St Mark's Anglican Church
cnr Grosvenor Street and The Mall, South Hurstville
E.F. Walcker & Cie., Germany 1960, 2m., 12 sp. st., mechanical
From SOJ December 1965:
The organ in this church was built by E.F. Walcker & Cie., Ludwigsburg, Germany in 1960. It was installed by the firm's Australian representative, Mr Peter Lawson. At this time it was the largest Walcker organ in Sydney.
All ranks are independent and it has mechanical action throughout and slider chests.
The specification is:
II-I, I-P and II-P couplers by hitch down
Photos above: Alan Caradus (5 May 2017)
From SOJ Autumn 2010, Dr Kelvin Hastie writes:
The organ at St Mark’s South Hurstville was built in 1960 by E.F. Walcker & Cie., of Ludwigsburg, Germany. It is of great historical significance, being the first modern mechanical action organ of two manuals to be installed in Australia. Acquisition of the organ was initiated by long-serving organist of the church, Ray Holland, well-known throughout the country through his work with the Royal School of Church Music and the Organ Historical Trust of Australia.
A brief history of the Walcker firm is contained in Graeme Rushworth’s Historic Organs of New South Wales, and the reader is directed to that volume for more information. Regrettably few of the firm’s earlier Romantic instruments survive in Australia, despite their robust construction. The small instruments at St Paul’s Anglican Church, Hay and St Paul’s Lutheran Church, Stanley Street Sydney (both dating from 1887), give testament to the quality of the firm’s work.
After World War II the firm quickly re-established itself and began to mass produce mechanical-action organs in what is now regarded as an extreme form of the Orgelbewegung. The firm engaged Peter Lawson as its Sydney agent and he was responsible for installing about ten of these instruments in churches and schools in Sydney, country New South Wales and Canberra, from 1958 to 1969. All the instruments were very small one or two manual instruments: the South Hurstville organ, with 12 stops, was the largest and probably the most musically successful of the group.
It is now 50 years since the organ was installed and care of the instrument is in the hands of Pipe Organ Reconstructions Pty. Ltd. Mark Fisher provides the following notes on recent repairs and modifications he has made to the instrument, which will see it serve the church well into the future:
“After inspecting the organ late in 2007 and carrying out a complete tuning, together with adjustments to the key coupler action, it was obvious that the performance of the organ was becoming more and more compromised from loss of air to the pipes, as a result of broken slider seals in the windchests. More notes were failing and I proposed that the organ be cleaned, all pipes removed and cleaned and the toe boards on the windchests be taken up, the stop sliders removed and modifications made to them to ensure a more trouble-free existence.
The system of stop sliders used by E F Walcker was unusual, in that it involved the use of double-deck canvas bakelite sliders, fitted with sprung leather-covered slider seals, glued between the two sliders. This system depended on the life-span of the very thin pneumatic-grade split skin, covering the telescopic seals, to maintain an airtight seal for the wind supply to each pipe. Unfortunately, it has been proven that in the harsh Sydney climate the leather on these seals fails, preventing the correct sounding of pipes. Some examples, found in organs placed in a cool and virtually undisturbed environment, have lasted as long as the now failing examples at St Mark’s, but others were not so lucky. The 1962 Walcker organ at Christ Church, Gladesville, in a hot west gallery, lasted only to 1990.
The slider seals in the Pedal division of the South Hurstville organ were dismantled and recovered in 1980 by Mark Fisher after they began to fail; and this was a time-consuming exercise. Some of these were again failing in more recent times, as the windchest is more exposed to the atmosphere than the others. Replacement seals may be made today, by special order, but are cost prohibitive – and the whole exercise must be repeated again further down the track.
For this reason, I proposed to abandon the double-deck slider design and revert to the normal single stop slider operation. This system guarantees a trouble-free future and also, most significantly, allows the stops to be more easily drawn at the console. The work, which was carried out on site from mid January to early April 2009 included the following:
1) Remove all pipes to Parish Hall.
2) Vacuum clean and wipe down the whole organ
3) Unscrew and remove rack-boards, toe boards and wind conveyances from wind-chests
4) Strip the Walcker bearer blocks from the windchest tables, make and fit new canvas bakelite bearers
5) Dismantle and strip all old slider seals, clean and prepare one layer of canvas bakelite stop sliders
6) Mark out, drill and fit locating dowels in windchests
7) Router slots in stop sliders to provide correct travel with the locating dowels
8) Modify the underside of nine toe boards to clear the Walcker channel exhaust mechanisms
9) Screw down toe boards and rack boards
10) Test operation of new stop sliders
11) Remove old tuning slides from pipes
12) Wash pipes, dry wipe and polish
13) Fit new tuning slides of tinplate
14) Re-install all pipes
15) Check and adjust regulation as a result of a much improved air supply to the pipes and tune the organ
Lois Little, organist at South Hurstville very kindly volunteered her help for this project and this helped a great deal in keeping the costs down. Interestingly, it was discovered during the dismantling that as well as the leather on the slider seals failing, the glue holding the slider seals on to the stop sliders was also failing, both factors contributing to the loss of air through the slider seals to the pipes above. As a result of removing the slider seals and the second level of stop sliders, the speech and tonal steadiness was improved beyond imagination. Tuning has also become more stable and the draw-stops are now easy to operate. The sound of the organ is now vastly improved with the loss of so much turbulence in the pipe-speech.”