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8-9th April 2011, National Museum of Wales

[Image] The organ with its doors open

Medieval Organ Recreation Success and Course Announced

28 April 11

The Experience of Worship in late Medieval Cathedral and Parish Church project celebrated completion of one its first major outcomes – a recreated late medieval organ – on 8–9 April 2011 at St Fagans National Museum of Wales, Cardiff. The organ was launched garnering gasps from visitors and with a workshop and presentations at the reconstructed medieval church of St Teilo within the Museum grounds.

Watch a clip from the BBC's coverage of the event here. Also, read about and sign up to the project's short courses on 'Medieval worship in a medieval cathedral' at Salisbury Cathedral on 4th and 5th May from here.

Organs were a vital element within late medieval worship, although almost all trace has disappeared in Britain – even though documents and music testify to wide use of the instrument in church at that time. The new organ draws on cutting-edge research in attempting to recreate the type of instrument known to have been used around 1520, the period that St Teilo’s itself has been decorated and furnished to represent. It has been designed and constructed by the Worksop firm of Goetze and Gwynn, who have much experience of historic organs. The firm worked with John Harper to research and construct two English organs based on early sixteenth-century archaeological remains of organs found in Suffolk in 2001 and 2002. The new organ is a piece of creative archaeology proceeding from earlier findings.

Traditional materials and manufacturing techniques are used throughout. The oak case is a simplified form of the only surviving pre-Reformation organ case in the British Isles which still stands in the parish church of Old Radnor (Powys). The pipes are based in part on early West Country examples – chosen because of the medieval trade links with Wales across the Bristol Channel. The hand-operated bellows, which provide wind for the organ, are based on medieval illustrations.

The doors of the organ are magnificently decorated – painted with scenes from the Annunciation and Nativity, again using materials authentic to the early sixteenth century. The work has been undertaken by Fleur Kelly, an Italian-trained specialist in medieval and Renaissance painting techniques, whose work on the rood screen and panels will already be familiar to visitors to St Teilo’s.

The organ will enable new research into the late medieval and early modern British repertoire for organ, and organ with voices. It has two chromatic keyboards with different ranges, the second designed to demonstrate changes in late Tudor performance practice. Though it is intended that St Teilo’s will provide a permanent base for the organ, it has been designed to be moved so that it can be available elsewhere for specialist use, educational outreach, advanced teaching, and research.

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