York’s Grand Organ is back

05th March 2021

Drum roll please….or rather voluntary on the organ as York Minster’s Grand Organ returns to the heart of worship this weekend after a once in a lifetime refurbishment project.

York’s Grand Organ brought back into the heart of worship

York Minster’s newly refurbished Grand Organ will be blessed on Sunday (March 7) and played for the first time following the completion of the restorative work which has seen the majority of the organ’s 102 decorative case pipes – some dating from 1832 – brought back into use after being silent since 1903 when it was last refurbished.

Robert Sharpe, York Minster’s Director of Music, said:

“We’re delighted to be able to bring the Grand Organ back into regular use…

“It will be a gentle return in March due to the solemnity of the season of Lent, but building to a celebration on Easter Day when the organ will be dedicated by the Archbishop of York.

“Organ music has played a central role in worship at York Minster for nearly 1,000 years and we hope this project will help ensure that tradition continues throughout the 21st century and beyond.”

A prayer will be said for the organ during the cathedral’s live-streamed Eucharist service this Sunday at 11am, before it is played for the first time during worship since 2018.

The blessing marks the completion of the £2m refurbishment project, allowing the instrument to be played at services throughout Lent before it the dedication of the organ by the Archbishop of York at Evensong on Easter Day.

The instrument was last played during worship in October 2018 before work began to remove the organ, including nearly all of its 5,000 plus pipes, so it could be taken to organ specialists, Harrison and Harrison in Durham for cleaning, repair and replacement.

The organ dates from the early 1830s and is one of the largest cathedral organs in the country, weighing approximately 20,000kg.

Work on the refurbishment project briefly paused in March 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic, before the instrument was rebuilt between June and October 2020.

Since then experts have worked to ‘voice’ the organ, a process which involves making sure all 5,000 pipes play the correct note, pitch and volume.

The project has also included creating a new music library underneath the organ, behind the Pulpitum – known as the Kings’ Screen – the 15th century stone screen which separates the Minster’s Quire from the Nave.

The organ will be dedicated by the Archbishop of York at an Evensong service on Easter Day (Sunday 4 April) and a programme of events to celebrate the organ’s return will be announced later this year.