Recent News on the Local Organ and Choral Scene

Link to the Ulster Society of Organists and Choirmasters latest newsletter.

Ulster Choir & Organ Forum
The Ulster Choir & Organ Forum at Yahoo groups is now available for information & discussion

In Autumn 1999, S J Pipe Organs of Newtownabbey, which was established in 1986, ceased trading due to the retirement of Stephen Calvert.

Restoration of a Hill organ
St Thomas' Parish Church, Belfast houses a three manual organ of 33 stops built by William Hill & Son of London in 1906 incorporating a two manual organ built by the same firm in 1875. This instrument is the only Hill organ in Ireland of this vintage, size and significance, still in its original condition. A thorough restoration of the whole organ which has tubular-pneumatic action was carried out by N P Mander Ltd of London with a substantial grant from the Lottery Heritage Fund. It was rededicated on 15th January 1999 by the Bishop of Connor followed by a recital of organ and choral music given the Renaissance Singers directed by Brian Hunter and Nigel McClintock (organ).

Organ Builders "online"
In early January 1998 the firm of Wells-Kennedy Partnership Ltd established an e-mail address and a web site. They can now be contacted at and the website can be viewed at

MBE for Ulster's leading Organbuilder
Christopher Gordon-Wells MBE began his career in organ building with Alfred E Davies & Son of Northampton and has worked in Northern Ireland since 1956, finally settling in 1965. He established the Wells-Kennedy Partnership in 1966 with the simple aim of making a living from tuning and repairing organs. However, influenced in particular by the pioneering tonal and mechanical work of Grant, Degens & Bradbeer, together with study visits abroad to Germany, Austria and Scandinavia, it was not long before he became involved in a personal crusade to uplift the perception of the pipe organ in the Province both aurally and visually. He retired as Managing Director in 1997 but still remains Chairman of the firm and still plans to continue working on a 'part-time' basis. He was awarded a MBE for his services to music in the 1998 New Year Honours List.

Lottery Grants
Among the Northern Ireland churches which benifited from the grants awarded on 1 August 1997, three went towards organs.
St John's Church of Ireland Church Dunnalong near Bready in the Strabane district was awarded a grant for church renovations and "organ replacement".
St John's Church of Ireland Church Ballinderry near Coagh Co. Tyrone was awarded a grant, part of which was for overhaul of the Conacher organ.
St Thomas' Church of Ireland Church in Eglantine Avenue Belfast was awarded 94500 for restoration of the 3 manual 1875/1906 William Hill organ.

Organ Book Available Again
The Friends of the Mulholland Grand Organ are delighted to announce the re-issue of the only known publication of one of Belfast's most valuable treasures (The Ulster Hall Organ).
Originally published by the late Lord Henry Dunleath in 1978 to mark the completion of an expensive two year rebuild, the booklet has now been reprinted, complete with an up-date by Belfast City Organist, Dr Donald Davison, following generous sponsorship by Newtownards firm Sepha Products.
(Press Release - 17 May 1997)

43 Ulster Organists etc. Travel to Kent and Sussex
From Saturday 3rd May to Monday 5th May 1997, the Ulster Society of Organists and Choirmasters had its annual bank holiday weekend trip. During the three days 15 venues were visited throughout Kent and Sussex.
These included Canterbury and Rochester Cathedrals, Lancing College, and Hove, Brighton and Bromley Parish Churches The new 4 manual 1995 Marcussen in Tonbridge School was also visited.

Belfast Pipe Makers close after 48 years
The Belfast City Organ Pipe Works closed this year (1997) after 48 years in business. Established by Douglas Loker and his partner Maurice Goodall in 1949, Belfast-made pipes can now be found in organs world-wide. One of their largest orders was 4500 pipes for the Walker instrument in Liverpool Roman Catholic Cathedral in 1966. The firm at that time had a workshop off the Donegall Road, Belfast and employed 18 staff. In recent years they moved to a unit in Derriaghy Industrial Estate near Dunmurry.

Major Rebuild Completed in Armagh
The organ of St Patrick's Church of Ireland Cathedral, Armagh was inaugurated on 15th March 1997 in an opening recital given by Professor Gerard Gillen of Dublin.
The organ recently underwent a 131,000 rebuild which was carried out by Wells-Kennedy Partnership Ltd of Lisburn.
It has been used in services since December 1996 when it was dedicated by Archbishop Robin Eames.

Any news not included above is welcome for inclusion by e-mail.

Return to Home Page