Hornsby Uniting Church (formerly Methodist)
cnr Frederick & William Streets, Hornsby
Original builder unknown, rebuilt Roger H Pogson 1966 (2/9 electro-pneumatic)
Photo: Rod Blackmore
From SOJ Autumn 2000:
The two manual, nine rank instrument was installed in 1929 with mechanical action. Its origins are unknown despite considerable research. Roger Pogson suggested it may have been installed by W.G. Rendall who frequently bought, rebuilt and resold redundant organs. Pogson rebuilt the organ in 1966 with electric action. In 1997 the poor sounding English Horn stop was replaced by Pogson with an Oboe made by Palmer.
The specification is:
Swell Sub Octave
Swell Sub to Great
Swell to Great
Swell Octave to Great
Swell to Pedal
Great to Pedal
Photos: Alan Caradus (June 2012)
From The Sydney Organ Journal, Spring 2011:
Restored and Resited: the Organ in Hornsby Uniting Church
The Wesleyan Methodist church at Hornsby opened in 1896. In 1929 a pipe organ was installed in memory of Wesleyan pioneer James Channon as a gift from his wife and family. Channon had died in 1920 and the family continued to be active Hornsby Methodists. The organ is believed to be the last installation by the firm Charles Richardson & Co., Charles himself having died in 1926 and his nephew Ernest (who had carried on the firm) died in 1929, apparently during the course of the instrument's installation and delaying its completion by some months.
The organ, however, appears to have had a previous existence, the provenance of which has not been discovered despite the efforts of organ historians and anecdotal accounts even from members of the Channon family. Competing accounts suggested that it had been a redundant organ from a "northern harbourside suburb" (e.g. Neutral Bay) or alternately "from the vicinity of the Sydney University." Checking against organs of similar size made redundant in the 1920s from those areas has not revealed its origin, nor is there any feature of its manufacture that reveals it as the work of any particular organ builder.
Dr. Kelvin Hastie (who consulted on the reinstallation project) advised "The instrument is almost certainly of Australian manufacture of the 1910-1929 period, possibly contains pipe work of mixed origin, and is of an advanced Romantic tonal character (i.e. in the klangfarbe style) where emphasis is placed on individual tone colors, rather than the provision of a unified ensemble. The instrument is clearly not the work of the major builders of the period, such as Whitehouse Bros., George Fincham & Sons, Hill, Norman & Beard (Aust.) Pty. Ltd., J.E. Dodd, or W.L. Roberts. It is possibly the work of one of the smaller Sydney firms such as Ernest Richardson or George A. Smith, or one of the semi-professional builders, such as Joseph Massey."
The organ as originally installed at Hornsby had a single unit soundboard with a capacity for nine ranks. The four forward ranks constituted the Great division, the four ranks at the rear had the Swell box seated above, while there was apparently a spare central slide which remained as access for tuning and maintenance. (At a later time this central area was divided to widen the access area. In the current reinstallation the separation between Great and Swell divisions has been further increased.) The 1929 installation had mechanical action to the manuals and tubular-pneumatic action to the pedal Bourdon.
The organ case is believed to have been designed and constructed by architect Norman McPherson, a member of the church who was also an organist. At the same time he redesigned the sanctuary, pulpit and choir area centred around the organ. McPherson designed a number of churches in the early 1930s including Waitara and Roseville Methodist churches. The design of the corner towers with their fluted columns, for instance, has been described as unusual.
In 1966 the organ was rebuilt by Roger Pogson with electric action. This action has remained reliable over the years in comparison with that provided by a number of other builders of that era. In 1997 the Swell rank labeled "Horn" (a raucous stop little used by organists except occasionally in full organ chorus, and unsuitable as a solo voice) was replaced by Pogson in favour of an Oboe (redundant from another church.) At the time available space only allowed installation of the Oboe from tenor C, but in the current reinstallation the opportunity has been taken to install the bottom octave which was in storage The whole rank has also been re-voiced with a softened effect.
The pipe organ is the church's most significant memorial and the congregation has enthusiastically supported its transition to the new building. The old church was demolished in early 2009, with the organ being removed to storage in November 2008. The new building was officially opened on 19th June 2010. Another significant memorial rescued from the old church is a stained glass window in memory of Marion Winter. Marion was an organist and choirmaster at the church. Her daughter, Joan, also played the organ and was choirmaster in 1949. The window is now featured in the heritage "St. Andrews" chapel in the new building. It features a robed female bearing a portative organ with a group of angelic choristers behind.
Other notable organists of the church included Neville Channon (son of the late James Channon) in the 1930s, and Dr. Reginald Walker. Dr. Walker's death at the age of 88, and his reputation as an organist and carillonist, has been recently noted. His father was minister of the church from 1938 to 1942, and his brother was Rev. Dr. Sir Alan Walker, renowned superintendent of Central Methodist Mission. It might also be here noted that Winifred Channon, also daughter of James, married Alan Walker.)
Mrs. K. McGowan, W. Rolands, Frank Bourne, G. Brooks, Miss P. Roughley, Mrs. C. Read, Ron Hunt, Jennifer Adam, I. Chaseling and John Pogson are other recorded names of organists over the years, but unfortunately I have not located records that specify in what years they served. Helen Short and I have been the church's organists since the early 1980s.
An original approved design for the new church at Hornsby provided for the organ to be located in a loft above the division between the building's two auditoriums, and with a detached console at floor level. Revision of the budget and design required the organ to be situated at floor level and in a purpose-built alcove. The footprint of the organ is larger than previously, allowing for less cramped dispersion of its action. The opportunity has still been taken to provide detachment of the console at ninety degrees to the organ, beneficial to organists who may directly observe in all directions about them. The architect for the building was Ridley Smith of Noel Bell, Ridley Smith & Associates – himself an organist with an eye to reinstallation requirements.
Restoration and reinstallation has been entrusted to Peter D.G. Jewkes Pty. Ltd. and the craftsmanship of his personnel has been appreciated.
Although the organ was not regarded as historic, the workmanship and techniques involved have been in accordance with the Restoration Standards of the Organ Historical Trust of Australia. Notable elements of this work include:
Complete restoration of the main Swell and Great slider soundboards to ensure optimum operation. Tubular pneumatic action with electric changeover machines for the Pedal windchests has been replaced with traditional electro-pneumatic primary actions. The main "power" motors of all soundboards and windchests have been recovered with best quality German splitskin. The existing noisy & ineffective pneumatic drawstop machines have been replaced with silent slide solenoid actuators imported from Germany.
Restoration of the console (now detached) includes provision of eighteen new American stop key units, re-felting of keys and pedals, cleaning of all electrical contacts, complete rewiring with multi-core cable, & provision of English solid state combination piston action with three thumb pistons per manual, plus three reversible thumb pistons for couplers and a General Cancel piston. A new rear timber panel of matching design has been fitted, and a new American eight stage Swell engine for operation of the Swell shutters has been provided.
Two concussion bellows have been fitted to the Swell and Great soundboards to alleviate the former unsteady wind. A cut-out valve is provided with the Swell concussion bellows, for use with the tremulant.
Shutters and frame of the Swell box have been replaced with new longer shutters, to permit better tonal egress.
It was the desire of the church that the pitch of the organ be lowered to assist with accompaniment of choral works and other instruments. It was felt that the optimum method for the organ to be playable at concert pitch would be first to allow for inclusion of a transposer in the new solid state control. The necessity of re-racking all the pipe work is avoided, as well as providing a useful facility perhaps not previously common in pipe organs. This feature nevertheless has some limitations: when the transposer control lowers the pitch one degree, i.e. a semitone, the lowest note on pedal and manuals is not available because there is no pipe in that position to sound. The further degrees the overall pitch is lowered, the greater the number of notes at the bass end are silent. Conversely, if the transposer raises the overall pitch, the highest notes become silent. The effect, for an organist, is most apparent in the bass, especially the pedals.)
Stays and racks for the Pedal Bourdon in the old church were non-existent, with the large wooden pipes simply leaning against each other. Racks, stays and wooden pipe hooks have been provided.
Regulation and re-voicing of the pipe work throughout has been undertaken.
The façade pipes, formerly painted dull gold, have been repainted in bright pewter colour with gold mouths. Eighteen of the façade pipes speak as part of the Great Open Diapason, they being the lowest notes of that rank.
Fluorescent light strips are installed throughout the organ (including within the Swell box) as an aid to maintenance and tuning.
The organ's specification remains basically the same. In planning restoration it had been thought desirable to provide a Violin Diapason in the Swell division and a Sub Bass/Bass Flute to the Pedal. The Gedackt might also have been made playable on the Great at the same time. Budget constraints caused this work not to proceed, more importance being placed on the features mentioned above. The enlarged area within the organ case, however, makes these additions a future feasibility.
The installation has been complemented by the gift of a Kawai grand piano.
The organ did not have a builder's plaque, although one recording the 1966 Pogson rebuild is on the console. The church has provided a new plaque in the console noting the roles of Charles Richardson & Co. and Peter D.G. Jewkes Pty Ltd.
The church auditorium is larger than the demolished church. The organ, nevertheless, amply provides support for congregations and choral groups through a range of stops that have differing volume characteristics. It is confidently believed that this recent restoration will enable this instrument to reliably serve the congregation for many years to come.