The Organ History

The Organ History

The Organs of Christ Church
Until the year 1873, Christ Church had to be content with a harmonium. Mrs Hancoke,
the vicar’s widowed daughter played this and the piano in the numerous Penny
Readings and musical evenings in the Assembly Rooms. Brunel White’s tenor voice
contributed to these events. He was happy to sing either sentimental or comic songs.
The Journal dated 31 st  January 1873 reported that over 100 people attended the Annual
Supper given by the Archdeacon to the joint choirs of Christ Church and St David’s. The
venue was Bridge Street School. The curate of St David’s was quite a musician. He was
renowned for his lectures on the history and theory of music, tracing the development
from Greeks and Romans. to the present time.

In January ,1873 a new and powerful organ costing nearly £400 was donated to Christ
Church by Valentine Davis and Mr Parnell. The order was given to Thompson and
Shacail who employed Gray and Davison (London) to construct the instrument. It was a
magnificent organ with powerful stops, built of the best metal and encased in
handsomely designed stained deal. Videon Harding, organist of St Peter’s was invited to
give the first recital on the new organ to a Church filled to capacity with its own
parishioners and representatives of all religious bodies in the town. The programme
commenced with Haydn’s “The Heavens are telling” and concluded with Handel’s
“Hallelujah Chorus”. Charles Cooke was appointed organist of Christ Church in 1873
and held that post for 26 years. His daughters kept a private school for young ladies in their home opposite
Christ Church; a school that was still flourishing in 1907.Mr Webb and Dr. Mcelland
succeeded Mr Cooke as organists and possibly there were two others during the
interval.

In 1906 a larger organ was required; the ‘pride and joy of 1873’ was now described in a
letter by the vicar as: ‘a paltry instrument unworthy of the Church and the congregation’.
It was sold for £112 and replaced by a Hunter organ costing £1060. It was a
considerable amount of money to find in 1907

The bank account deposit book that still exists records donations humble and otherwise,
such as, Bazaar proceeds £218; a loan of £ 100; and finally a donation of £325 from the
Andrew Carnegie Trust. The Revd Walters’ efforts to procure this sum of money from
Andrew Carnegie; the world renowned, self-made multi-millionaire and philanthropist –
are truly praiseworthy. His letters of appeal in draft, with countless alterations and
corrections indicate the tremendous effort he made. To be noted is the normal Sunday
evening congregation in 1907 was between 400 and 500 people.

The organ chamber was removed from the original site, where the pulpit now stands,
and Hunter and Sons, 87, High Street, Clapham were commissioned to build the new
organ. The local press in September 1907, gave glowing descriptions of the fine three-
manual instrument with automatic stops and hydraulic power from the town’s water
mains.

The church itself had undergone a complete face – lift. The upper walls were painted in
warm Sienna; the base in Pompeian red, with an intervening sage green band
illuminated by texts from the ‘Te Deum’ painted in gold; vine leaves adorned the
windows and stained walnut gas fittings were re-lacquered. All this was for the
dedication of the new organ by the Lord Bishop of St David’s on 19 th  September 1907. Mr
Keene, organist of St Saviour’s, Clapham was invited to give an organ recital after the
service and on the following evening.

The choir sang: ‘Glory and Honour’ (Mozart) and their performance reflected great credit
on their training by Mr West, the newly appointed organist. The names of Edward Colby
Evans and John Davies Evans amongst others, appear in accounts of vocal quartettes
rendered at this and subsequent organ recitals. A plaque in the chancel commemorates
these two choristers who between them were members of the choir for 151 years.
Wlater Baxter Brookes was the organist from 1909 to 1016. Late 1917 marked another
step forward in the history of Christ Church organs when the hydraulic motion was
replaced by electricity. On 24 th  January 1918, a grand organ recital was given by Herbert
Morris, organist of St david’s cathedral to celebrate this innovation.
Soloists were:
 Irene Thomas
 Edmund Thomas
 Colby Evans

Mr C.W. Wifford was the organist from 1916 to 1954; a lengthy period during which
several present members of the church were his pupils and have every reason to be
grateful to him for their musical tuition. He was followed by a succession of excellent
organists:
 Wynne Evans    1954 to 1965
 Michael Davies  1965 to 1968
 Mrs Goddard      1968 to 1971
 Keith Davies       1971 to 1973

In 1973 we were most fortunate to acquire the services of Mrs MEM Williams from
Llandeilo.

In 1977, the pneumatic action of the present organ was converted to an electric
pneumatic action and new keyboards and pedals fitted. The work was carried out by
Michael Davies – organist 1965-68), who became senior executive of the Gavenny
Organ Company.

The old keys were labelled, varnished, and sold to Church members to help defray the
cost of the conversion work of one of the finest organs in the Diocese. On the 3 rd  October
1907, the vicar wrote to Andrew Carnegie ‘I am truly rejoiced to think that so good an
instrument has been provided for this parish, indeed for the town I may say’
More than 70 years later, we endorse this sentiment and remember with gratitude all
who worked for the cause and especially Andrew Carnegie, the son of a poor Scottish
weaver who emigrated to Pittsburg, USA on the ‘hungry ferries’ without whose ‘generous
promise of £325 no organ would have been provided at all’.

Mr Ken Gutteridge followed Mrs Williams from 1993 to 1997.
Mr Alan Greenacre followed Mr Gutteridge from 1997 to 2001.
Mr Greenacre wrote a report about the Organs in Christ  Church for the Chancellor of
the Diocese in April 1999
Today’s Dr. Dulais Rhys, is our accomplished organist. He became our organist in 2002.
He was followed by Wyn Maskell (who later became our NSM Curate).

We are particularly fortunate that our present organist is the distinguished musician and
composer Meirion Wynn Jones. Mrs Sheila Jones is our faithful organist for the Welsh-
language services.