St. Luke's Organ

 

The 1907 Norman & Beard pipe organ at St Luke’s Toowoomba is widely and highly acclaimed. Although only of moderate size, it is extremely versatile and gives the impression of being considerably larger than it is. Francis Jackson, sometime organist of York Minster in the UK, expressed the opinion it was an example of English romantic voicing at its best, and the legendary Dr A.E. Floyd, sometime organist of St Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne, described it as “the finest two-manual organ on which I have ever laid my hands”.

On Thursday 17 October 1907, the eve of the Feast of St Luke, the organ was dedicated at a Festival Evensong Service at which the Archdeacon of the Downs preached and Stanley Hobson, the parish organist, played the new instrument for the first time. A recital was presented the next evening by George Sampson, the organist and choirmaster of St John’s Cathedral in Brisbane.

 

The original action was tubular pneumatic (Norman & Beard were famed for the response and repetition of their action), and the swell box shutters were operated mechanically by means of a lever pedal. The bellows were blown by hand from the southern side of the organ, although by the 1950s a three horse-power electric motor had been installed, supplying wind from outside the building. This is the motor still in use. Foot operated combination levers were available, three for each manual. Internal woodwork was of sugar pine while the exterior woodwork was of red cedar.

 

The extensions to the church in 1959 necessitated the removal of the organ to another position. This was effected in 1960 by Mr Jarrott of Brisbane, who electrified the action and made some small alterations at the same time. Mr Jarrott also made the detached console which forms the basis of the console presently in use. The original console was discarded, although the keyboards survive as part of the instrument built at Baillie Henderson Hospital in Toowoomba; part of the old cedar casework was used to construct a cupboard which presently stands in the ambulatory behind the high altar.

 

The organ was raised and placed on supporting brackets to the south of the new chancel, the original layout of the organ being largely preserved. The pedal department was enlarged by the addition of an Acoustic Bass 32’, a Quint 10-2/3 (acoustic), and a Principal 8’ by extension from the Open Diapason 16’. The manual compass was increased from 58 to 61 notes, and some extra couplers were added. The Pedal couplers were originally mechanical, whilst the remaining original couplers were pneumatic. The original nomenclature used the word Octave rather than Super.

 

By the early 1990s the organ needed repair, and in 1995 W.J. Simon Pierce of Brisbane carried out a major restoration which was funded by a special appeal following the heritage listing of the organ. The Swell and Great soundboards were turned 90 degrees in the chamber and the direction of the swell shutters reversed to allow the instrument to speak into the nave. The pedal pipes in the sanctuary were returned to the organ chamber and adjusted to project better into the building. All the soundboards were stripped, repaired, flooded and assembled and the action completely refurbished. All pipework was cleaned, regulated and voiced, and the wind pressures were lowered by means of the new break-down bellows, allowing the original “voice” of the instrument to be heard once more. A new Swell machine was made for the swell shutters. Keyboards of 58 notes were incorporated into the console which was adjusted for better comfort of the organist: it was turned to face across the chancel and made lower to allow visual contact with the choir; angled stop jambs were fitted, and the (original) stops placed nearer together; a new adjustable organ bench was made, donated in memory of the original organist, Stanley Hobson, by his grandchildren. A new trumpet stop based on other Norman & Beard trumpet stops, made possible by a donation from Dora Jackson, was installed on the Great.

 

This work has ensured the continuing contribution of this important historic instrument to the musical life of St Luke’s Church, the city of Toowoomba and beyond.

 

A CD recording of the instrument, Celebrate, was made and released in 2007 by Phillip Gearing (see “Recordings” on this website for details).

 

The centenary of the organ was celebrated in October 2007 with a series of three organ recitals, given by internationally acclaimed Australian organist Christopher Wrench (13 October), St Luke’s Director of Music Phillip Gearing (17 October), and Director of Music at St John’s Cathedral, Brisbane (21 October).

 

Sources

Brightman, Max (nd), May I Show You Around? A Guide to St Luke’s Church, Toowoomba.

Brightman, Max (1995), The Organ and Organists of St Luke’s Anglican Church Toowoomba.

Toowoomba, St Peter’s Press.

Gearing, Phillip (1993). “The Organ of St Luke’s Anglican Church, Toowoomba: An Historical Account,

1907-93”. OHTA News, Vol 17 No 3, pp. 19-21.

Rushworth, Graeme D. (1988). Historic Organs of New South Wales: The Instruments, Their Makers

and Players, 1791-1940. Sydney, Hale & Ironmonger.
Personal interviews with Bert Jarrott and Walter Noller (30 June 1992), and Les Rub (1 July 1992).

 

 

 

Specification

   

Great

Swell

Pedal

Open Diapason No 1 8

Bourdon 16

Acoustic Bass 32

Open Diapason No 2 8

Geigen Principal 8

Open Diapason 16

Clarabella 8

Lieblich Gedacht 8

Bourdon 16

Dulciana 8

Salicional 8

Principal 8

Principal 4

Vox celeste 8

Bass Flute 8

Harmonic Flute 4

Gemshorn 4

 

Trumpet 8

Mixture III

 

Clarinet 8

Horn 8

 
 

Oboe 8

 
 

Tremulant

 
 

 

 

Couplers

Accessories

Compass 58/30

Swell Sub Octave

Balanced swell pedal

Swell Unison Off

3 combination thumb pistons Great & Pedal

Swell Octave

General Cancel

Swell Sub to Great

3 reversible toe studs – Swell to Great, Swell to Pedal, Great to Pedal

Swell to Great

1 reversible toe stud – Tutti

Swell Super to Great

Swell to Pedal

Great to Pedal

Great Super

 

 

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