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UK News

St Paul’s Cathedral: Fantastic Feats Organ Festival


St Paul’s Cathedral

With 7246 pipes ranging in size from 10 metres to the size of a small pencil, all controlled from a console of five keyboards, a pedal-board and over one hundred pistons, the organ of St Paul’s Cathedral has always been a fantastic feat of engineering and one of the world’s most spectacular technological marvels.  But it is in music that it becomes truly alive and transcendent.

Five of the most renowned organists are participating in a monthly festival showcasing this magnificent instrument. Owing to the delay in publishing this issue, occasioned by the tragedy of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris in April, the initial recital on May 2nd will have taken place, but for the sake of completeness, we list the five recital details below:

  • Thursday May 2nd at 6.30 pm – Bine Bryndorf (Denmark)
  • Thursday June 6th at 6.30 pm – Simon Johnson (St Paul’s Cathedral)
  • Thursday July 4th at 6.30 pm – Ken Cowan (Canada/USA)
  • Thursday August 1st at 6.30 pm – Daniel Beckmann (Germany)
  • Thursday September 5th at 6.30 pm – William Fox (St Paul’s Cathedral)
  • Tickets £12 (£8 concs) available from


Recitals and Tours of St Laurence’s Church, Ludlow


St Laurence's Church Ludlow

Saturday July 20: Peter Dyke - an Audience Request Programme
Saturday October 12: Roger Judd - music by César Franck and J.S.Bach. 

Sir John Betjeman called Ludlow ‘probably the loveliest town in England’, and no visit is complete without seeing its magnificent church.  Known as the ‘Cathedral of the Marches’, St Laurence’s is not only one of the finest parish churches in England, it currently houses the Snetzler and Wetheringsett organs.

On Saturday July 20 and Saturday October 12, organ enthusiasts can listen to and learn more about both organs. Two Tours with Talks will be held, with the opportunity to also enjoy lunch and music performed by Peter Dyke in July and Roger Judd in October.

To book a place on either of these events, contact Rosemary Wood at or telephone 01584 875438, and send cash or a cheque for £25 (which includes lunch), payable to Ludlow PCC, to: Organ Recitals and Tours, Parish Office, No 2 College Street, Ludlow, Shropshire, SY8 1AN.

The Snetzler Organ - one of the finest parish organs in the country

It is not known when an organ was first set up in Ludlow Parish Church, but one was probably in situ as early as 1400.  A late-15th century account shows money was paid for ‘mending ye organs’, and the first recorded organist is Edmund White, c. 1473.

By the mid-16th century, St Laurence’s had two organs. However, with the Commonwealth decree of 1650 to destroy all organs, records became scant.  Then, in 1764, through the generosity of Henry Arthur Herbert, 1st Earl of Powys, John Snetzler, a Swiss organ builder living in London, completed what still remains the heart of today’s organ.  Originally located in a gallery beneath the tower, and finished at a cost of £1,000 (about £110,000 in today's money), the organs had no pedalboard, but three keyboards (or "manuals") and 19 stops, most of which survive today. 

In the 19th century, Gray and Davison restored and enlarged the organ, and a fourth manual had been added.  The organ was restored in the 1980s by Nicholson & Co Ltd.

In 2006, thanks largely to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, further work was carried out to clean the instrument, improve the console, and add a new mounted Cornet.  Recent work has included new keyboards and toe sweep, as well as overhauling the blowing plant and gilding the facade pipes. The organ is now one of the finest parish church organs in the country, and attracts recitalists from all over the world.



The Wetheringsett Organ – the long-lost voice of the English medieval church

About 30 years ago, an utterly decrepit door, thought to have been used in a dairy and riddled with holes, emerged from behind a partition during work on an old farmhouse in Wetheringsett in Suffolk. The many holes in the wood were initially thought to be protection from the evil eye, until a local organ builder suggested it was, in fact, a unique treasure: the soundboard of a church organ probably dating from 1530, the part hidden away inside the instruments where the feet of the pipes sit, and through which the air is channelled from the windchest to the pipes.

This identification reminded organ builder Dominic Gwynn of an odd piece of timber recorded at Wingfield, also in Suffolk. After much hunting, he eventually located the slab of walnut, gouged with the now familiar pattern of holes and grooves. No complete Tudor organ survives: the Wetheringsett and the smaller Wingfield soundboards allowed organ builders to see exactly where the controls had been, and the dimension and position of all the pipes. In 2001, under the aegis of the Early English Organ Project, this organ was reconstructed by organ builders Goetze and Gwynne, who took two years to complete the 46-note metal-piped Wetheringsett organ, on which all the surviving music can be played. Now under the management of the Royal College of Organists, the Wetheringsett organ is normally resident in the church of St Swithun’s in Worcester, but will be housed in St Laurence’s Ludlow, until March 2020.


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