Note: This is an archive of the old unofficial website of 2001. These pages are for historical interest only - please visit the official website for up to date information. Some corrections have been noted and are in maroon.
        GCCGuildford Cathedral Choir
The Organ

The Positive Organ above Cantoris
The Positive Organ above Cantoris
The Organ at Guildford Cathedral is a four-manual instrument constructed by Rushworth & Dreaper Ltd., of Liverpool. The entire instrument was the munificent gift of the Coulthurst Trust following the great personal interest of the administrator and co-founder of the Trust, Mrs. Jessie Coulthurst.

The main body of the organ was built by Harrison & Harrison for the Baptist Church at Shipley in Yorkshire, England but it has been re-voiced to suit the needs of a much bigger building. It was partially installed by the time of the Consecration in 1961 and was greatly enlarged the following year.

A couple of years later, the “positive” organ (situated opposite the console over the Cantoris side of the choir) was added. This made accompanying the choir considerably easier and at the same time significantly increased the tonal range of the organ.

AcousticsSir Edward Maufe's original design for the Cathedral appears to have failed to take into account the need for an organ. Legend has it that the original intention was for the Cathedral to be a “temple of the spoken word”; there was to be no choir and a portable organ only, which would be wheeled into position to accompany congregational singing. If this is true, it would explain why the authorities later had so much difficulty in finding locations for choir and organ. It may also explain why the inside of the Cathedral was cunningly covered in a thick layer of acoustic plaster to reduce what was reputed to have been a marvellous natural acoustic.

(A late 1970's plan to have this plaster “surgically removed” was abandoned for reasons of cost. Thankfully, though, the original acoustic of the building is gradually returning as the plaster dries out, although whether it will ever return to its natural state is a matter for conjecture.)
The choir stalls at Guildford are not favourably placed, being the furthest apart of any British cathedral. The Organ is divided into two sections sited about 200 feet away from each other. The Main Organ (consisting of Solo, Swell, Great, Choir and Pedal) is tucked away around the corner in the North Transept Gallery, making it almost useless for accompanying the choir, since the singers can hear very little of it.

The Positive Organ, which was added in 1962 (see photos), is more successful in this respect, mainly on account of its position.
The Organs as seen from Decani
The Organs as seen from Decani
It is housed in a specially built gallery in the first North Chancel Arch, above the Cantoris side of the choir. It consists of ten speaking stops somewhat reminiscent of a baroque organ, the 8' and 4' flutes being much used to accompany the choir. Also found here is the famous “broken glass” stop (to understand this reference you'll have to get hold of the book “The Beat Is Irrelevant”). The Positive does not have a separate manual of its own but can be coupled through. Each section of the Organ has its own blowing apparatus and each can therefore be used independently of the other.
The organ console above Decani
The organ console above Decani
The four-manual console is mounted in specially built gallery opposite the Positive Organ, i.e. above the Decani side of the choir.

This is a successful arrangement because the organist can hear the choir clearly from this position. He can even see the conductor, thanks to a strategically placed mirror. (Some organists have actually been known to use this facility from time to time.)

The tasteful curtains are a more recent addition. Whether Sir Edward Maufe, the architect, would have approved is not certain!
ContentsThe Guildford Cathedral organ comprises 4,398 pipes with exactly 100 drawstops, including 76 Speaking stops, 22 Couplers and 2 Tremulants, and 63 thumb and toe pistons. Nearly 50 miles of wire is used throughout the entire instrument, of which 24 miles is in the console, and there are 12,056 silver contacts and approximately 33,000 soldered connections.
SummaryOn the whole, playing the Guildford organ is a surprisingly pleasant experience, despite the feeling of dragging both the Great and the Swell along with you. The Positive — happily nearby — can be used as a sort of artificial aid for playing in time. The instrument is quite flexible and the Positive and Solo sections have a good array of "special effects".
SpecificationSpecification of Main Cathedral Organ
Lady ChapelDetails of Ardeton Organ in Lady Chapel
SoundclipsThe Cathedral Organs sometimes feature in our RealAudio selections
DiscographyThe organ has been recorded as a solo instrument on the following discs:

  Organ Music at Guildford CathedralBarry Rose
  The Organs of Guildford CathedralBarry Rose & Gavin Williams
  Organ Favourites from Guildford CathedralAndrew Millington & Geoffrey Morgan

Main index
Note: This is an archive of the old unofficial website of 2001. These pages are for historical interest only - please visit the official website for up to date information. Some corrections have been noted and are in maroon.