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In the spring of last year I had a meeting with Dr Alan Sykes, curator of the well known and loved Willis Organ at the Brangwyn Hall Swansea. This was a relatively brief encounter which quickly lead to our hat being in the ring for the supply of a most prestigious new digital organ for the brand new university concert hall.
As a Welshman living in exile in England you can imagine that I was delighted that shortly thereafter a Regent Classic Custom Built Digital Organ by Viscount was chosen for this exciting new development on the Jersey Marine Campus of Swansea University. The Great Hall is well named as its classical style architecture dominates the centre of this £450 million campus development project.
In the spring of 2015 we won the commission with a delivery and installation date of early November the same year. We were selected by the University having demonstrated to them the quality of instruments installed in the Guildhall School of Music and Highgate School.
A complex project but we delivered
The Great Hall Sir Stanley Clark Auditorium is named after the founder of St Modwen, the main developer of the Bay Campus and seats about 700 and is a multi functional space with lectures and meetings being as much part of the purpose as musical and cultural events. Much of the tiered seating retracts to give greater floor space. The performance stage also can be extended some 8m into the hall to allow for large orchestral and choral events to be accommodated.
This was a complex project from the outset with the organ added after the initial design concept was agreed. Consequently the first site meeting in June was to plan placing speaker enclosures, a most critical part of the design of any digital or pipe organ installation.
Happily we secured huge enclosure positions to the left and right of centre stage, well above the floor level and immediately behind any orchestra or choir that may also be performing. Bass speakers were also positioned under the stage to left and right. So we were off to a good start for a splendid result. Below is the architects impression of the speaker enclosures.
Delivering the Regent Classic Digital Organ
We delivered to site on November 22nd and for the first time ever I saw our instrument lifted 30ft into the air on a front end loader to a scaffold dock as the goods lifts were yet to be commissioned (see picture below). It was a good omen that as we sailed into the air the sun came out for a rare break in an otherwise continually rainy day.
Here is a short video from the organ installation:
Installation and Voicing of the Organ
Once inside we entered an enormously busy arena with different trades working flat out to recover lost time. Compared to the rest our job was relatively easy and by 11.00am the next morning we had successfully commissioned the organ although listening to it playing amid a variety of noise from hammers, angle grinders chop saws and other assorted tools was to say the least difficult. It was also the first time we have had to work with toe caped boots, hard hats and high visibility jackets.
The organ is on a mobile plinth and an umbilical cord is stored in the plinth. This can connect the instrument two 2 separate points stage right and stage left. Signal is sent via the umbilical to a plant room where our amplifier rack is located. 16 speakers are then separately hard wired to the amplifier rack.
Nevertheless it was fun and a delighted group of guests that afternoon, including Chief Constable of the South Wales Constabulary and the Lord Lieutenant of Glamorgan were serenaded into the hall to strains of Cwm Rhondda and All Through the Night, most of which we had worked.
Completing the installation and final voicing
We retuned in January to a finished project to complete the work of voicing which took two full days and will no doubt benefit from some more adjustments as the various musical groups gain experience of working with the instrument in both a full and empty hall.
The location of the Hall right on Swansea Bay will provide a spectacular addition to the entertainment facilities in Swansea. We are delighted that on October 2nd this year (2016) – International Concert Organist Joseph Nolan from Perth Australia will play a recital in the Hall as part of the annual Swansea International Festival. You can find out more about the festival by going to the Festival Website.
To see the detailed stop list Click here.
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.