Pipe Organs: Part 1

The centenary of St Peter’s in Surry Hills, Sydney, took on a project to replace its long lost pipe organ. The original organ, which was installed when the church was built in 1918, was relocated in the late fifties.

Pipe Organs Content

Colm McCaughan, Chairman of St Peter’s Pipe Organ committee, has been the driving force behind its replacement in recent years. In fact, he first proposed the ambitious project to parish priest, Father Bill Milsted.

In January 2016, after more than a year of fundraising, the church purchased a redundant Fincham & Sons organ from an Anglican church in Melbourne. While the $10,000 price tag is considered “quite reasonable”, Mr McCaughan says, “That was just the tip of the iceberg.”

“The installation price was somewhere in the vicinity of $105,000 to $110,000. This particular organ didn’t come with casing, it was built into a wall so it didn’t have any nice timber framework. We’ve had to custom make the timber framework for our church. Now it sits in beautifully with the architecture.”

Given the costs and work involved, it’s no surprise a project like this needs careful planning. Mr McCaughan and the Pipe Organ committee sought the advice of a number of experts. The Organ Historical Trust of Australia was contacted. Eugene Raggio, a former musical director at St Peter’s, helped identify the perfect organ for the church. Peter Kneeshaw, a former organist at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, was appointed organ consultant for the project advising on things like tenders and best processes. The team was completed when Melbourne organ builder, Campbell Hargraves, was engaged to restore and install the instrument.

Mr McCaughan says the organ, which has approximately 1000 pipes, will be used to support the liturgy and mass, and to lead singing. “We have a very, very strong choir and tradition of music at St Peter’s.”

He also believes the organ will make the church a hub for musicians. “We’d like to open it up to support young organists who want to learn and practice on a pipe organ, as opposed to electric keyboards. They could contribute back in some way, perhaps by playing church concerts and things like that.”

June 29, 2018 marked the centenary of St Peter’s in Surry Hills. With hard work, and a little luck, the new organ is ready for further celebrations.

Colm McCaughan is Chairman of the St Peter’s Pipe Organ committee and a member of the church choir.

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