Waltham Abbey Church Heritage Organ Appeal
From Thomas Tallis to Jo Brand may seem a long way, but not so.
Thomas Tallis (1505-85) was organist at Waltham Abbey and is also one of England’s greatest composers.
Jo Brand is one of Britain’s best-loved comediennes and is also a keen organist having taken up the instrument again in 2007 as part of a BBC TV series. This culminated in her performance on the newly-restored Albert Hall organ. We were delighted when Jo agreed to become a Patron for our Heritage Organ Appeal.
Jo said, “The new Albert Hall organ is fantastic and it was great to play. But it is equally important to ensure that churches and concert halls in other parts of the country have good instruments as well.”
Why music is important to us
We are a church which sees its purpose as including maintaining and nurturing the great English church music tradition and achieving excellence in the music that we offer to God in our worship.
We also play a central role in the civic life of the community of Waltham Abbey through, for example the annual Civic Service and the Remembrance Day Service.
Our service to the community includes welcoming families to the church for weddings, baptisms and funerals. Music is integral to all these events.
The church is a concert venue with its lunchtime music series and its evening concert programme. Recent concerts have included performances of Handel’s Messiah, J.S Bach’s St. John Passion and Brahms’ German Requiem.
In recent years as part of its outreach programme the church has worked with local school children on performances of Britten’s Noye’s Fludde and Captain Noah and his Floating Zoo.
Why we need a new organ
Our Walker instrument requires serious work to give it a new lease of life. Parts are worn out, sections need a good clean and there’s room for some updating with modern systems. This will involve removing the pipework and all the mechanism to the organ builder’s workshop and then its re-installation when the work is done. Whilst it is dismantled, as our organ consultant recommends, we are going to add some pipework and re-configure the existing pipes to make it more like a typical Walker instrument.
In its new form, the instrument should continue to meet the needs of the church for the next hundred years, leading worship, supporting weddings and funerals and accompanying major concerts and recitals.
To get the most out of the refurbished organ we plan to set aside some money to pay for its regular cleaning and maintenance, so that it never again becomes neglected through lack of funds.
Doing all this will be an exceptional achievement for a mere parish church and it reflects the commitment of many members of the church past and present who have supported the appeal.
Waltham Abbey Church Heritage Organ Appeal was launched in July 2008 to provide an instrument which should last a further 100 years. After many years of fundraising, and a careful selection process, the committee narrowed the final selection down to two builders. Over the last year, they have been in dialogue with both builders, discussing details to ensure the committee had all the information possible needed to make the right decision. The District Church Council has now endorsed the organ committee’s recommendation and Mander Organs Ltd, a British organ builder, has now been appointed to carry out the work.
The rebuilt organ will gain some new stops, entirely new mechanisms and electrics and a completely refurbished winding system. This work will ensure the instrument can cope with the temperature and humidity fluctuations in the church and give it a lifespan well into late 21st Century. The new pipes will combine with the old pipes which will be cleaned and re-voiced to ensure the rebuilt organ sounds better than any previously heard in the building. A new facade for the organ will be designed to replace the existing one, which was always intended as temporary, if seventy years can be considered as temporary! This will provide a visually beautiful instrument to complement the historical setting of the Abbey Church. Modern technology and materials will increase both the versatility of the instrument, and free up valuable space in the gallery, which will improve access to the instrument. Better access, in turn, will allow better maintenance of the instrument, increasing its longevity and getting the best value for money.
This is a landmark moment which will be welcome news for all our supporters now and will ultimately result in a much improved musical experience in the Abbey. We are grateful to all those who in many different ways have provided steadfast support in what has been a complex and lengthy process.
New ‘blog’ website launched
Anticipating the commencement of work on the organ, a ‘blog’ website (http://walthamabbeyorgan.wordpress.com) has been created which contains regular progress reports. This site allows you to stay up to date more regularly than the newsletters and enables the story of the rebuild to reach beyond Waltham Abbey to other churches and online communities. You can see photographs from rarely seen dusty corners of the gallery to show why the organ needs repairing and rebuilding.
Donating to Organ Appeal
You can donate securely online by Debit or Credit card, or sponsor one or more pipes in the refurbished organ.
To find out about appeal events, see What’s on.