AN ORGAN WAS FIRST BUILT AT ELY CATHEDRAL IN 1685, REPUTEDLY BY RENATUS HARRIS. IN 1831 ELLIOT AND HILL BUILT A NEW ORGAN WITHIN THE OLD CASES, WHICH STOOD ON THE CHOIR SCREEN. THIS ORGAN WAS REBUILT IN THE NORTH CHOIR TRIFORIUM BY HILL AND SON IN 1850, WHEN THE OLD CASES AND CHOIR SCREEN WERE REMOVED, AND THE PRESENT CASE, DESIGNED BY SIR GILBERT SCOTT, WAS INSTALLED.
In 1908, Harrison and Harrison built a virtually new organ, incorporating some of the old pipe work. Most of the organ was placed in the North choir triforium, with the console below, on the stone gallery behind the top of the choir stalls.
The restoration of 1974-75 included some tonal changes, a new Positive division in the lower part of the Scott case, development of the Pedal Organ and modernization of the action and console. The new scheme was drawn up by the Cathedral Organist, Dr Arthur Wills, in consultation with Mr Cecil Clutton and the organ builders.
The Restoration of the Organ 1999-2001
Restoration work on the fabric of the building of the last three bays of the North Choir Aisle meant that the massive Cathedral organ needed to be removed. The Dean and Chapter took this opportunity to ask Harrison and Harrison to carry out an extensive programme of restoration. The proposals for this rebuild increased the versatility of the instrument, and enhanced its musical integrity. The restoration work to the organ cost in the region of £400,000 and was funded by the Order of St Etheldreda.
A Copeman Hart electronic organ was installed in the Cathedral for use while the pipe organ was being restored.
'The Ely Organ - A Centenary Celebration' CD
A double CD entitled 'The Ely Organ - A Centenary Celebration' (Lantern Productions LPCD25) was released in April 2008. CD1, a recording made in 1999 (Pre-Restoration) features Paul Trepte and Sean Farrell. CD2 recorded in 2002 (Post-Restoration) features Scott Farrell.
"A cathedral organ is probably the most expensive piece of hardware in any cathedral. Simply to maintain it in good condition is challenge enough for any Dean and Chapter in this day and age".
"To have the opportunity to restore it any shape or form is a tremendous responsibility, and inevitably any rebuild will reflect the tastes of the time. The "old" organ in Ely cathedral, masterminded by my predecessor, Arthur Wills, did its job magnificently for a good many years, but the changes (which mainly affected the reeds especially on the great and solo departments) proved necessary not just for aesthetic reasons, but also because any attempt to retain them was deemed in any case to be impractical. It was therefore felt important to record the instrument one last time before the rebuild, and those recordings comprise disc 1. There will be those who favour those sounds in preference to the new ones (and, of course, vice versa)! Those of us who play the "new" organ regularly (as represented by disc 2) find it a thrilling experience, and I seize the opportunity to thank Patrick Russill and Nicholas Thistlethwaite, our advisors, for their time and expertise." Paul Trepte, Director of Music
The Organs and Organists of Ely Cathedral by Nicholas Thistlethwaite with an appendix on the Organists by Watkins Shaw
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The Cathedral Organ Specification
New stops are marked with *
Choir Organ (on Positive Keys)
Solo Organ (69 - 78 enclosed)
The pistons are adjustable, with eight divisional and 128 general memories.
Manuals I and II Exchange
Balanced expression pedals to the Swell and Solo Organs
The action is electro-pneumatic
The manual compass is 61 notes; the pedal 32 notes.
The Organ Enlarge
The Organ - Gilbert Scott Case Enlarge
The Great Reeds Enlarge
A Centenary Celebration CD
The Organ Console Enlarge