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Work on £1 million organ restoration project begins

Work on £1 million organ restoration project begins

21st January 2013

Work to restore Exeter Cathedral's unique 17th century organ will begin this week, as it is carefully dismantled for repair.

The organ, including the pipes, will be sent up to master organ builders Harrison and Harrison in Durham, who have looked after the Exeter organ since the 1930s.

While the organ is out of action, there will be replacement digital instruments for the quire and nave. The historic organ case will remain in the Cathedral throughout the restoration project.

The Cathedral's Director of Music, Andrew Millington, said the restoration was overdue, as all organs needed a complete clean and overhaul every 25 years.

He said: "This intricate and time-consuming operation involves the dismantling of the instrument, including well over 4000 pipes which have to be individually cleaned and repaired where necessary. The Exeter organ has evolved over the centuries since it was first built in 1665, and the original case now houses about four times the number of pipes than it did in the 17th century. The interior of the organ is extremely cramped, and some sections are virtually inaccessible for maintenance. The inside layout of the organ is to be completely re-designed with new soundboards and a better projection of sound into the building. Certain intricate moving parts such as delicate leatherwork will be replaced, and wind leaks rectified.

"The aim is to restore this historic and renowned instrument to perfect working order for future generations."

Work on the organ has been funded thanks to generous donors of the Cathedral's Third Millennium Campaign, money raised from last year's Majesty Flower Festival and the Grand Nave dinner and from the Friends. A large grant has been awarded by Viridor Credits Environmental Company and supporters continue to come forward to 'sponsor a pipe' through the 'Leave a note' appeal to raise money for the project. Fundraising to complete the £1 million project through to completion will carry on throughout this year and next year.

The organ won't be back on site in 2014 when it will need to be 'voiced' – each note regulated and tuned – a process that can take up to eight weeks to complete.

Canon Carl Turner, who is managing the restoration project, said: "The iconic nature of the Exeter Cathedral organ means that we are entrusted with an historical instrument of international significance. But it is far from being a museum piece, it is a working instrument, used day in and day out in the way it was intended to by its creator, John Loosemore, in 1665, and we need to ensure it stays that way."

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