organ214 - Birmingham Organists' Association

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organ 214

April 2020

3 manuals
37 speaking stops

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Union Chapel




Henry Willis, 1877
Monk & Gunther, 1946
Harrison & Harrison, 2012

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Union Chapel is not only a working church but also an award-winning concert venue, a charity drop-in centre and home to a recently restored "Father" Willis organ.  It was one of two venues chosen for the IAO's London Organ Day 2020, when the theme was "Bach Kaleidoscope", looking at our changing interpretations of Bach's organ music from 1820 onwards.

Denominationally it is a Congregational church, one which opted not to join the United Reformed Church when the URC was formed in 1972 from most Congregational churches in England & Wales and the Presbyterian Church of England. The present building, in Victorian Gothic style, dates from 1877, as does the Willis organ.
The Harrisons restoration, ¾-funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, did not alter the original tonal scheme but the Choir box, added by Monk & Gunther, was removed.  The original water-powered bellows pumps are still in situ and available as an alternative to the electric blower via a tap at the console.

Union Chapel's Music Director Claire Singer was appointed in 2012 to mastermind its Organ Project.  The aim of the project is to make the organ more accessible to the local community through arts, music & education, including via free organ lessons.  It receives grants from many respected organisations including Arts Council England.  The IAO's Brereton Fund has just awarded the project a grant of £1500.

You can hear another "Father" Willis organ as April 2020's Music of the Month.
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