Funds make pipe dream a reality

Organic blessings: Organ restorer Simon Pearce puts the final touches to new technology in All Saints Anglican Church.
Organic blessings: Organ restorer Simon Pearce puts the final touches to new technology in All Saints Anglican Church. Scott Powick

IT was a musical marriage like no other that has ever graced All Saints Anglican Church in Murwillumbah.

The grandest old lady of the church, a 1927 organ complete with 800 pipes, was yesterday married to modern technology in the form of a digital console, ensuring the old girl can continue belting out tunes as well as ever.

The partnership, which has cost $150,000, funded by the bequests of three generous parishioners and a State Government heritage grant, finalised two years of preparation and painstaking work by one of Australia's top organ restorers, Simon Pearce, who is currently also reinstating the Brisbane City Hall organ.

Among those delighted to witness the event and see the organ, built more than 80 years ago, given a new lease of life was organist Ross Johnson, who has been playing the mighty instrument for 50 years.

“It's unique in regional Australia,” said Mr Johnson, who began playing at the age of 17.

“The instrument itself is the best remaining example of the work of well-known Sydney organ builder Charles William Leggo.

“The tonal quality and the size of the organ was considered the best between Newcastle and Brisbane. The original tonal quality and pipe work has never been altered.”

Mr Johnson said the new technology was similar to that used in larger capital cities in Australia and throughout Europe and America, improving the way the instrument was played. “The location of the console at the front of the church will also enable it to be used regularly for worship and performances of a community nature,” he said.

Mr Johnson said the $150,000 project, supervised by senior lecturer in music at Queensland University and organist of St Luke's Church Toowoomba Philip Gearing, had been funded by “specific bequests from three very generous parishioners over the past 25 years and a magnificent grant from the NSW Department of Planning heritage branch”.

The grant was one of three recently announced for the Northern Rivers, including restorations of the Saraton Theatre in Grafton and the Evans Head RAAF base War Memorial.

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