St Joseph's Catholic Church,
Albert Street, Edgecliff

Geo. Fincham & Sons 1901 (2/15 mechanical)

From an article published by the church's organist, Mr Kurt Ison in the Sydney Organ Journal Winter 1999 pp31-32:

A very happy 'marriage' of architectural and aesthetic features has occurred at the Victorian gothic church of St Joseph's, Edgecliff which was the first Franciscan church in Sydney. The organ rests in the centre of a relatively high gallery with stained glass windows protruding above the facade pipes and plain white walls with plain leadlight windows to either side. The effect from the nave is that the organ has always, or at least should have always been there.

The organ's former home was at Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Port Melboume. This disused building was slated for closure by the Anglican archdiocese and Peter Jewkes was approached about a potential new home for the organ.

I was appointed as organist at St Joseph's Edgecliff in August at St Joseph's, Edgecliff in August 1994. After some years of discussion with the parish clergy we had come to the conclusion that something drastic needed to be done about the previous 'uninspiring' organ.

I was delighted when Peter Jewkes told me about the availability of the Fincham organ and immediately set about telling the parish priest all about its abundant virtues! The parish clergy were very supportive of the project and set a course to purchase the historic organ. The previous organ was dismantled and sold to a church in Melbourne; I had visions of the two organs meeting at a truck stop somewhere on the Hume Highway!

The gallery had to be completely rebuilt to incorporate the new organ and the instrument needed a thorough restoration. In October 1997 a parish appeal was launched by Fr Hugh Walsh, OFM, parish priest, to raise the necessary funds for the gallery and organ. This was an outstanding success and the work subsequently proceeded, the organ finally being installed by Christmas, 1998.

It had had an earlier public 'showing' in the Jewkes factory in June, 1998. The organ has already proved its musical worth in several specialist ways such as being a splendid vehicle for: (1) hymn accompaniment (because of the warmth of its tone), (2) improvisation (because of it large variety of colours, especially, vibrant strings), (3) it suitability for use in continuo (because of the clarity of the Swell Flutes 4ft) and is ability to accompany choirs (because of the stability of tuning and smooth graduadon of volume).

Although I am not an expert in the more technical aspects of the engineering of organ actions, I do believe that Fincham's voicers (at the turn of the century) must have been very fine indeed. This organ has real character. Each rank sings and blends beautifully with its neighbours. The organ also has an astonishing clarity (partly because of the Twelfth which allows even baroque counterpoint to be heard. This must surely be rare on an organ from 1901?

Naturally, it has also been well restored and thus able to shine tonally as perhaps it did then.

Some technical details of interest:

1. New side panels had to be constructed as formerly the organ had been in a chamber. These were made at the Jewkes factory from hoop pine, along with replacements for missing sections of the original casework.

2. The facade pipes were skillfully re-diapered by John Banle of Caringbah, NSW.

3. A number of pipes had been removed by vandals when the organ was still in Melbourne. These had to be replaced using the few originals as models as well as scalings already on file.

(a) Oboe 1-6, 18-56 are new.
(b) Great 2-2/3 1-4, 25-56 are new.
(c) Principal 4, 13-56, Fifteenth 2, 30-56 and Open Diapason 8, 54-56 are new.
(d) a couple of Pedal Bourdon pipes were re-made at the factory (given new mouths) because they would not speak properly (partly because of the permanently stopped tops).

4. The balanced Swell pedal mechanism was completely rebuilt and works quite efficiently.

5. The settings on the combination pedals were left as per the original pins.

6. The keys on each manual are an early form of cellulose-perhaps after the Boer War the trade in ivory slowed down?

7. New pipework was made for Peter D. G. Jewkes Pty Ltd by Australian Pipe Organs Pty Ltd, Melbourne.

In carrying out the tonal finishing at St Joseph's, Peter Jewkes considered that the organ's existing dynamic levels from Port Melbourne were entirely suitable for its new acoustic environment. Thus, other than careful note to note regulation and matching of new pipes to old, the Fincham tonal scheme has been preserved intact. The restoration was carried out according to the Restoration Standards of the Organ Historical Trust of Australia; even the bellows feeders being re-leathered for (optional) hand pumping.

Of all the historic Fincham organs I have seen, the one which most closely resembles that at Edgecliff is in St Mary and Joseph's Catholic Cathedral, Armidale, NSW.

Sydney and the Catholic Archdiocese are blessed to be able to add another fine instrument to their inventory.

Geo. Fincham & Sons 1901 (2/15 mechanical)

The specification is:

Open Diapason
Claribel (stopped bass)
Dulciana (stopped bass)

Geigen Principal (stopped bass)
Gedackt (stopped bass)
Gamba (stopped bass)
Voix Celestes TC
Wald Flute


Swell to Great
Great to Pedal
Swell to Pedal




3 combination pedals per division

Compass 56/30
Mechanical action

© PdL 2006

The organ when in Holy Trinity, Port Melbourne

Photo: Simon Colvin