Happy 110th !!
29th May, 2020
And so, our Grand pipe organ – our grand old lady turns 110 !!
On Sunday 29th May, 1910 at the Solemn High Mass she was solemnly blessed and dedicated – and played at Mass for the very first time.
Built in Adelaide by the legendary Australian organ builder, Josiah Eustace Dodd (1856-1952), at the time of her installation she was the largest instrument in Perth and made a great impact on the community of Perth – the press at the time commented on her impressive sonorities and even the Governor Sir Gerald Strickland and his wife Lady Edeline Strickland attended her blessing.
Over her 110 years she has been rebuilt twice – enlarged significantly in 1963 by the Dodd – Gunstar firm and again in 2009 when she travelled to New Zealand to be restored by the South Island Organ Company; she has become a very fine example of the symphonic style of organ building and one of the finest examples of Dodd’s work in Australia.
Our Grand pipe organ first played actually a few weeks prior to her blessing for a memorial service of King Edward VII – she apparently only had 3 stops playable at the time.
Since then, she has been present with our community and our forebears before the ANZACS went to Gallipoli, she played for memorial services, bishops’ and archbishops’ installations (Perth was still a diocese when she was installed – it became an archdiocese in 1913) countless weddings, funerals, many Christmases and Easter celebrations.
And in her 110 years up to now she has seen technological advances – in 2009 she was connected by optic fibre to our new Chancel Organ and functions as part of a unique electronic system whereby both instruments can be played from either console – the first time a system of this type was designed and built.
And all the inspirational sounds and sonic experiences these instruments can give us are in fact ultimately there to serve God and lift us up ever higher… perhaps Sacrosanctum Concilium, the central liturgical document of Vatican II, best puts it when it refers to the pipe organ: ‘the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem in the Latin Church…us sound has the power not only to add a wonderful splendour to the Church’s ceremonies, but also to lift up men’s minds in a remarkable way to God and the things on high’. (Art 120)
And so, to our Grand pipe organ: happy 110th birthday – here’s to the next 110 !!
P.S. Check out the short 110th birthday video on the St Mary’s Cathedral YouTube channel: