St Mary's Catholic Cathedral
Sydney

Orgues Létourneau 2000, 4m., 46 sp. st., mechanical and electric
Ronald Sharp 1960, 2m., 26 sp. st., electric
Whitehous Bros. 1942, 2m., 27 sp. st., electric
Bellsham organs 1986, 2m., 9 sp. st., mechanical




 




 


Robert Parkinson writes in SOJ Winter 2007:

Graeme Rushworth has published detailed information about instruments in St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney from 1935 to 1942 (1 and 2). Errol Scarlett, one-time cathedral organist, has also written a comprehensive account of music in the cathedral up to 1971 (3). I will attempt to summarise their accounts and complete the story to the present of the 10 organs leased or owned by the cathedral authorities over 172 years. At various times orchestral and band instruments have also played a part in a rich musical tradition.

Instrument 1.

In 1834 Mr J. Cavendish, choirmaster and organist, presented the cathedral with a ‘Metalaphone’ or seraphine (4). Dr Polding, enthroned as Bishop of Sydney in 1835 (Archbishop from 1842) wished to obtain a proper organ and contracted with Bevington in London for the same.

Instrument 2.

Before arrival of the Bevington an organ was leased for six months from Frances Ellard, but was considered too unsatisfactory for purchase. A specification is not known although Rushworth lists a similar instrument as:

Great
Open Diapason
Stopped Diapason
Principal
Flute
Fifteenth

Swell
Stopped Diapason
Flute?
Hautboy

Pedal
One octave coupled to Great (5)

8
8
4
4
2


8
4
8




Instrument 3.

The Bevington organ was opened in June 1841, the specification being most likely:

Great
Bourdon
Clarabella
Open Diapason 1
Open Diapason 2
Stop Diapason
Dulciana
Principal large
Principal small
Twelfth
Fifteenth
Sesquialtera
Mixture
Trumpet
Clarion
Bassoon
Cremona

Swell
Open Diapason
Stop Diapason
Principal
Flute
Fifteenth
Hautboy

Pedal
Double Diapason
Open Diapason
Principal
Posaune

Couplers
Swell to Great
Great to Pedal
Swell to Pedal

16
16
8
8
8
8
4
4
2-2/3
2
IV
III
8
4
8
8


8
8
4
4
2
8


32
16
8
16






3 combination pedals to Swell
5 combination pedals to Great (6)



This organ was first erected in a specially designed western gallery, but was found to be too far removed from the sanctuary, so a new southern transept gallery was built to house both choir and organ from April 1849 (7). Sources do not identify who first erected the instrument or saw to its transfer within the cathedral. While no depiction of the case exists, it is known that Augustus Welby Pugin prepared a design. From other work of this notable architect and details in The Benedictine Journal, scholars have more recently devised a most elegant case which can be seen in Rushworth's Supplement to his magnum opus(8). Fr John Gourbeillon, one of the Benedictine monks in Dr Polding's community, sculpted seven statues for the top of the case from plaster, the first being the Blessed Virgin erected on 23 September 1851 (9). The set of seven figures, all of plaster with bronze finish, standing 3 feet high, were in place by 28 August 1852 and, in the opinion of the monastic recorder, looked "remarkably well and quite a finish to the organ" (10).

While playing the organ was usually dominated at that time by males, either lay or clerical, I have lately discovered that a woman first played the Bevington during 1848. Dr Polding brought a group of English Benedictine nuns to Australia earlier that year, and they resided at the cathedral until premises were obtained at Subiaco on the Parramatta River in January 1849. In a letter to a colleague back in England at Stanbrook Abbey on 26 July 1848 Dame Magdalen le Clerk wrote: "I played the organ[at a monastic profession ceremony during High Mass]and even that was not the first time I had performed the office of organist. Indeed, I never thought I could have mustered courage to sit down before such an enormous pile of pipes..."(11). A woman can claim also to be the first St Mary's choir director - Catherine Fitzpatrick from 1821 until 1843 (12).

The cathedral can claim other "firsts" for this period - the Bevington was the largest organ at the time in the colony and boasted an independent pedal department instead of an octave or so of pedals permanently coupled to the Great (13). Notwithstanding these and other plaudits this noteworthy instrument proved to be not entirely successful due to unsuitable timber (14) and was completely destroyed by fire in June 1865.

Instruments 4 and 5.

In a temporary wooden cathedral music was at first provided by a small orchestra and an harmonium but since the congregation had a taste of a "real" organ, they almost immediately donated generously for the purchase of a pipe organ from Mr T. Bridson. While he probably erected the organ, and we know it was played for the first time on 19 November 1865, we have no information about the builder or specification. It, too, disappeared in flames in a second fire of 1869 (15). Until erection of Mr Jackson's organ in 1874 music was presumably provided again by harmonium, piano and/or orchestra.

Instrument 6.

An organ of 14 or 15 ranks was erected by Charles Jackson in the next temporary cathedral in 1874 - Dr Polding had contracted for a larger instrument which was not completed until several years later. Because of the delays in completing Wardell's new cathedral (commenced in 1866), the Jackson organ did not enjoy a permanent site for some time and found itself moved around as more sections of the cathedral became available. So in July 1882 Jackson commenced removal to the organ chamber of Wardell's building (which is now known as the Chapel of the Irish Saints). The instrument was ready to accompany ceremonies marking the opening of a partly-completed building (one bay of nave, temporary roof, and no central tower) on 8 September 1882 (16). Music in the temporary building during the transfer period of July to September was provided by an harmonium, but more interestingly the occasion allowed Jackson to adopt a technological improvement by installing a gas engine for the air supply previously provided by two able-bodied men pumping by hand (17).

Over the next few years it was agreed that the organ could better support both congregation and choir if it was removed to a gallery in the one bay of the nave (ie to the south of the sanctuary instead of the eastern chamber), and this was effected during 1899 (18). It is likely that by this time the organ had also been enlarged to its original specification as there are reports of collections for a "new" organ, and improvements being effected (19), but, as Rushworth points out, the original Jackson organ was finally completed (with the Richardson additions) in 1892 and the opening reported on 30 January 1893 (20). Further technological improvement came when electricity was connected to the cathedral and to the organ blower in 1907 (21).


When work resumed in the 1920s on extending the nave the then gallery had to be demolished and the organ moved again. This time it could not be returned to its original chamber as this had become the Chapel of the Irish Saints and a mortuary chapel for the remains of pioneer clergy prior to construction of their final resting places in the crypt in the 1940s. So the Jackson organ was moved to the southern wing of the eastern transept but still without a proper case, the console being surrounded by drapes to hide the interior workings. Siting was north-south with the organist's back to the sanctuary. There it remained until demolition and removal in 1959. Final specification controlled by drawstops was:

Great
Double Bourdon
Open Diapason
Stopped Diapason
Dulciana
Salicional
Wald Flute
Principal
Twelfth
Fifteenth
Mixture
Clarionet
Trumpet
Tremulant

Swell
Bourdon
Open Diapason
Stopped Diapason & Clarabella
Gamba
Voix Celeste
Gemshorn
Piccolo
Mixture
Cornopean
Clarion
Oboe
Tremulant

Pedal
Open Diapason
Bourdon
Bass Flute

Couplers
Swell to Great
Great to Pedal
Swell to Pedal
Swell to Great sub-octave

16
8
8
8
8
4
4
2-2/3
2
III
8
8



16
8
8
8
8
4
2
III
8
4
8



16
16
8










*
*





*
*






*

*
*
*
*
*
*





*







Mechanical action

3 combination pedals to Great
3 combination pedals to Swell


* stops added 1892 (22)


Instruments 7 - 10 are already documented below from the 2005 OHTA Conference Handbook.


St Mary's Cathedral is very fortunate to have three working instruments in the body of the cathedral, two linked for major liturgies, the other for small services in the Lady Chapel. A fourth meets various demands in the Crypt.

Persons engaged as organists have been:

1834-35 J. de C. Cavendish
1839 Dr J. A. Reid
1840c Dr Ross
1841-42 Isaac Nathan
1842-43 G. W. Worgan
1848c-54c Mr Walton [Bishop Henry Davis is also known to have played regularly at this time]
1856-70 William J. Cordner
1870-74 John T. Hill
1874-77 John A. Delany
1877-78 Mr Hughes
1879-88 Thomas P. Banks
1888-95 Neville G. Barnett
1895-1907 John A. Delany
1907-63 Harry Dawkins
1963 Neil Slarke
1964-71 Errol Scarlett
1971-74 John O'Donnell
1974-79 Errol Scarlett
1979-1987 Gavin Tipping
1988- Peter Kneeshaw


Staff of Sydney Catholic Archdiocesan Archives and the cathedral, including various organists, are acknowledged for assistance in preparing this article. All sources are outlined in footnotes.

1 Historic Organs of New South Wales. The instruments, their makers and players 1791-1940. Graeme D. Rushworth. Hale & Iremonger, Sydney, 1988.
2 A Supplement to Historic Organs of New South Wales... Graeme D. Rushworth. OHTA, Camberwell, 2006.
3 St Mary's Cathedral 1821-1971. Ed P. O'Farrell. Devonshire Press, Sydney, 1971. P157-177/205.
4 O'Farrell Op Cit. P 206
5 Rushworth Op Cit. P37-38.
6 Idem. P35.
7 Ecclesiastical Transactions of the Archdiocese of Sydney 1843-1868 (aka The Benedictine Journal). St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney. 5 February and 8 April 1849.
8 Idem. 23 September 1851 and 28 August 1852; Rushworth Op Cit. Suppl. Frontpiece and P14.
9 Idem. 23 September 1851.
10 Idem . 28 August 1852.
11 Benedictine Pioneers in Australia. Ed H. N. Birt OSB. London, Herbert & Daniel, 1911, Vol II, P157-159.
12 O'Farrell. Op Cit. P175.
13 Idem. P160
14 Rushworth, Op Cit. P36
15 Idem. Op Cit. P83.
16 Progress of Wardell's construction on the cathedral and work on Jackson's organ is outlined in Freeman's Journal and The Express from July to September 1882, as well as other sources.
17 Freemnan's Journal. 26 August 1882, P15/16.
18 Letter of 14 November 1899 from J. A. Delaney in Sydney Archdiocesan Archives - he had inspected the recently re-erected organ; choir and organ were now in a new gallery; quality of music had improved. The Freeman's Journal of 30 September 1899 also reports on a new choir gallery.
19 Freeman's Journal. 13 June 1885, P18; 24 December 1892, P10; 20 May 1893, P14.
20 Rushworth. Op Cit. P 94.
21 O'Farrell. Op Cit. P87.
22 Idem. P174



 

Historical and Technical Documentation by Pastór de Lasala
© OHTA 2005 (last updated October 2005)


St Mary’s Cathedral is the mother church of Catholicism in Australia.  Its foundation during the early days of the Colony was not without a great deal of difficulty.  Practising the Catholic faith was initially outlawed by the then government, thus causing Catholics to worship in secret. Fr John Therry, a pioneer priest in the Colony, had requested land on the foreshore in what is now referred to as the Rocks area in Sydney. Governor Lachlan Macquarie refused this and allocated the land where the current cathedral now stands.  At that time this site was little more than an undesirable dumping ground.  By a twist of irony, a great Neo-Gothic cathedral rose from this ignominious ‘dump’ to become the fine landmark it is today.

The foundation stone of the first St Mary's Church was laid on 29 October 1820 by Governor Macquarie, but the first Mass was not celebrated until 5 December 1833 owing to severe difficulties in raising funds for the enterprise.  The dedication had to wait until 29 June 1836, by which stage the building, 110ft long and 45ft wide in the nave, was decorated and furnished.  By this time, St Mary’s was elevated to the status of Cathedral with the arrival of Australia’s first Bishop, John Bede Polding OSB. It had been the intention of establishing a Benedictine monastery which never came to be.   On 25 August 1851 the foundation stone for extensions to St Mary's was laid, these in the Decorated Gothic style to the design of the celebrated English architect A.W.N. Pugin and consisting of an additional 51ft to the nave, flanked by a chapel and the base of a large tower which was to rise to 200ft.  On 29 June 1865 the entire building, including the Bevington organ, was destroyed by fire. Only a slender octagonal pillar from the north-east side of the old sanctuary remains, and this can be seen outside on the southern side of the east transept. (The location of the original cathedral was perpendicular to the current nave and ran along the axis of the current baptistery.)

Construction of the present cathedral began in 1866 to the design of William Wilkinson Wardell (1823-1899), one of the leading Catholic architects of the 19th century, who had emigrated to Melbourne in 1858.  The dedication of the first section of the building took place on 8 September 1882 while by 1900 the eastern limb of the building, transepts, central tower and first two bays of the nave were complete with a total length at that stage of 200ft; the dedication took place in September.  The remaining six bays of the nave and the two towers together with the crypt were constructed in the 1920s and opened in 1928. Built in stone in the Decorated Gothic style, the building is 350ft in length (the longest ecclesiastical building in Australia) and the height of the nave from the floor is 90ft.  The exterior is notable for the square termination of the east end, resembling Lincoln Cathedral, the clerestory windows placed under gables, flying buttresses, the three towers and the rose windows which crown three of the façades.  Internally, the nave, transepts and sanctuary have groined ceilings in timber while those of the aisles are in stone.  There is a spacious triforium placed above the aisle roofs.  The high altar, in marble and Oamaru limestone, is a focal point of the interior while the subsidiary altars were designed by the noted English architect J.F. Bentley and executed by Farmer & Brindley, of London.  The stained glass is by John Hardman & Sons of Birmingham.  The spires were added in 1998 – 2000 and were constructed in accordance with Wardell’s design. [1]

 

The cathedral currently possesses four independent organs:  Whitehouse 1942, Sharp 1960, Bellsham 1985 and Létourneau 1999.  Prior to these instruments, there were three others.  The first Cathedral possessed a small instrument from the 1830s which was replaced in 1840 by a large two manual and pedal Bevington and with the case designed by Pugin.  Whilst the Bevington was lost in the fire of 1865, there are ranks of the earlier organ c.1820 which remain in the instrument now to be found at Lindfield Uniting Church. [2]   Prior to the current four organs was a short-lived instrument of small dimension and probably erected by Thomas V. Bridson, destroyed in the fire of 1869, followed by an incomplete two manual organ by Jackson of 1874  - broken up in 1959 - and sited in the southern corner of the eastern transept, opposite the Chapel of the Irish Saints. 



 

The Bevington organ of 1840 (two manuals, 24 speaking stops, 3 couplers and 10 composition pedals) was not only notable for its size, but also for the presence of a 32-foot pedal stop, a very progressive development for an English organ of such an early date.  The Charles J. Jackson instrument of 1874 was the Sydney builder’s largest and most significant instrument and until its demise possessed two manuals and 26 stops (four of which were supplied by Charles Richardson in 1892) and mechanical action.  The southern gallery organ, built by Whitehouse Bros., of Red Hill in Brisbane, was installed in 1942 and is the only example of a substantial instrument built in Australia during World War II, it being of further significance as one of the few organs of more than 20 stops from the 1930-50 period to survive basically unaltered anywhere in the country today.  Likewise the triforium organ, commenced in 1960 by Ronald Sharp, is of great significance as the builder’s first organ and one of the earliest Orgelbewegung instruments in the country, albeit one with electric action.  The crypt organ was originally built by Bellsham Pipe Organs of Perth for the residence of Steve and Louise Blatchford in Pymble, but was sold to St Mary’s in 1993. [3]   The Létourneau instrument, designed to a specification devised by the consultant and cathedral organist, Mr Peter Kneeshaw, is the Canadian builder’s largest Australian instrument and has finally provided the cathedral with a comprehensive choir organ which is also suitable for small-audience organ recitals and teaching.

 

It is regrettable that the soaring Neo-Gothic case designed for the Létourneau was never executed. Instead, Eric Wisden from the New South Wales Department of Public Works was responsible for the current design. Until the arrival of the Létourneau organ, the Whitehouse and Sharp organs were played simultaneously by two organists using headphones and a two-way microphone system.  Needless to say, this was merely a stop-gap measure and highly inadequate for the liturgy. The new nave console (a classical Cavaillé-Coll ‘console en amphithéâtre’), controls two organs.  The stops on the right are for the Létourneau  - in effect a large choir organ voiced in an English style -  in the Western Gallery, whilst those on the left currently act upon Whitehouse organ in the Southern Gallery.  A very large, French style four manual instrument has been envisaged eventually to replace the Whitehouse [4] .

 

 


© PdL 2005  

 

WESTERN TRANSEPT GALLERY

 

Orgues Létourneau Ltée, op 64 1999 [5] (4/46 mechanical and electric)

Great
Bourdon
Open Diapason
Harmonic Flute
Chimney Flute
Violoncello
Principal
Waldflute
Twelfth
Fifteenth
Mixture
Sharp Mixture
Trumpet
Tremulant

Swell
Bourdon 
Open Diapason
Stopped Diapason
Viole de Gambe
Voix Céleste 
Principal
Nachthorn
Fifteenth
Mixture
Double Trumpet
Cornopean
Oboe

Clarion
Tremulant

Choir (enclosed)
Salicional 
Stopped Diapason
Principal
Koppelflute
Nasard
Blockflute
Tierce
Larigot
Mixture
Clarinet
Tuba
Tremulant

Pedal
Contra Bourdon
Open Diapason
Bourdon
Principal
Bass Flute
Choral Bass
Mixture
Trombone
Trumpet
Clarion

16
8
8
8
8
4
4
2-2/3
2
IV
III
8



16
8
8
8
8
4
4
2
V
16
8
8
4



8
8
4
4
2-2/3
2
1-3/5
1-1/3
IV
8
8



32
16
16
8
8
4
III
16
8
4










































+

















 

Couplers (Gallery console)

Swell to Great

Choir to Great

Swell to Choir


Choir to Pedal

Swell to Pedal

 

PISTON COUPLERS

Pedal + Swell

Pedal + Great

Manual Coupler Assist

 

© PdL 2005

Additional Couplers (mobile console) [6]

Swell to Great

Choir to Great

Great to Pedal [7]

Swell to Pedal

Choir to Pedal

Swell to Choir


Pedal and Récit-Swell

Pedal and G.O.-Great

 

Récit-Swell Octave

Récit-Swell Unison off

Positif-Choir Sub-Octave

Récit-Swell Sub-Octave

G.O.-Great Octave to Pedal

Récit-Swell Octave to Pedal

Positif-Choir Octave to Pedal

All Sub-Octave

G.O. Transfer [to] Positif-Choir

 

Accessories

 

8 pistons per division       

3 tutti pistons

12 general pistons            

Reversible coupler pistons

256 memories for general pistons with sequencer      

combination card reader

programmable crescendo pedal      

transposer




 

Prepared for couplers

(MOBILE CONSOLE)

 

Chamades to Pos-Ch

Chamades to GO – Gt

Chamades to Bombarde

Bombarde to Récit

Récit to GO

Bombarde to GO

Récit to Positif

Bombarde to Positif

Pédale  & Bombarde (Pistons Coupled)

Bombarde Sub-octave

Bombarde Octave

Chamades Sub-octave

Chamades Octave

Bombarde Octave to Ped

 

 


manual coupler assist on gallery console     

MIDI on mobile console

 

Mechanical action attached console in the gallery

Electric-magnetic action for mobile console in the nave

 

Compass 61/32

 

+ unenclosed - 355 mm wind.  This stop plays on the Choir manual of the western gallery console and on the fourth manual of the mobile console.

 




© PdL 2005
 

 

SOUTHERN GALLERY

 

Whitehouse Bros., 1942 (2/27 electric)

GREAT
Double Diapason
Open Diapason No. 1
Open Diapason No. 2
Stopped Diapason
Dulciana
Octave
Flute
Twelfth
Fifteenth
Trumpet

SWELL
Bourdon
Violin Diapason
Lieblich Gedact
Salicional
Vox Angelica
Geigen Principal 
Piccolo
Mixture
Cornopean
Oboe
Tremulant

PEDAL
Open Diapason
Violone
Bourdon
Echo Bourdon
Octave
Bass Flute
Trombone

16
8
8
8
8
4
4
2-2/3
2
8


16
8
8
8
8
4
2
III
8
8



16
16
16
16
8
8
16










E


D












A
B
C
D
B
C
E


Couplers

Great to Pedal

Swell to Pedal

Great Octave

Swell Sub Octave to Great

Swell Super Octave to Great

Swell Sub Octave

Swell Super Octave

 

Electro-pneumatic action

Compass 61/30

 

4 adjustable pistons each to the

     Great and Swell

2 adjustable pistons to the Pedal

crescendo pedal

Sw/Gt reversible

Gt/Ped reversible

Sforzando piston

 

balanced swell pedal



 

 

CHANCEL TRIFORIUM

 

Ronald Sharp, 1960 [8] (2/26 electro-pneumatic)


Great (West)
Rohrflöte
Prinzipal
Spitzflöte
Nasat
Hohlflöte
Rauschpfeife
Mixtur
Trompete [9]



Pedal (West) [10]
Sub-Bass [11]
Prinzipal [12]
Octav [13]
Nachthorn
Mixtur
Posaune [14]
Trompete
Kornett


8
4
4
2-2/3
2
II
III - VI
8




16
8
4
2
IV
16
8
2




+










+

+
+
+
+
+

Positiv (East)
Gedact
Rohrpfeife
Prinzipal
Blockflöte
Quint
Octav
Sesquialtera
Cymbel
Krummhorn
Tremulant
Cimbelstern

Couplers
Positiv to Great
Great to Pedal
Positiv to Pedal

Electro-pneumatic action
No playing aids
Compass 54/30
+ = prepared for

8
4
2
2
1-1/3
1
II
II
8



















+

+

+

















© PdL 2005

CRYPT

 

Bellsham Pipe Organs, 1985 (2/9 mechanical)

 


Manual I & II

(stops duplexed by way of three-way levers)

Quintade
Gedackt
Spitzflöte
Principal
Larigot
Spare slide for 8’ reed

Pedal
Sordun
8
8
4
2
1-1/3



16

Couplers

(hitch-down)

II/I

I /P

II/P

 

 

Mechanical action

 

Compass 56/30

 

 

 

Primary references:

 

St Mary's Cathedral Sydney 1821-1971, editor: Patrick O'Farrell.  Surry Hills, NSW: Devonshire Press for St Mary's Cathedral, 1971.

 

Brian Andrews, Creating a Gothic Paradise: Pugin at the Antipodes.  Hobart: Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, 2002, pp.168-170.

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

Conjectural illustration derived from historical evidence

of the 1840 Bevington organ with AWN Pugin

designed case at St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney

(drawing by Graeme Rushworth)

 

 


From a postcard dated in the 1930s.

 



[2]   The Lindfield organ stops ex St Mary’s, currently the  Sw: Bourdon 16’ (old pedal with new pipes to allow it to be a manual stop), Open Diapason II 8’, Principal 4’, Flute 4’, Fifteenth 2’.  Ch: Gedackt 8 Personal communication from Chris Sillince to P. de Lasala, July 2005.

 

[3] Information from Graeme Rushworth, Historic Organs of New South Wales (Sydney: Hale & Iremonger, 1988), passim.

 

[4] Stop knobs bearing the specification of this projected organ have been prepared for on the mobile console.  The stop knobs controlling the Whitehouse organ have momentarily replaced some of these.

 

[5] Specification noted by P. de Lasala February 2005

 

[6] The prepared for couplers pertaining to the prepared Chamades and Bombarde divisions have been omitted here.

 

[7] The Swell, Great and Choir to Pedal couplers on the mobile console also carry their French equivalents: Réc[it], G[rand] O[rgue] and Pos[itif]

 

[8] Specification noted by P. de Lasala, July 2005 and verified by personal comment from Peter Kneeshaw.

 

[9] Added ca. 1970 with rank from 1958 organ by Charles Dirksen (Brisbane) formerly at Greenwich Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, dismantled in 1969 by Ron Sharp and Mark Fisher.  Mark Fisher added dust hoods, revoiced rank and installed it.  (Personal comment by Mark Fisher to P. de Lasala, July 2005).

 

[10] Pedal division commenced around or after 1970.  (Personal comment by Mark Fisher to P. de Lasala, July 2005).

 

[11] Former Jackson Pedal Bourdon with nicking filled in, stoppers refitted and mouths lowered. (Personal comment by Mark Fisher to P. de Lasala, July 2005).

 

[12] Wooden rank made, but never installed. Personal comment by Mark Fisher to P. de Lasala, July 2005.

 

[13] Dirksen pipes from Greenwich: cf note 9 supra.

 

[14] 12 pipes from an old Christie Diaphone were connected to the tab for a number of years and then disconnected after the pedal chests were made. The chest and pipes are still in the triforium. (Personal communication by Mark Fisher to P. de Lasala, July 2005).