UNIVERSITY NEWS LAST UPDATED : 17 DECEMBER 2021
A new German baroque-style organ, built to specifications that will allow for the authentic study of the composer-musician J.S. Bach, has been unveiled at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, part of Birmingham City University.
Construction and installation of the £550,000 instrument, funded by the Wolfson Foundation and the George Cadbury Fund, was overseen by Dutch firm Flentrop Orgelbouw.
The new addition to the Conservatoire’s acclaimed organ teaching resources will be joined by three further instruments, used primarily for the intensive training of students through one-to-one lessons, workshops and masterclasses, as well as playing host to public concerts and professional recordings.
The Conservatoire’s Organ Department is internationally admired and renowned for the highest standards in playing and teaching, an enviable employment record of graduates, and a strong artistic vision of the organ art – making it the destination of choice for many young aspiring organists from the UK and abroad.
Recent graduates have gone on to secure key posts in the profession, including many prominent UK cathedral roles, such as Westminster, St Paul’s and Salisbury Cathedrals, and various prestigious churches abroad. The department also enjoys an impressive track record of competition winners.
The Wolfson Organ, as the new organ is known, has 18 stops across two manuals and pedals. There will also be the option to raise the wind by hand, so as to experience the specific sound world of eighteenth-century organs.
It is the only organ in England to be built with strict observance of the traditions of the eighteenth-century organ builders, Schnitger and Hinsz, so as to allow for an authentic study of the music of the North German organ school and influential musical genius Johann Sebastian Bach by students and researchers at the acclaimed Conservatoire.
Daniel Moult, Head of Organ at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, said, “The music of both J.S. Bach and the North German school is at the heart of organ culture. It is exciting that the Conservatoire now possesses the first Schnitger pastiche in the UK, on which we can authentically study and perform this music.
A mobile early English Baroque-inspired instrument and a practice organ envisaged specifically for Romantic repertoire will join and complement the Wolfson Organ in the Organ Studio; whilst a large symphonic organ will become the centrepiece of the Conservatoire’s flagship concert venue, the Bradshaw Hall.
Dr Shirley Thompson, Interim Principal at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire said, “We are indebted to the Wolfson Foundation and the George Cadbury Fund, and, of course, our anonymous benefactors for their tremendous support.
“Thanks to their generosity, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire will bring to fruition its long-held dream of having a suite of the very finest instruments to benefit the next generation of professional organists.”
The Conservatoire has a generous scholarship fund, which enables students to study at the Conservatoire free from financial constraints or concerns, whilst also supporting a small number of Junior Fellowships, currently held by Ben Bloor (London Oratory) and William Fox (St. Paul’s Cathedral, London).
In addition, a significant bequest from the Margaret & Graeme Saggerson Memorial Fund is covering the cost of the Organ Department’s European study tours for the next four years.