Cathedral of The Good Shepherd - Music - Organs


The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd houses two pipe organs - the Gallery Organ in the second floor gallery and the Choir Organ in an elevated box in the north transept. It is notable that the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd is the only church in Singapore to have two organs that can sound within the same space.

Dedicated on 20 October 1912 by Bishop Emile Barillon, the Gallery Organ is a two-manual and pedal Bevington & Sons instrument which cost 5894.61 sterling pounds to build, ship and install. To date, it has 28 working stops, the result of various additions and alterations made to the original organ by Singapore's sole organ builder, Robert Navaratnam.

Ranks such as the retrofitted 8' Trumpet are used on more than one stop, and the organ also incorporates pipework from various now-defunct organs, notably the Bombarde 16' from the former St. Clair Organ that once resided in the Victoria Concert Hall. Recently, even this rank has had a number of pipes replaced yet again.

The Gallery Organ is easily recognised from its unusual asymmetric façade - only the central organ case is original, the left and right wings added by Navaratnam. The action, once electropneumatic, is now fully direct-electric. This causes occasional problems with non-sounding notes and ciphers, resulting from the ingress of dirt into an open building and the general humidity. It is to date, the oldest playable organ in Singapore and is still regularly used for Masses.

The 9-rank Choir Organ was built in 1994 by Robert Navaratnam, utilising old pipework from various other organs. This is also a two-manual-and-pedal instrument, the pipework housed in an enclosed chamber supported by steel square beams over the choir stalls. There is no pipework for the pedal division and no expression shoe for the pipework.

At the end of 2005, the old Conn console shell was replaced with an old Allen electronic console. This replacement included working Allen electronic stops which can be used to add colour to the nine ranks of pipes and also supplies the otherwise non-existent pedal division in order to balance the chorus. The expression shoe supplies expression for the electronic stops only.

There is little literature available on the organs. In 2005, Lin Yangchen published an article titled Singapore's Answer to Notre Dame de Paris in The Organ describing both instruments in detail (The Organ 334:8-10). He describes the unique situation presented by having separate organs in the same building, which makes possible a dialogue between the Gallery and Choir Organs. In fact, this does happen during solemn occasions and when two organists are present. The choir and congregation are then accompanied separately.

Sketches of information on the older organ are available mostly through personal accounts. An elderly parishioner recounted helping out on Sundays as a young boy by operating the manual air pump of the organ. By the 1960s, the Gallery Organ became so dilapidated that it remained silent for nearly two decades.

Hugo Loos, a Belgian engineer then based in Singapore, volunteered his services as both organist and repairman. Driven by his passion and love for pipe organs, he was able to render minor repairs but much work was still required. Towards the end of 1983, the then rector of the cathedral, Father Robert Balhetchet, was introduced to Navaratnam, who had been trained as a pipe organ builder in Germany. The organ has since been in the care of Navaratnam, who also plays for services at the cathedral.

On 16 December 1984, a concert was organised in conjunction with the rededication of the Gallery Organ. Dr Margaret Chen, curator of the Klais Organ at the Victoria Concert Hall and a well-known Singaporean organist, was one of the performers.

Organ recitals at the Cathedral are now few and far between, the last two having been played on the Gallery Organ by Markus Grohmann, a visiting German organist in August 2005, and Arthur Lamirande of New York in 2007.

Read more about this topic:  Cathedral Of The Good Shepherd, Music

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