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St Paul’s 20 year ‘pipe-dream’ becomes a reality

The latest chapter in St Paul’s rich musical history has been written this week with the first performance of the cathedral’s brand new organ.

The new OBE Chapel organ was blessed and inaugurated on 25thJanuary 2012, with a programme of works by Handel, Boyce, Bach, Ad Wammes and Errollyn Wallen, performed by renowned British concert organist Thomas Trotter.

Consisting of 1,300 pipes, 20 stops, two manuals and pedals, the OBE Chapel organ in the cathedral’s crypt has been built by one of the country’s foremost organ builders, William Drake.

Proposals for the new organ began as far back as the early 1990s, and now almost two decades later, in which time the funds were raised for its creation, the instrument has been completed.

The organ, which draws its initial inspiration from English instruments of the 18th century, was funded by the Order of the British Empire for whom the chapel is a spiritual home. Award-holders of the OBE and members of their family may be married and baptised in the chapel, and this presently accounts for over one hundred services every year. As the cathedral's chapel of St Faith, the space is also used for numerous other special services and events.

The OBE Chapel Organ joins three other organs at St Paul’s Cathedral. The Grand Organ has 7,256 pipes, 108 stops and 5 manuals, while the 1881 Willis on Wheels and the 1997 Continuo Organ are also regularly used during services on the cathedral floor. The new organ brings the total number of organ pipes in St Paul’s Cathedral to around 9,150.

St Paul’s Organist Simon Johnson, said: "After almost 20 years in the planning, the cathedral’s ‘pipe-dream’ has finally been realised. It is truly wonderful that the cathedral now has a variety of instruments, capable of rendering different aspects of the repertoire, each with its own distinct voice and personality.

"It is in the service of the liturgy that the new organ in the OBE Chapel primarily comes into being and so this is an organ where, in the words of the Victorian hymn writer Francis Pott, ‘Craftsman’s art and music’s measure for thy pleasure all combine’.”

Useful links:
OBE Chapel Organ specifications
St Paul’s organs informationand specifications
William Drake
Thomas Trotter