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York Minster’s Grand Organ to undergo once-a-century refurbishment

1 May, 2018

By Sharon Atkinson

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York Minster’s Grand Organ will undergo a major, £2m refurbishment this autumn for the first time in 100 years.

The instrument, parts of which date back to 1834, will be removed – including almost all of its 5263 pipes – and taken to Durham for repair/rebuilding by organ specialists Harrison and Harrison.

The project will take around two years to complete, with the restored instrument due to be ready for use in autumn 2020.

Robert Sharpe, Director of Music at York Minster, said: “The organ plays a key part in the Minster’s services, providing the heartbeat at the centre of daily worship within the church. This once-in-a-century refurbishment will ensure the instrument’s reliability for the next 100 years.”

Due to their regular use and environment, cathedral organs ideally require small-scale cleaning and adjustment every 15 to 20 years, with more extensive repairs carried out every 30 to 35 years and a major refurbishment every 100 years. The last major refurbishment of the Minster’s organ was carried out in 1903.

The project will include replacing the organ’s mechanism, extensive work to dismantle, clean and overhaul the instrument and minor changes to the organ case to both improve how it looks and the sound it allows out. The plans also include creating a new music library underneath the organ, inside the screen which separates the Quire from the Nave, subject to the relevant permissions being obtained.

The aim is to ensure the unique sound of the Minster’s organ is preserved, while restoring the grander, imposing qualities of the instrument which were altered during work in the 1960s.

During the two years of refurbishment work, the Minster’s full music programme will continue. A grand piano will be used alongside an existing chamber organ in the Quire and a digital organ will serve both the Nave and Quire.

A final series of organ concerts and recitals will take place at the Minster during 2018 before the instrument is removed. Dates include an informal organ promenade on Monday 7 May at 1.10pm, a performance of Olivier Messiaen’s L’Ascension on Sunday 13 May at 5.15pm and a gala concert on Saturday 25 August at 7pm to close the series.

If you would like to support the project please contact the York Minster Fund by emailing or calling 01904 557245.

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