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Dean Hall welcomes Queen’s organ

22 November 2013

IAN STRATTON/WESTMINSTER ABBEY

Birds and drum rolls: James O'Donnell gives a recital at the new organ

Birds and drum rolls: James O'Donnell gives a recital at the new organ

THE standards of the Knights Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath stirred gently in the draught in the Lady chapel of Westminster Abbey earlier this month, as the Dean of Westminster, the Very Revd John Hall, blessed and dedicated a new organ for the chapel in the presence of the Earl of Wessex.

The Corporation of the City of London recently presented the two-manual organ to the Queen in celebration of the recent Diamond Anniversary of the Coronation, and it has now found a permanent home in King Henry VII's chapel at the Abbey's east end.

The idea of the gift of a pipe organ was that of Alderman Roger Gifford, until recently Lord Mayor of London. He is a pianist, recorder player, and singer, and a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Musicians. He was "delighted" that the Dean and Chapter had agreed to accept the organ.

The ceremony followed choral evensong, which was sung by the Abbey choristers, directed by the Sub-Organist, Daniel Cook, recently returned to Westminster after his brief tenure at St Davids, and led by the new head chorister, Samuel Grindlay. It was attended by members of the Corporation of the City of London, many leading church musicians, and a number of the Abbey clergy in their scarlet cassocks and black gowns, some of whom had attended the earlier service.

The Organist and Master of the Choristers at the Abbey, James O'Donnell, said that he was delighted and thrilled with the instrument, which will be known as "The Queen's Organ", and that it would increase the musical possibilities in the Lady chapel. After the dedication he gave a short recital of music by composers with Abbey associations, including Blow, Handel, and Thomas Preston, and then demonstrated the organ to the Prince.

It had, apparently, been a surprise to all at the Abbey that Mander Organs had included some special mechanical features in the organ's specification, and as the odd firework exploded in the distance, Mr O'Donnell demonstrated the "Thunder" stop, which may also be used to give the effect of a drum roll, and also the "Nightingale", in which a rank of pipes speaking into water give the effect of a warbling songbird, while mechanical birds rise, whirling, out of the top of the casework.

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