The Organ of the Cathedral of Christ the King – Johannesburg

By Dr. U. V. Schneider (Lecturer in music at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg)

The Organ Of the Cathedral of Christ the King

The specification of the new organ of the Cathedral of Christ the King, has been drawn up by the present writer in consultation with the representatives of the firm of Cooper, Gill and Tomkins, Johannesburg, who have been awarded the contract to build the instrument.

Incorporated in the new organ is the instrument formerly in the Pro-Cathedral of The Immaculate Conception, Kerk Street. This two-manual and pedal organ was built by the renowned firm of W. Hill and Son, London, and erected in the Pro-Cathedral in June, 1897 In 2 certain Sydney Smith, who, although rather a Jack-of-all-trades, was connected with several Johannesburg organs in the days before the establishment of Messrs. Cooper, Gill and Tomkins’ Johannesburg branch. The total cost of the instrument was £838.12.6. A similar instrument would be valued at approximately £3,800 today.

The organ had an attached draw-stop console and the action was tracker. The late Mr. A. V. Alien of Messrs. Cooper, Gill and Tomkins replaced the hand blower with an electric motor in 1908 and the same firm electrified the action entirely in 1948 when a detached stop-key console was installed and the compass of the pedal Bourdon 16′ was extended in order to provide an eight-foot Flute extension. This latter work was carried out by Mr. W. Tozer, the present managing-director of Messrs. Cooper, Gill and Tomkins in Johannesburg.

When the matter of an organ for the new Cathedral arose this old Hill organ was examined and all the stops found to be of fine quality. With the exception of the Great Open Diapason 8′ all the pipes have been revoked and have found a new home in the Cathedral of Christ the King, where they provide a link with the old Pro-Cathedral.

The new Cathedral is a large building capable of seating some fifteen-hundred people. An instrument of considerable size was therefore found to be necessary.

The organ will be most often used to provide an accompaniment, and to lead the singing of a choir and large congregation. Its three divisions of Positif (unenclosed), Great (unenclosed) and Swell (enclosed), with appropriate pedal have been designed primarily with a view to providing suitable accompanimental registers of all dynamics and as wide a range of tonal variety as possible.

The organ is placed at the ecclesiastical West of the Cathedral on a large gallery where the case of Great Open Diapason pipes looks very fine indeed. The Positif is built out in front of the Great where it can speak unimpeded and to the best advantage. The organ contains a total of 2,527 speaking pipes. The entire action is electric and the detached three-manual draw-stop console is placed on the front of the gallery thus enabling the organist to hear the organ and conduct the choir which will be seated between the console and organ.

The cost of rebuilding the organ in the new Cathedral has been borne by Mr. and Mrs. Charles Engelhard in memory of Mr. Guy L. A. Brian.