Healey Willan Memorial Organ

Evensong7

The organ of St. Mary Magdalene’s was built in 1906 by the Toronto based organ builders Breckles and Matthews and originally contained around 27 stops. The firm was founded in 1900 by two workers from the D W Karn Company of Woodstock, Ontario. In 1931 the action of the organ was electrified and the console was moved to the gallery under Willan’s direction so that he could both play and conduct the choir. The Tuba rank, originally extended downwards to form a 16’ pedal reed, was also installed during Willan’s tenure and speaks directly into the St. Josephs chapel. Apart from that the organ retained its original voice until after Willan’s death. By that time the instrument needed a thorough restoration, but as was the common practice of the time, a complete rebuild, enlargement and modernisation of the organ was carried out. Today the organ is much larger, having grown to 51 stops. The work was started in the early 1970’s by David Legge and Willan’s successor Giles Bryant. Additional work was carried out by Alan T Jackson and company, the local Casavant representatives, and in 1980 the organ was rededicated as the ‘Healey Willan Memorial Organ’. Casavant windchests were provided throughout the instrument, except for the separate pedal Subbass and Open Wood chests which remain original. New pipes (marked with an asterisk in the list below) were provided by the Casavant factory in St. Hyacinth Quebec, and some second hand material was used to form other new stops from the Warren organ dismantled at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in the city. Some of the original pipework was revoiced, but much of it still speaks with its near original and a very British sounding character of excellent quality.

The addition of new mixtures and reeds makes the instrument much more versatile than it would have been originally, but like so many organ rebuilds of the time, not enough care was taken to ensure that the added pipework blended suitably well with the old. The Great trumpets are arguably a little too loud and bright, and the swell bassoon 16’ is of a thinner, more ‘Baroque’ character and is somewhat unsuited to the ensemble. A very unsuccessful attempt to re-voice the old clarinet stop into a ‘Cremona’ was gladly revised to its original voicing in 2014, having been virtually unusable for years. In the future the organ is going to require some work to the console and electrical system which are becoming unreliable, but it would also desirable if some of the changes made in the 1970’s could be readdressed so that the instrument can speak with a more coherent voice whilst retaining the added versatility of the additions.

However, this instrument still has much integrity to its sound if used carefully and is capable of accompanying the liturgy with great distinction. It can do justice to much of the organ repertoire, especially organ music from the 19th and 20th Centuries, and the wonderful reverberant acoustics of the church make this instrument most satisfying to listen to.

 

Great:Double Open Diapason 16 (extension of II Open Diapason, bottom octave from pedal)

I Open Diapason 8 (second hand)

II Open Diapason 8

*Stopped Diapason 8 (stopped metal)

Gamba 8

Octave 4

*Nason Flute 4 (actually an open metal ‘spitz’ flute)

Twelfth 2 2/3

Fifteenth 2

*Mixture IV

*Cornet V (from middle C, mounted )

*Trumpet 8

*Clarion 4

 

Swell: (enclosed)Lieblich Bourdon 16

Stopped Diapason 8

Salicional 8

Viola da Gamba 8

Vox Angelica 8 (from tenor C tuned sharp)

Principal 4

Suabe Flute 4

Nazard 2 2/3 (second hand)

Octave 2

Tierce 1 3/5 (second hand)

*Sharp Mixture IV

*Bassoon 16 (half length resonators throughout)

Trumpet 8 (harmonic trebles)

Hautboy 8

Shawm 4 (second hand oboe revoiced)

Choir: (enclosed)Gedackt 8

Dulciana 8

Unda Maris 8 (from tenor C, tuned flat)

Chimney Flute 4

*Spire Principal 2

*Larigot 1 1/3

*Cymbel III

Cremona 8 (restored to original ‘clarinet’ voicing in 2014)

Tremulant

Tuba 8 (unenclosed, added 1930’s, separate chest on high pressure)

 

Pedal:Sub Bourdon 32 (bottom octave ‘resultant’)

Open Metal 16

Open Wood 16

Subbass 16

Lieblich Bourdon 16 (from Swell)

Octave 8

Flute 8

Fifteenth 4

Recorder 4

*Mixture IV 2 2/3

Ophicleide 16 (second hand)

Bassoon 16 (from Swell)

Trumpet 8 (from Great)

Clarion 4 (from Great)

 

 

*New 1970’s Casavant pipes

Usual full complement of couplers.

6 divisional pistons to each manual and 10 general pistons, all instantly adjustable using a single memory ‘Grecar’ electronic system.