Congregation launches fundraising campaign to save century-old organ

15:41 20 February 2013

All Hallows Organ restoration appeal,Martin Kemp playing the organ which is in need of restoration

All Hallows Organ restoration appeal,Martin Kemp playing the organ which is in need of restoration

© Nigel Sutton email

It is said that the sound of Westminster Abbey’s organ pales in comparison to its “fiery, bright” tones and it is heralded as one of the finest instruments of its kind in the capital.

But the hallowed pipes of the £1million church organ of All Hallows Church in Gospel Oak are running on borrowed time.

Running repairs have kept the 98-year-old organ on life support for the last five years, but the 1915 instrument could break down at any time and is in need of wholesale repairs.


The original leather bellows of the William Hill & Son organ are on the brink of rupturing and dust has crept into the crevices of the enormous instrument, which dwarfs some cathedral organs across the country.

The congregation is now mustering to raise almost £500,000 to restore the organ to its former glory for the next 100 years.

Resident organist Martin Kemp said: “Most organs start life in one way but are altered to conform to modern taste and its original character and soul are lost.

“But ours is an unaltered specimen and it holds a historical context and represents the last output of this great organ-making firm, which produced the wonderful instruments throughout the world.”

Most organs of that era were tampered with to create a “baroque and classical” sound, including the one at Wesminister Abbey where the Queen was coronated.

“If a builder designs a musical instrument and then changes are made, you have lost that integral design,” said Mr Kemp, a former organ scholar at Chelmsford Cathedral. Fortunately at All Hallows it has kept that design, but it’s also on its last legs.”

The poor state of the organ has cost the church bookings as a recording venue, because the instrument is unreliable.

But the congregation has organised a series of concerts to raise money for repairs and is applying to the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Geoffrey Read, of the church’s organ working group, said: “We are making improvements to the whole of the church with solar panels on the roof. Part of repairing the organ is to look after the church for the next 100 years.”

The next fundraising concert is set to take place on February 28 at 7pm at All Hallows church in Savernake Road.

Martin Baker, master of music at Westminster Cathedral, will play on the 1915 organ to raise money for its restoration.

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