Delayed by faculty issues and then Covid-19 this bespoke digital organ was completed in January 2020 but it was only towards the middle of July that we finally managed to install it at St Andrew’s Church in Sonning.
St Andrew’s in Sonning is in a beautiful location
Sonning is a village near Maidenhead UK. St Andrew’s Church is the successor building to an early Anglo Saxon Cathedral and close to the location of a former Bishop’s Palace long since gone.
Sonning clearly was and remains a wealthy location. The church sits right next to one of Lutyens most famous and prestigious houses, Deanery Gardens with gardens by his renowned collaborator Gertrude Jekyll. All well hidden behind high walls.
Regent Classic has now installed well over 30 bespoke organs, our previous organ installations taking us right across the world to New Zealand (read about our 4 manual organ in Wellington Cathedral and 3 manual organ for a Private Client).
This installation was pleasantly close to home and in what I think is the most decorated and inspiring church interior we have ever worked in as you an see from the 3D model of the church below. Never did we anticipate that this model would allow the job to move on in lockdown as I will explain.
Organ speaker installation
Our installation in St Andrew’s takes advantage of many speaker locations. Swell and Choir divisions in the north and south aisles adjacent to the choir stalls. The great and pedal organ sit adjacent to the pipe organ which one day may have another restoration.
While a west end division sits high in the nave roof by the tower and a solo tuba is also high in the roof but at the east end of the nave.
Fitting and wiring these speakers required working almost 14 meters above the nave floor so a substantial scaffold structure had to be built to give us access.
But how in lockdown could we get a scaffolder to quote?
It actually proved quite easy as we just sent a link from our 3D model to a number of companies and based on these virtual site visits the quotes came in. We eventually selected a company called Arena Scaffolding who could not have been easier to work with.
In such a significant church I was understandably nervous about bringing in a large amount of equipment. There was plenty of scope for damage but the Arena team were first class.
An organ console matching the choir stalls
Our team worked hard for a week to get the digital organ installed. This was by far the most demanding cabling job so far.
The cable run to the west end was so long that it was beyond the distance we could rely on a console located amplifier to manage. So an eight channel signal cable was run to the west end tower where another amplifier was fitted into the churches sound system amplifier rack and from there cables were run to the nave roof speakers.
Elsewhere the cable routes that were exposed required us to change cable colour along the route to better blend in with the background. At least one cable started off in black changing to grey and finally white by the time it arrived at the speakers.
Our console, colour matched to the nearby choir stalls provides a small 3 manual organ of 45 speaking stops (see stop list here). The pipe organ console is at the end of the south choir stalls while our new console sits in the south aisle behind the stalls.
The console doors have the clever adjustable hinge detail that allows for any movement in the wood to be easily catered for so the doors can remain a good and true fit.
Final voicing of the organ remains
At the time of writing this the final voicing has yet to be carried out but my first impressions are of an organ that will be really enjoyable to play. The west end division, though small makes its presence felt well, no doubt due to the speaker location.
In fact I rather think the organist will prefer it to the great that speaks from either side of the pipe organ. As like so many pipe organs, buried as this one is at the end of a side aisle, it is handicapped by location from making its presence felt.
The solo Tuba will also be great fun if just a little disconcerting with an ever so small but noticeable time delay to manage.
St Andrew’s organ was the Regent Classic and Viscount UK team’s 3rd job back after lockdown. Its really good to be back after a really long enforced vacation from the normal weekly routine.
I have had a passion for church organs since the tender age of 12. I own and run Regent Classic Organs with a close attention to the detail that musicians appreciate; and a clear understanding of the benefits of digital technology and keeping to the traditional and emotional elements of organ playing.