A new Digital Organ after tragedy strikes
We had the opportunity to start work with Normanton Baptist Church in 2015 when they were looking for a new bespoke digital organ to fit their newly refurbished interior. But let’s start from the beginning…
Tragedy struck this church in October 2009 when arsonists set fires in two places in the building resulting in the almost complete destruction of the interior (see pictured right).
For many small communities the scale of the damage would have been overwhelming but, thanks to reasonable insurance cover and local determination, the rebuilding of this church is now coming almost to its conclusion.
Work remains on the large community room behind the church but at least the main worship space is more or less done as you can see below:
Choosing the right Organ solution for the Church
One of the very last items for the church has been the completion of the organ but not in the way it was originally planned as I will explain in full below.
In rebuilding the space as originally laid out in 1877 has been reorganised. Gone is the substantial horse shoe gallery that was present. A west end gallery (pictured above) has been retained so there is still seating for about 300 but the building now has been filled with light from the north and south windows that the old side gallery aisles restricted.
The craftsmanship of the the new woodwork is evident from the photographs and none the less than on the magnificent organ case which is the work of Sebastian Meakin of J W Walker. And therein lies a tale.
Normanton had commissioned J W Walker to build a new pipe organ but these plans had to be cancelled when it became clear that the insurance monies available would not cover the total refurbishment work planned. So, Normanton found itself in the very unusual position of a having to stop work at the stage where a beautiful front was made and installed but there would never be a pipe organ behind it.
Exploring a custom made Digital Organ
This situation was finally resolved by exploring a digital solution that would be in keeping with the plans drawn up by Sebastian and finished to the same high quality that he had set. So it was in 2015 we were asked to quote for the completion of a fine digital instrument…an order that we won later in the year.
As you will see from the photograph above there was already in place a fine front pipe display with sliding doors covering the otherwise empty space where the pipe organ console should have been. We had to work backward from these dimensions to provide a console and jambs and also construct staging behind the facade to hold the 16 speakers. A special sub bass unit sits on the floor behind facade.
Delivering an Organ of highest quality and finishing
As with all Regent Classic organs this has been built with the finest quality materials and components available. The organ has 58 speaking stops. Rosewood drawstop heads are fitted to Taylor solenoids and the keyboards adjustable for both weight and pluck point are by UHT. The organ has a matching adjustable bench and the pedal board sharps have rosewood caps. The toe pistons are also by Taylor. As with all Regent Classic commissions we work excursively with specialist organ joinery and console manufacturer Renatus of Bideford. The magnificent quality of their work can be seen in the picture below which shows how well their new console has been matched and fitted into the earlier work completed by Walkers.
Voicing of the Digital Organ is most important
At the end of the day the most important attribute of any organ is the sound. While at the date of this blog final voicing has yet to be completed. You will find a recording of the instrument after preliminary voicing here:
And finally the finished installation
And…a last picture of the finished project! Below you can see Peter, from our team, sitting up at the console.
So, a wonderful addition to a gorgeous church. We wish Normanton’s community all the very best for the future and many more beautiful musical moments with our organ to play.
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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.