St Matthew-in-the-City Organ Installation

A bequest and many years of fund-raising by the St Matthew’s parish culminated, in 2011, with the installation of a new pipe organ designed by UK organ manufacturers, Henry Willis & Sons.

The purpose-built organ loft of the church had remained unused since the building’s completion in 1904 and, instead, an old organ had been “temporarily” located in the south transept. The decision to install a new organ in the empty loft required close liaison with the UK based manufacturer and careful project management to ensure accurate design and detailing for the new organ enclosure and its integration with locally manufactured componentry.

Planning and programming was vital with two crews of highly qualified and dedicated assemblers brought from the UK to handle different aspects of the installation. Also vital, of course, was a consideration for the practical needs of the church and its parishioners during this whole process.

The important role of managing this process fell to Peter Reed of Salmond Reed Architects, who organised the production of accurate measured drawings of the transept, loft, pedal well and the blower chamber where the organ and associated components were to be installed.

The work was closely integrated with other church improvements, including relocation of the church kitchen, construction of a sacristy and storage cupboards and the careful restoration of the historic St Thomas’ chapel, hitherto loosely arranged in the church crypt – a sequence of works which redefined the spaces necessary for the proper integration of the new organ.

During the two and a half year construction period, in order to better understand and appreciate the entire process of organ building and the level of detail required, Peter made several visits to the Liverpool premises of Henry Willis & Sons where he worked closely with their designer, Geoff McMahon, on the design of steel brackets to support the finely detailed cantilevered timber casework.

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