Wesley Uniting Church
National Circuit, Forrest, Canberra, ACT
2001-2002 George Stephens (Adelaide) rebuild
incorporating ranks from Alfred Hunter (London) 1893,
George Fincham (Melbourne) 1955 and Gustav Bier (Germany) 1978-1983.
3 manuals and 61 speaking stops, 11 couplers,
capture action 40 levels of memory, electro-pneumatic.
From SOJ Summer 2002-2003 with additions and updates from "The Organ in Wesley Uniting Church" (Garth Mansfield, May 2007):
The pipe organ in Wesley Uniting Church is the largest and most versatile liturgical and recital instrument of its type in the Australian Capital Territory. During the period 2000 to 2002 the organ was comprehensively rebuilt and revoiced by George Stephens of Adelaide. The aim was to make it a fully integrated instrument to match the enhanced acoustic of the church with appropriate voicing and the best available electrical and mechanical systems. It is now an outstanding George Stephens rebuild which faithfully restores more than 14 ranks or approximately 820 pipes, including major flue choruses, from the cherished 1893 Alfred Hunter organ in the former Methodist Church in Burwood, NSW.
The original Church on the site in National Circuit, Forrest was opened in 1930, but it did not possess a pipe organ. In 1955 a new Church was built and the original Church became Wesley Hall.
The new Church incorporated a pipe organ built by George Fincham and Sons of Melbourne. It was a small extension organ of two manuals and 9 ranks. It had direct electric action and some 30 stops were derived from 5 ranks on the Swell Organ and 4 ranks on the Great Organ. Both divisions were enclosed in separate expression boxes.
In the 1970s plans were developed for the enlargement of the organ as a comprehensive instrument for the performance of music from all the great periods of organ composition. The objective was a specification designed to achieve tonal balance and integration in accordance with sound principles of organ construction.
A leading member of the Church, John Bathgate, acquired pipes and soundboards from two main sources. He purchased pipes and soundboards that had been part of a fine Alfred Hunter 3 manual organ in Burwood Methodist Church, Sydney. This organ was built in 1891-93 by Alfred Hunter and Son of High Street, Clapham, near London. It had 33 ranks and was widely acclaimed. Because of damage caused when and after the organ was dismantled following sale of the Church, it was not possible to restore all the ranks. Howsever, 14 complete ranks, a total of around 820 pipes and two soundboards from Burwood, could be incorporated into an enlarged organ. Fortunately these represented significant, distinctive and recognisable elements of the Hunter organ, including major choruses from the Great and Swell. It is not surprising that the Fincham and Hunter pipes are a good match. George Fincham knew Alfred Hunter well and in fact visited his factory in London. He studied his organ building methods and was quick to consult Hunter on any new developments and techniques in the profession.
The Hunter Pipes
incorporated in the Wesley rebuild are:
Large Open Diapason
Position and description now
Open Diapason No. 1
Same (a significant proportion of original 168 pipes)
Pedal Flute 4
Great Stopped Flute
Great (enclosed) from Bottom A
John Bathgate also acquired 9 ranks and a soundboard for a third manual Positive Organ from Gustav Bier of Giengen, near Ulm, in Germany. This firm had been engaged in organ building since 1515 and had developed a reputation for fine restoration work on 18th century organs in Germany and Switzerland.
John arranged for the purchase of additional ranks from Gustav Bier, including the Pedal Fifteenth 4ft and Mixture III and the Great Blockflute 2ft, and a Great Quint 2-2/3ft from Australian Pipe Organs in Melbourne. In 1981 George Stephens of Adelaide was commissioned to refurbish the Hunter soundboards which have been left unchanged in the latest rebuild. Other work in putting together the pipework from different sources was undertaken by volunteers under the guidance of several organ builders. The enlarged organ was dedicated to the memory of John Bathgate on 29 May 1983, although much work remained to be done to complete the organ to the proposed specification.
From 1980 to 1998 Anthony Welby was involved in various improvements and maintenance. One major change during this period was the ability to play all the enclosed Great ranks (the Fincham Great and the Hunter Clarinet) on the Positive manual. He installed the Pedal Open Diapason (to George Stephens specification) and the Pedal Fifteenth 4ft and Mixture III (from Gustav Bier).
The George Stephens Rebuild
George Stephens developed an international reputation for the quality of his pipe organ voicing. He gained his experience in working for the organ building firms of Rushworth and Dreaper in the UK and Hill, Norman and Beard and Steve Laurie in Melbourne. He commenced his own business with brother John in Melbourne in 1975 and then moved to Adelaide in 1979 taking over Gunstar Organ Works.
From 1999 George Stephens took charge of planning a comprehensive rebuild of the Wesley organ. The objective was to bring about effective tonal integration in the enhanced acoustic environment of the church and bring the total instrument up to the highest international standards for liturgical and recital purposes.
Over the years from 1983 to 1998 significant changes were made to improve the church acoustics. These were undertaken in six stages involving replacement of acoustic tiles on the ceiling and on cladding across main ceiling beams and the placement of diffusing panels on walls in the chapel and at the rear of the church. The result was dramatically improved reverberation times and acoustic quality and balance.
Rebuilding of the organ began in 2000.
Major work on restoration, revoicing and electrical and mechanical systems was undertaken in 2001. The final stage was completed in August 2002. Key features of the rebuild were:
A reduction in the pitch of the organ to standard concert pitch.
A complete revoicing of Great and Swell ranks in the Adelaide factory.
The revoicing of some Positive pipes on site.
A decrease in the wind pressures in Great and Swell manual ranks from 107 mm to 95 mm.
An increase in the wind pressures of several Pedal ranks (including the Flute 4ft, the lower octaves of the Mixture III and the bottom octaves of the Trombone 16ft and the Pedal Diapason 16ft).
• Incorporation of computerised Peterson (USA) expression for the Swell and enclosed Great
• Replacement of all electrical wiring in the console and throughout the organ
A new underaction for the Hunter Great soundboard.
The discarding and replacement of the Swell Hunter Flute 4ft and replacement of a number of other pipes that had suffered damage or maltreatment over the years.
New top octave pipes to increase the manual ranks on the Hunter Great and Swell soundboards from 56 to 61 pipes.
A refurbishment of the console and pedalboard.
A new 40 memory capture system with 8 generals.
The rebuilt organ was re-dedicated on 1 September, 2002
In 2006 Ian Brown and Associates took over from George Stephens in the regular maintenance of the organ. In August 2006 Ian and Jennifer Brown installed three additional pedal stops (stops 1, 2 and 3 in the specification) to complete the tonal balance. This was desirable because of the placement of the Open Diapason 16ft which could not be heard evenly and loud enough throughout the nave of the Church due to standing waves. The successful solution was the use of high quality Peterson electronic low notes with four speakers high in the Swell box. The additional sounds have transformed the f and ff dynamics for church services and concert performances. The Contra Violone is a very useful soft stop.
The specification is:
Manuals: CC - C 61 notes
Pedal: CCC - G 32 notes
PEDAL ft 1 Double Open Diapason 32 Electronic 2 Contra Violone 32 Electronic 3 Major Bass 16 Electronic and pipes 4 Open Diapason (Open Wood) 16 32 pipes 5 Sub-bass 16 From 21 12 pipes 6 Bourdon 16 From 32 7 Quint 10-2/3 From 21 8 Principal 8 From 19 9 Bass Flute 8 From 21 10 Fifteenth 4 32 pipes 11 Flute 4 32 pipes 12 Octavin 2 From 13 13 Mixture III 2-2/3 96 pipes 14 Trombone 16 From 29 12 pipes 15 Trumpet 8 From 29 16 Clarion 4 From 31 17 Clarinet 4 From 30 I Great/Pedal II Swell/Pedal III Positive/Pedal GREAT 18 Open Diapason 1 8 61 pipes 19 Open Diapason 2 8 61 pipes 20 Stopped Flute 8 61 pipes 21 Clarabel 8 61 pipes 22 Dulciana 8 61 pipes 23 Principal 4 61 pipes 24 Harmonic Flute 4 61 pipes 25 Quint (from bottom A#) 2-2/3 51 pipes 26 Fifteenth 2 61 pipes 27 Blockflute 2 61 pipes 28 Mixture III 1-1/3 183 pipes 29 Trumpet (harmonic trebles) 8 61 pipes 30 Clarinet 8 52 pipes 31 Clarion 4 From 29 12 pipes IV Swell Sub Octave/Great V Swell/Great VI Swell Octave/Great VII Positive/Great SWELL 32 Bourdon 16 From 35 12 pipes 33 Geigen Diapason 8 61 pipes 34 Rohr Flute 8 61 pipes 35 Gedackt 8 61 pipes 36 Gamba 8 61 pipes 37 Voix Celeste Ten C 8 61 pipes 38 Principal 4 49 pipes 39 Flute 4 61 pipes 40 Fifteenth 2 61 pipes 41 Mixture III 2 183 pipes 42 Contra Oboe Ten C 16 From 44 43 Cornopean (harmonic trebles) 8 61 pipes 44 Oboe 8 61 pipes Tremulant VIII Swell Sub Octave IX Swell Unison Off X Swell Octave POSITIVE 45 Gedackt Pommer 8 61 pipes 46 Prestant 4 61 pipes 47 Rohrflote 4 61 pipes 48 Spitzflote 4 61 pipes 49 Nasard 2-2/3 61 pipes 50 Octave 2 61 pipes 51 Tierce 1-3/5 61 pipes 52 Sifflote 1 61 pipes 53 Musette 8 61 pipes Tremulant XI Swell/Positive
ENCLOSED STOPS PLAYABLE ON POSITIVE
54 Double Open 16 55 Open Diapason 8 56 Clarabel 8 57 Dulciana 8 58 Trombone 16 59 Trumpet 8 60 Clarinet 8 61 Clarion 4 ACCESSORIES Capture Action 40 levels of memory 6 Thumb Pistons to Great 6 Thumb Pistons to Swell 6 Thumb Pistons to Positive 8 General Thumb Pistons 6 Toe Pistons to Pedal 1 Toe Piston Great/Pedal reversible 8 General Toe Pistons Great and Pedal Pistons combined Thumb Pistons to all couplers reversible 2 Expression Pedals electronically controlled Thumb pistons to Swell and Positive tremulants reversible Thumb piston to Trumpet 8ft on Positive reversible EXPRESSION (Two separate boxes; computerised action) Pedal stops 5-9, 11, 14-17 Great stops 19, 21, 22, 29-31 Swell Organ ACTION Principally slider chests Electro-pneumatic action throughout SUMMARY 42 ranks and 2,466 pipes
3 electronic ranks
Wind pressures: Pedal 115 mm (except bottom 12 of 16ft Open Wood 140 mm),
Great and Swell 95 mm, Positive 60 mm
Casework adapted from Alfred Hunter 1893
Photos supplied by Trevor Bunning (April 2006)