Church Organ

On Friday 24 April 2009, the senior and junior parish choirs were joined by Chamber Choir and Senior Strings from Belfast Royal Academy under the direction of Ms Mary McMullan to celebrate the completion of the refurbishment of the church organ. Our Organist and Choirmaster Norman Finlay was, before his retirement, Head of Music at Belfast Royal Academy and with the assistance of Mary McMullan, provided a memorable evening of music which highlighted the skills of our parish musicians and choristers alongside the talents of the Academy pupils. Norman chose a selection of well known recital compositions to demonstrate the organs new stops. The evening finished off with the pupils of BRA’s choir and string ensemble joining with the parish’s junior and senior choirs in an exhilarating rendition of Purcell’s ‘Rejoice in the Lord Alway’.

The refurbishment of the organ was financed by a £3,000 bequest from the late Canon Jack Hawkins who was vicar in Antrim from 1950 – 1967 and by a £10,000 donation from the Pipe Organ Preservation Company (of Ireland) which is chaired by the Rev Adrian McLaughlin, Curate Assistant in Bangor Abbey. The refurbishment of the organ was carried out by Alistair McCartney B Sc. It was especially pleasing that Adrian McLaughlin and Canon Hawkins family including his wife Bunty, son Dr Stanley and daughter-in-law Fiona were able to be present on this historic occasion. Dr Hawkins was a member of the senior choir when he attended BRA and also sang in the junior choir in All Saints and several pieces of the musical repertoire had strong resonances for the Hawkins family.

The organ was built by the Huddersfield firm of Peter Conacher & Co. when the church was restored and the organ chamber built in 1892. Conachers were a prolific builder and built over 200 organs in Ireland. Their Victorian organs were all solidly built to a good standard. They had mechanical action, pneumatic pedals and a typical range of stops. All in all they were above average in quality and good work horses which can be seen by their enduring service. In 1902 All Saints enlarged the organ by adding a Double Diapason stop to the Swell. This was done on pneumatic action by Evans & Barr and it is reputed this was their first work in Ireland. In 1914 the same firm added a Gamba stop to the Great and the basses of this form the display pipes in the chancel. The organ was overhauled in 1939 and an electric blower installed in 1948. It was overhauled again by Abbey Organ Co. c1980.

The recent work by the Pipe Organ Preservation Co. has concentrated on improving the sound of the organ and giving it more presence in the building as well as brightness. The organ is tightly packed into a chamber which restricts the sound. The Great Principal & Fifteenth stops were loudened and a 2 rank Sesquialtera added on a new slide. The Swell Octave 4’ stop was loudened and the Piccolo 2’ replaced by a 2-3 rank Mixture. The lead tubes supplying the previously added Double Diapason and Gamba stops were in poor condition and half had been replaced with plastic due to the damage caused by tuners squeezing past them, such was their restrictive nature. These stops have been retained and converted to electro-pneumatic action. The space behind the chancel pipes has been utilised to add a Great Trumpet 8’ and a Pedal Posaune 16’. Various other repairs have been undertaken and with the maximum amount of pipes fitted in the space available, the organ is now equipped to sound to its potential.