St Mary-le-Bow, London
Hauptwerk v4 Virtual Organ

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Although there is the likelihood that the church had a pair of organs before the reformation, the earliest known instrument there dates from 1802. This was a small organ of some 13 stops spread across two manuals. The builder was given as Hugh Russell, but there is some speculation that it may have been second-hand. This instrument lasted without alteration until 1867, when G.M. Holdich added a third manual, a pedalboard and another 11 stops, resulting in a far more flexible organ enjoying a specification which was quite typical for the period. However, this was now Victorian London, a period when size mattered and consequently a larger and grander instrument was soon desired. This came in the form of a brand new 33 stop organ from J.W. Walker at a cost of £1,108 and 5 shillings. The Walker organ demonstrated some of the tonal fashions current in 1880 – a Horn Diapason on the Great, a greater variety of 8 foot tone including an undulating rank on the Swell and mixtures comprising just unison and quint ranks. This instrument appears to have survived unaltered for the next 60 years.

 

The church was hit twice during the blitz of World War 2 and the Walker organ was removed before the second attack which caused extensive damage. In the immediate post-war period, repair and restoration was a slow and painstaking task and this Wren church wasn’t in a position to welcome back its organ until 1964. By this time, the storage of the Walker organ was in the hands of Rushworth and Draper and this company set about the installation of an instrument which, it has to be said, was rather a pale imitation of its former self. Only 18 stops survived the cut and the various sources of pipe-work and the associated mechanism resulted in an organ which never lived up to the promise of its commanding position on the west gallery. Possibly the best part of the organ was the case, which was made during the post-war reparations by a firm of general builders as opposed to specialist organ builders. When the decision was made to start again with a new organ for the church of St Mary-le-Bow, retention of this fine case was accepted as being essential.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ORGANS AT ST MARY-LE-BOW

SPECIFICATION OF THE J.W.WALKER ORGAN AS BUILT IN 1880 FOR ST. MARY-LE-BOW
GREAT
Double Open Diapason
Open Diapason
Horn Diapason
Wald Flute (Stopped bass)
Principal
Harmonic Flute
Twelfth
Fifteenth
Mixture
Trumpet

Swell to Great

16
8
8
8
4
4
2 2/3
2
III
8


SWELL
Double Diapason
Open Diapason
Stopped Diapason
Echo Gamba
Vox Angelica
Principal
Spitz Flute
Fifteenth
Mixture
Horn
Oboe
Clarion
Tremulant

16
8
8
8
8
4
4
2
III
8
8
4
CHOIR
Salicional
Dulciana
Lieblich Gedact
Gemshorn
Flute
Piccolo
Clarionet and Bassoon

Swell to Choir




8
8
8
4
4
2
8





PEDAL
Open Diapason
Bourdon
Quint
Principal

Great to Pedal
Swell to Pedal
Choir to Pedal





16
16
10 2/3
8

The scheme proposed by Kenneth Tickell was chosen from four proposals originating from Germany and the USA as well as from the UK. The case was chosen as the starting point for the tonal scheme and provided an important source of inspiration, reminiscent as it is of the work of the Alsace Silbermann family. Therefore, a French classical influence can be detected, both in the range and scale of the mutations and in the sound of the Great reeds. A French romantic direction is evident in the Swell organ, with the reeds having Cavaillé-Coll domed shallots as well as the provision the strings (albeit these are not nearly as keen sounding as French strings of the 19th century). In fact, the instrument should really be considered as being predominantly English in style and sound, but speaking with a distinct French accent. The only pipes remaining from the previous instrument are the bottom octaves of both the Pedal Violone and the Sub Bass – all other pipes were either made in house by Kenneth Tickell or supplied by Shires Organ Pipes of Leeds.

 

The instrument was installed and voiced during the spring and summer of 2010 and the inaugural recital was given by Thomas Trotter on the 29th September. The church maintains a busy and thriving music tradition with regular organ recitals alongside a wide variety of other concerts. There is even The Academy of St Mary-le-Bow – an orchestra formed in 2016 which gives young graduates an opportunity to play orchestral music to a high standard in various venues around London.

THE KENNETH TICKELL ORGAN

Source: National Pipe Organ Register