The organ at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene was built in 1906 by the Toronto firm of 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 Healey Willan’s direction so that he could both play and conduct the choir. The Tuba rank, which speaks directly into the St. Joseph’s chapel, was also installed during Willan’s tenure, but 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 fashionable at 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) 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 on King Street. Some of the original pipework was revoiced, but much of it still speaks with its original and very British sounding character.
The console was rebuilt in 2017 by John Struve with new keyboards of exceptional quality from P&S in Suffolk, England, and a new memory level system was added. The electrical relay, which had become sluggish and unreliable with age, was replaced with a new solid-state system, refining the playing capabilities of the instrument immensely.