. The Contra Oboe was quite a feature of our small organs of the period. The organ was, of course, built just after Arthur Harrison's death, but his influence was still very strong and the musical quality is excellent the voicing would have been in the safe hands of Fred Howe the blend and balance of an organ like this are special, and give far more versatility than the specification would suggest."
"An instrument of the highest technical and tonal quality"
It is an instrument of the highest technical and tonal quality and is contemporaneous with such prestigious organs as Westminster Abbey and Winchester Cathedral. Strangely, it is the only 20th century example of the Harrison firm's work in Australia. It is not clear why this is so, as the firm had an international reputation. While we have examples of the work of Henry Willis III in Melbourne and Brisbane, and of course many examples of instruments from Hill, Norman & Beard (built both in London and Melbourne) at this time, it is evident that this must have satisfied the needs of the Australian market for English organs of high quality. The Harrison firm was probably entirely preoccupied with meeting the needs of local markets and did not seek to advertise their instruments more widely. It did not consider tendering to build the Melbourne Town Hall organ.
While Harrisons' instruments were expensive, no expense was spared to achieve optimum results. This is particularly evident in the lavish use of materials, spacious layout, immaculate voicing, quality of engineering and overall solidity of construction. At St Mark's, the two slider chests have mahogany tables and upperboards, while the console is of richly figured oak, with thick ivory keys and deeply engraved drawknobs. The two double-rise reservoirs are constructed from very thick timber, there are four concussion bellows to stabilise the wind, while the pipe scales are very generous. The pneumatic actions are meticulously laid out and all parts are easily accessible for maintenance. All is constructed in the grand manner: the top of the spacious swell box is 23ft 9in above floor level while the building frame is massive and extremely solid, giving the impression of a cathedral organ in miniature.
The organ is typical of the multum-in-parvo designs which the Harrison firm specialised in building in the earlier half of the present century. In such instruments, the grandeur of a large organ is suggested from a minimal number of stops, these usually including a manual double (reed or flue) and a strong chorus reed, the whole designed to have a considerable dynamic range. Such concepts were strongly promoted by Lieutenant-Colonel George Dixon, English organ architect, tonal expert and co-author, with Cecil Clutton, of The Organ: its Tonal Structure and Registration (1950) see pp.116-119.
The instrument has been able to be accommodated within St Mark's in an almost miraculous manner, given its very tall configuration. At Cowley, the organ occupied a lofty chamber to the south of the chancel, which was a continuation of the arcade of the south aisle. At St Mark's, an identical situation prevails and in fact the aisle roof appears higher than that at Cowley. This has permitted the original configuration of the instrument to be retained almost exactly, with the exception of the relocation of the pedal Dulciana 16ft to the back wall of the space at Fitzroy and some internal open basses on the great removed to a new off-note pneumatic chest on the side of the swell box. This siting is one bay west of that occupied by the previous William Anderson/Hill, Norman & Beard instrument which was relocated to St Francis-in-the-Fields Anglican Church, Mooroolbark in 1999 by Wakeley Pipe Organs Pty Ltd.
Following the removal of the instrument from Cowley by Harrisons and its shipping to Sydney, the whole has been meticulously restored by Peter D.G. Jewkes Pty Ltd, of Ermington, New South Wales. This has involved the complete dismantling of the triple-stage exhaust tubular-pneumatic actions. The pneumatic leather work had to be carefully replaced owing to deterioration, involving the traditional Harrison processes of napping (to slightly abrade the surface of the leather, to improve adhesion) and doping (to seal the surface against leakage and offer protection). Apart from the key actions, the diaphragm manual coupling actions, the slider machines, combination actions, four concussion bellows and the two double-rise reservoirs have all been carefully releathered. The pneumatic tubing was in excellent condition, having been supported in carefully constructed tube trays and then splayed out to the underactions and bound together with black cotton tape to prevent sagging.
The pipework was also in immaculate condition and required minimal repair and regulation. It is interesting to note that the treble pipes of the Claribel Flute are fitted with metal tips, and the larger wooden pipes have butterfly valves, all to facilitate careful regulation. The pipework is very generously scaled, the Open no 1 having a diameter of 7in at CC while the Subbass 16 is not far short of a respectable open wood.
The internal framing, swell box and larger wooden pipes are finished in the Harrison house-style paint a dark brown colour while the zinc trunking has been painted in a gray-green colour.
The massive oak casework has an oiled finish and its dark colour is a good match for the adjacent furnishings at St Mark's. Some additional oak panelling has been fitted to the projecting sides of the upper case, where this section had been surrounded by masonry at Cowley. At the side of the instrument, one of the traceried screens at St Mark's has been ingeniously refitted as a swinging door giving access to the interior of the instrument, while above this has been placed an original dummy side façade of zinc pipes.
Installation of the organ began at Fitzroy in early August 1999 and the work largely completed by the end of September. The pipework was in such an excellent state that only minimal regulation was required.
The end result is an organ which looks as if it was built specifically for St Mark's. The oak case, its dignified proportions and restrained details, matches to perfection the adjacent screens and woodwork. Indeed, even the case mouldings read through to the adjacent gallery fronts. The generous overhang to the upper case ensures that the pipework for the great organ is located well forward and speaks very directly into the building. The casework entirely surrounds the zinc façade pipework which has organ metal mouths embellished with the typical Harrison leather 'cupid's bow' to the polished plain metal upper lips.
The console is a model of comfort and convenience. The feel of the keyboards is excellent and the response (speed and repetition) of the action is extraordinary, surpassing most electric actions. Not for nothing did Harrisons consistently produce exhaust pneumatic actions for decades! The thick keys, curved keycheeks, ivory knobs on ebony jambs, massive bench and pedalboard and polished light oak panelling all add up to a sense of real anticipation for the player.
The scale of the pipework is ideally suited to St Mark's, which has a very lofty and broad nave, exposed wooden floors throughout and a pleasing resonant acoustic. The instrument offers exemplary support to the modern Catholic liturgy as practised at St Mark's, providing an uplifting accompaniment to congregational singing and the ability to create magical moments at quiet times in the Mass.
The great chorus is based upon the Open No 2, which is of singing quality and blends admirably with the very bright 4 and 2fts, both of which have a melodic rise to the trebles. Indeed, the 4ft suggests a 2ft and the 2ft a 1ft, so this sense of treble ascendancy is very welcome in the absence of compound stops. The large Open adds richness and warmth, and although voiced with leather upper lips, is not opaque in any way. The Claribel Flute is a delightful solo stop and may be used to accompany a number of combinations on the swell. The swell is enclosed in a very thick box which effectively cuts back the sound to a whisper when closed: the dynamic range is colossal. The fluework consists of a bright Violin Diapason, chirpy Lieblich Gedeckt, soft and reedy Echo Gamba and a bright (cylindrical) Gemshorn. The two reeds are a special feature of the instrument the restrained and smooth Contra Oboe (with full-length bass) and a very full and bright Cornopean, fitted with harmonic trebles, almost suggesting a small Tuba when played in single notes and one of the finest reeds in Melbourne. The pedal consists of but two ranks: a very soft and purring Dulciana 16ft which sounds spellbinding under the swell Echo Gamba with the box closed; and a very large scale Subbass which offers considerable weight and definition.
Overall, the sound is extremely beautiful, with a strong sense of refinement and richness. It is very distinctive in quality and instantly recognisable as the 'Harrison sound'. There is gravity, brightness, ample colour and a striking dynamic range. Full organ, with Open no 1 plus full swell and octave coupler is in no way oppressive and fills the church effortlessly from its privileged position.
Peter Jewkes and his team are to be commended for completing such a splendid restoration with painstaking attention to detail. Father Tony Noble, Vicar of St Mark's , must also be congratulated for his outstanding vision in seeking a worthy instrument for St Mark's and indeedmasterminding the restoration of the building. With its spacious Early-English Gothic nave and soaring broach spire, it now rates as one of Melbourne's finest churches of any period and with a perfect organ to match.
The instrument has already been classified by the National Trust of Australia (Victoria) as an instrument of great significance to our organ heritage, and carries the following citation:
"A two-manual organ of 14 stops built in 1938 by the leading English firm of Harrison & Harrison for St Luke's Church, Cowley, Oxford. The instrument was donated to the church by Lord Nuffield, whose motor works were nearby, and its designer was Dr (later Sir) Thomas Armstrong. It was moved from its original location and shipped to Australia in 1998. The only 20th century example of a Harrison organ in Australia, it is notable for its intactness, its constructional and tonal excellence, and its massive architect-designed oak case."
The organ was dedicated during Solemn Mass on Sunday 31 October 1999, at which Peter Jewkes provided the accompaniment, and the opening recital given by Lindsay O'Neill on the afternoon of the same day. The present Organist and Director of Music at St Mark's is Christopher Luke.
Large Open Diap
Small Open Diap
Swell to Great
Great to Pedal*
Swell to Pedal*
*mechanical manual to pedal coupling action
3 thumb pistons to Great
3 thumb pistons to Swell
3 toe pistons to Pedal
Reversible thumb pistons for:
Swell to Great
Great to Pedal
Balanced mechanical swell pedal
Pitch: C = 517 cps @ 60 degrees fahrenheit
Wind pressure: pipework 3 1/2in; action wind 7 in.
Photos supplied by Christopher Luke (Church organist) and Miss Beryl Pryntte