Special celebrations for the return of Norwich Cathedral’s historic organ
8 September 2023
A special series of events is set to take place to celebrate the return of Norwich Cathedral’s historic organ this November.
All are welcome to join in the celebrations as the Cathedral welcomes back the unique instrument following an ambitious once-in-a-lifetime project to preserve the organ for future generations.
The festivities in November will include a trio of Organ Reborn! concerts and a special Evensong service to bless the newly-rebuilt organ. Tickets are on sale now for the three concerts at www.cathedral.org.uk
Ashley Grote, the Cathedral’s Master of Music, said: “The completion of the project to rebuild the Cathedral’s magnificent organ represents an exciting new chapter in our musical life here in Norwich. The Cathedral is now home to what is without doubt one of the finest organs in the country which will serve the people of our community for decades to come, both in our worship and in the many concerts that take place here. We look forward to the series of opening events in November and to further performances throughout 2024 which will bring a host of highly acclaimed organists to Norwich.”
The Organ Reborn! concert series starts on Saturday 11 November with Norwich Cathedral Chamber Choir, the Cathedral’s organist David Dunnett and Onyx Brass performing Rutter’s Gloria and Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms.
On Thursday 16 November, the music of English composer Herbert Howells will take centre stage in a concert by the BBC Singers, with the Cathedral’s Master of Music Ashley Grote playing the organ and Nicholas Chalmers and Ed Balls conducting.
On Saturday 25 November, internationally-renowned concert organist Thomas Trotter will give the inaugural organ recital with a programme including music by Bach, Guilmant, Willan, Dove, Karg-Elert and Mendelssohn.
The celebrations will conclude on Sunday 26 November with a Festal Evensong service during which the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham Usher, will bless the newly rebuilt organ.
The festivities mark the conclusion of a £1.8m project which, from its initial planning and fundraising stages, has been more than a decade in the making.
The organ is one of the biggest of its kind in the country and the extensive rebuild project was the instrument’s first complete overhaul since it was rebuilt in 1942, following a fire which partially destroyed the instrument in April 1938.
The practical work started back in May 2022 when scaffolding was put up to enable most of the organ’s several thousand pipes to be removed and taken to organ specialists Harrison and Harrison’s base in Durham for further work.
Meanwhile, gilders Robert Woodland and Debra Miller set about re-gilding the show pipes, crown and star that decorate the organ’s exterior.
Most of the organ’s working pipes were returned to the Cathedral and carefully reinstalled between January and March 2023, with the scaffolding being removed just before Easter to reveal the newly rebuilt and re-gilded organ in all its visual splendour.
The next stage of the project saw each and every one of the organ’s 5,767 pipes being ‘voiced’ – or tuned – by Harrison and Harrison in situ between May and July this year. The vast number of pipes range in size from about the length of a pencil to an incredible 32ft (almost 10 metres).
Now time is needed for the rebuilt organ to settle back into the Cathedral’s surroundings before the celebrations take place in November. In addition to this, an exciting organ festival is also being planned for summer 2024.