Since the organ open day in September the organ builders have been hard at work completing the Willis pipe organ so that it would be ready for Christmas 2015.  Visitors to the organ in September could see right inside it because Steve, Paul and the others were still working on installing pipes, tuning it to concert pitch and fitting actions.  All this had to be done before they could start fitting the front casework round the front of both halves of the organ.  I took photos at various stages with the intention of blogging about it at the time so belatedly this is to catch up on the final stages of the work.

The great news is that the organ was indeed finished in time for our Christmas services, however I'm jumping ahead.

The organ is in two halves on either side of the console.  In the south chamber are some ranks of the pedal organ and the entire Swell organ (swell box enlarged for the 16ft Waldhorn pipes).  The 42 pedal Bourdon pipes are on an off note chest (soundboard) in front of the Swell box (16ft and 8ft pipes) with slider action which brings the correct 30 pipes into play depending on which stop is pulled.

In the north chamber is the Great organ (unenclosed, which means it is not in a large box) in front of the Choir organ (enclosed in a box with shutters like the Swell organ).  The difference between the Choir and Swell sections of the organ is that the Choir is designed to accompany a choir (so has quieter pipes) and the Swell organ complements the Great and can have louder pipes.  In the north chamber behind the Choir box are the Pedal Violone pipes (16ft and 8ft) and now the 12 new 4ft Viol pipes which were prepared for but missing.

The following photos were taken at the beginning of August:

wind trunking joining off note chest actions under pipes, showing chest magnets to activate the pipes

wind trunking joining off note chest actions under pipes, showing chest magnets to activate the pipes

installing large wooden Pedal Bourdon pipes in front of the swell

installing large wooden Pedal Bourdon pipes in front of the swell

The Swell slider motors for bringing different ranks of pipes into play

The Swell slider motors for bringing different ranks of pipes into play

passage board above the Swell slider motors - this space between the wall and the Swell box allows the organ builders to reach the pedal pipes behind the Swell box

passage board above the Swell slider motors - this space between the wall and the Swell box allows the organ builders to reach the pedal pipes behind the Swell box

The Great and Choir under actions - the leather motors are inflated and pull down the wires which open pallets inside the soundboard to allow wind to get to individual note channels

The Great and Choir under actions - the leather motors are inflated and pull down the wires which open pallets inside the soundboard to allow wind to get to individual note channels

Off note chest with electric chest magnets, waiting for pipes to be installed

Off note chest with electric chest magnets, waiting for pipes to be installed

These photos were taken at the end of August:

Bellows weights on the wind reservoirs with wind trunking to feed the soundboards

Bellows weights on the wind reservoirs with wind trunking to feed the soundboards

passage board alongside the Swell box, showing flooring installation

passage board alongside the Swell box, showing flooring installation

fitting the slider action to the Pedal bourdon off note chest (this is for the rank of pipes which stands in front of the Swell box)

fitting the slider action to the Pedal Bourdon off note chest (this is for the rank of pipes which stands in front of the Swell box)

At the Heritage Open Day in September two ranks of pipes were in the Great and Choir organ and the organ builders were happy to allow people to play the available pipes from the console.  Pipe installation continued apace after the open day.

These photos were taken on 27th September showing a lot of progress in 2 weeks:

The Great pipes, showing the tuning slides in concert pitch position

The Great pipes, showing the tuning slides in concert pitch position

Pedal Bourdon pipes partly installed (in front of Swell organ)

Pedal Bourdon pipes partly installed (in front of Swell organ)

On 15th October I was able to get closer to see the progress of pipes being installed and tuned to concert pitch.  In some cases this involved moving the slides up the metal pipes (sometimes replacing with new slides).  For wooden pipes which were too short this meant adding a bit more wood to the top of the pipe.  Apparently only one rank of pipes (the metal Dulciana in the Choir) had to be moved along one pipe with a new pipe for the lowest note, all the rest had enough length to be able to adjust the tuning or easily add length (wood pipes only).

Great pipes with tuning slides in new positions for concert pitch

Great pipes with tuning slides in new positions for concert pitch

A wooden pipe with an extension piece to bring it to concert pitch

A wooden pipe with an extension piece to bring it to concert pitch

Great pipes with tuning slides adjusted to concert pitch position - see the lighter metal showing the old positions

Great pipes with tuning slides adjusted to concert pitch position - see the lighter metal showing the old positions

A view past the side of the Great and Choir to the Pedal Viol 4ft and 8ft pipes

A view past the side of the Great and Choir to the Pedal Viol 4ft and 8ft pipes

Looking through the centre of the Great organ to the pipes in the Choir organ (view from the front of the organ)

Looking through the centre of the Great organ to the pipes in the Choir organ (view from the front of the organ)

Installing pipes in the Swell organ

Installing pipes in the Swell organ

View from the top of the stairs looking past the Pedal Bourdon on the right to the Swell pipes being installed

View from the top of the stairs looking past the Pedal Bourdon on the right to the Swell pipes being installed

Swell top note chest before installation in the organ

Swell top note chest before installation in the organ

Side and front of the Great organ (view from gallery in front of the console)

Side and front of the Great organ (view from gallery in front of the console)

At the September open day I had observed the Great and Choir under actions working and knew this would be good for the DVD about the organ which we're making as part of the Heritage Lottery Funded project.  So on 25th October we did some filming, with John Neal playing short sample pieces so Geoff could film him at the console as well as the under actions moving and the stop slider motors working.  We did this about 30 minutes after the 9:30 am mass had finished and a few people who were still in the church after coffee and chatting were thrilled to hear the organ and stayed to listen.  At that stage not all the pipes which were in were in tune and the Swell shutters could not be operated however it certainly gave us a good idea of how the organ was going to sound when complete.

Geoff films as John Neal plays the Willis organ

Geoff films as John Neal plays the Willis organ

A few people listening to John Neal play the Willis after mass on 25th October

A few people listening to John Neal play the Willis after mass on 25th October

There was still plenty to do though and only a month in which to complete the organ by the agreed date of end of November which meant long hours for the organ builders.

Words and photos by Anna Page