Large organ jobs seldom progress quickly and our journey with All Saints Wokingham was no exception. The order was taken early in 2022 with a requirement to install the rebuilt instrument in the autumn of that year. We finally installed in summer 2023!
The old organ console was put into storage in spring 2022 to allow for a major refurbishment of the church interior. This involved a removal of all the church furniture and a totally new floor with underfloor heating. Clearly a large project, but even so completion in 2022 was programmed and our work schedule was based on that plan.
Rebuilding the Copeman Hart Organ Console
The Diocesan Organ Advisor had requested that the organ be reduced from 60 speaking stops to 47, more in keeping with the size of the building.
This required the manufacture of new jambs on both sides. We also replaced the rail above the swell manual removing memory management pistons located there and generally brought the console more up to date.
Keyboards were replaced to allow for new velocity sensitive ones that allow the rebuild to take full advantage of the new sound generation platform. This allows speech to be varied as in a mechanical action instrument by the musician striking a note quickly or more gently. You need to be really proficient to build that subtlety into your playing.
Organ speaker system totally revised
At the same time the speaker system was to be totally revised. Ernest Copeman Hart was famous for his very large bass cabinets often built in concrete. At Wokingham they were less substantial but still large wooden cabinets rising the full height of the nave walls. The main speaker array lay either side of the chancel arch directing sound westward down the nave. A west end division, removed in the rebuild, spoke from speakers above the west door.
Our new and smaller speaker installation was fixed high in the nave roof on both north and south sides. Another pair of speakers were on the east side of the chancel arch to allow better accompaniment of the choir.
Budget constraints, always sad to face, reduced the speaker compliment of this instrument to just 10 but at least the cost of the required scaffolding was found. Getting speakers at height in any building is a major factor in how the final installation will sound.
So all was ready to ensure Christmas 2022 would be supported by the rebuilt instrument. Unfortunately, the church was not and the refurbishment work continued well into 2023.
We were finally able to install the speaker system at the end of June 2023 and the instrument the following week in July. Preliminary voicing has taken place and we now await feedback from use before we return to carry out a second voicing. Ensuring that we faithfully carry on the standards set by Ernest when he rightly earned the reputation for the finest digital organs available at the time.
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.