In November the organ builders installed the new casework for the Willis organ. During its time in St George's Church, Edinburgh it had a proper case but this did not survive when it was brought to St Mary and St Giles Church in 1967 and the front pipes (open diapasons) were mounted in two straight rows with no casework. In the early 1970s these pipes were painted white. On the Swell side a flimsy hardboard panel at the side of the pipes was the main entrance to tune the Swell and Pedal organ, this offered no security and in time the panel curved badly which looked unsightly. So we knew that with the organ restoration it would be necessary to commission new casework, especially as with the addition of 4 new stops the organ had been enlarged and the front brought forward into the gallery. However this was not funded from the Heritage Lottery grant as it wasn't restoration, so we continue to raise funds to pay for the casework.
On 1st November I could see from below that all the Pedal Bourdon pipes were now in place.
Pedal Bourdon all in place
View of the Great organ on 1 November
During the week the organ builders installed the new Tierce, Nazard and Piccolo pipes in the Choir organ. These had been prepared for by Henry Willis III in 1932 when he enlarged the organ but they were not installed at the time (only the stop knobs in the console were present). We wanted to complete his specification for the organ, especially as these 3 stops played together with a 4ft and 8ft in the Choir would produce a Cornet sound, used in French organ music. These were funded from a combination of event fundraising and a donation from the ON Organ fund.
The new Tierce, Nazard and Piccolo pipes in the choir stand on their own soundboard
During this time FH Browne were building the casework in their workshop and they sent us these photos of the work in progress:
Willis Case work in FH Browne & Sons workshop
Willis Case work in FH Browne & Sons workshop
At the Come and Sing day on 7th November we were able to capture the following photos of the organ as the photographer was allowed access to the gallery to photograph the event. These showed that the casework pieces had been delivered to the church in readiness for building the casework on the Monday:
new casework pieces in the north gallery in front of the Great organ
Close up of Great top note chest behind 3 open diapason pipes
By the time we got to the church in the late afternoon on the 9th November we found the organ builders had already got the case framework up on the Great (north) side. They were starting to fit the panels for the Great casework.
Putting up the casework - putting the big side panel on the balcony to make some minor fitting adjustments before fitting it in place
For the Great & Choir casework - putting the large side panel on the gallery temporarily for minor adjustments before fitting it
The casework frame without the front pipes, during the erecting of the frame (Great & Choir side of the organ)
One of the finials for the top of the frame
The box of finials for the organ casework
The large side panel for the Swell side of the organ
The side panel and the framework pieces for the Swell side of the organ
Fitting the casework frame on the Great & Choir side of the organ
One of the lower panels for the casework
The pipe supports (shaped) for the upper part of the casework frame
The front pipe action chests for the Great & Choir side of the organ (the pipes on the casework in the Swell side of the organ are dummy pipes and don't require action chests)
Steve cuts a shape in the bottom of the large side panel for the Great & Choir side of the casework for fitting it around existing wiring.
Fitting the casework to the Great & Choir side of the organ
The framework pieces for the Swell side of the organ (they are immensely heavy)
The casework for the Great and Choir side, including top finials, in place awaiting pipes
Side view of the Great & Choir casework, with the panels fitted. Awaiting front pipes.
On the Swell side no action chests are required for the front pipes which are dummy (non speaking) pipes, this is the framework with pipe support holes for the dummy pipes.
Close up view of the pipe holes for the front pipes on the Great & Choir side of the organ - these will be speaking pipes so have their action chests fitted beneath the holes.
A view from inside the casework looking out to the side of the Great & Choir casework showing the pipe action chest and support holes for the front pipes
The Great and Choir casework in place (with finials) enclosing the pipes.
On the 10th November when John visited during the day to take more photos he found they had got the Swell framework and panels in place including the finials and were working again on the Great side as they had the pipe action boxes to install within the lower panels.
Great casework in place
The Swell casework in place, gallery view. Awaiting the front pipes.
The Swell casework fitting above the south gallery stairs
The lower part of the Swell casework showing the panels beneath the pipe holes. The pipes which will go in this side of the organ are dummy (non speaking pipes), the pipes which go in the casework around the Great & Choir are speaking pipes.
The pipe supports (black) in position in the Swell casework upper frame.
The Swell casework frame with finials on top
The organ builders shared a photo of the resprayed front pipes with us as a tantalizing promise of what they would look like in the organ. The old white paint had taken 2 weeks to remove from all the pipes - they had to use a wire brush on an angle grinder to clean it off the pipes.
Front pipes resprayed - Since the early 1970s the front pipes of the Willis Pipe organ were painted with white emulsion. The old paint has now been removed (it was quite a job to clean it off) and all 42 pipes have been resprayed a light gold, which will look wonderful in the new light oak casework. This photo was taken by FH Browne & Sons in their workshop.
The front pipes didn't arrive in the church until later in November though so in the meantime the organ builders continued with regulating the pipes and tuning them to concert pitch.
Words by Anna Page
Photos by Anna and John Page and FH Browne & Sons