A new organ for Edington Priory ChurchNews and Events
As the 58th Edington Music Festival drew to a conclusion with a live broadcast on BBC Radio 4 marking the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's 'I have a dream speech', Festival Director Benjamin Nicholas was able to tell Festival attendees that their generosity had enabled the Edington Organ Project to reach its target.
In November 2008, Edington PCC established a working group consisting of PCC members and representatives of the Festival to examine the possibility of a new organ for the Priory Church. A faithful servant of the Church for over one hundred years, the 1905 Henry Jones organ is now in decline, and a full restoration of it was deemed to be uneconomical both by the Diocesan Organ Advisor and local organ builder Stephen Cooke. Its sharp pitch makes its use with instrumentalists and visiting choirs problematic, and its mechanical deficiencies present increasing difficulties to the organists who play it. The annual Music Festival now places musical demands on the instrument that could not possibly have been envisaged one hundred years ago!
The working group, aided by experienced consultant John Norman, worked hard to establish the best possible plan for a replacement instrument. The group was united in the view that any new instrument should serve the needs of the Church congregation and musicians in their worship week by week, serve the complex demands of the Music Festival with great distinction and, crucially, should meet and further enhance the aesthetic appearance of this most beautiful building. All in all, it was clear that in a special and unique environment such as this, any new instrument should be the best that we can offer, echoing the praises of God in this place.
The new organ
Having received bids from three of the most highly respected English organ builders, the working group recommended to the PCC the plans produced by Harrison and Harrison of Durham, a company whose work has been associated with the finest English church music since its foundation in 1861. Their carefully thought-out design is for a two-manual mechanical action organ in the same location as the current instrument. The casework, facing both south into the choir stalls and west into the north nave aisle, incorporates the style of the beautiful tracery on the chancel screen, as can be seen in the artist’s impression. The specification and console design will be ideally suited to Parish worship, whilst providing a colourful musical palette for experienced organists during Festival week. It is hoped that an exceptional instrument in this exceptional Church can attract musicians and music lovers from further afield, providing an excellent concert venue as well an ideal environment to educate organists both young and old.
Financing the new organ
And how will the cost of this project be met? It is in no way the intention of the Music Festival that the financial burden should fall on the Church itself, with its many existing obligations both to maintaining the fabric and to its Christian mission both locally and further afield. Instead, the Festival intends this as a gift to the Church and people of Edington; a way of giving back something of the goodwill and generosity that the Festival has received from the village over the past fifty-six years. The total cost of the project including all ancillary work will come to £400,000. Generous and substantial pledges have already been made by the Edington Music Festival Association, the Friends of Edington Priory Church and some private sponsors. With this promising start, we will begin an appeal in earnest early in 2011, launching it officially next summer, which happily coincides with the 650th anniversary of the Priory Church itself.
The appeal will include:
- Well-presented and widely distributed literature, giving comprehensive details of the proposed new instrument and ways of giving;
- Fundraising events, including concerts given by distinguished former singers and organists of the Festival;
- A ‘Sponsor a pipe’ scheme, enabling supporters to make affordable donations towards the cost of a tangible part of the new instrument;
- Articles and coverage in local and national media, particularly in church music and organist magazines and journals.
Supporting the project
We would welcome support from any interested parties from the outset of the project, be it financial or in the giving of time and skill. If you would like to register your support, or be kept up to date with the project’s progress, we encourage you to email us, or write to us at Organ Project, 10 High Street, Steeple Ashton, Wiltshire, BA14 6EL.
I am delighted that the PCC has taken the courageous step to allow us to proceed with this appeal, graciously accepting the gift of a new organ for Edington Priory Church should the necessary funding be forthcoming. Although I did not have the privilege of knowing the Reverend Ralph Dudley who founded the Festival back in 1956, I have learnt from those in the village who knew and loved him dearly that his vision for the Festival was to enable worship and music of the highest possible calibre to be offered to the glory of God in the surroundings of this beautiful Church. I believe sincerely that a new organ in the Church would serve only to guard and preserve this vision, and I hope that those of you who share this view will consider supporting us in this exciting venture.