The Organs of St John's
The Chamber Organ
The chamber organ used to be in the house organ of a parishioner, Paul Ward, a prominent local solicitor and the Diocesan Registrar for many years. Paul was a leading light in the fundraising for the restoration of the main organ some 20 years ago. When he died he left the chamber organ to Whirlow Grange and when they ceased to use it, his widow Audrey (also a longstanding parishioner) agreed that it should be transferred to St John's in 2008 as we could make good use of it.
This organ is of some historical importance and is an essential component of the music programme at St John’s, fulfilling its completely different role from that of its big brother as a suitable accompanying instrument for period services and performances, a very good teaching tool and, as much smaller instrument more appropriate for use when accompanying smaller and more intimate services. We are very fortunate to have this instrument in addition to the main organ.
The Main Organ
The main organ, a three-manual instrument, is generally considered to be one of the finest pipe organs in the area. It was installed in 1888 by Sheffield builder Brindley and Foster. Their organs were prolific, but since the firms closure in 1939, the instruments are becoming increasingly rare. St John’s has always carefully maintained its organ and there have a number of significant rebuilds over its 130 year history. There was a major refurbishment by Nicholson of Worcester in 1963 and a further rebuild by David Wells of Liverpool in 1997.
The organ is used daily for teaching, professional development of our four staff organists, concerts, recitals and for accompanying our five sung services every week. Being a vital component of our music programme it provides the bedrock upon which our choirs flourish and sing. Indeed, we have many requests from organists across the world to visit St John’s to play (either privately or in public) the main organ.
Organ Restoration Appeal For
Historic Sheffield Organ
Update February 2021
In October 2017, when the church closed for urgent and essential repairs to the ceiling, we had no idea that it would be last time we would hear our pipe organ for over three years. On re-opening in August 2018, we found that the long-standing faults in the organ had been exacerbated by the organ’s lack of use and some rather extreme humidity. It’s a well-known narrative.
The organ was immediately decommissioned and an interim, digital instrument was quickly procured. Although unexpected in its suddenness, the need for repairs to the organ was not a surprise. Significant work was overdue and an ongoing programme of repair had already been planned. But we found ourselves needing to undertake to a much larger project imminently.
2020 was challenging year for very many reasons, but it was also the year that saw our organ be dismantled and taken away to be carefully and meticulously cleaned and repaired. Our organ builder, Andrew Carter, and his team worked for many hours, days and months to undertake the skilled and delicate work of piecing together our 130-year-old instrument.
The work has taken a little longer than hoped for as progress has been hampered by successive lockdowns and the need to work safely. However, the project is very near its end. Throughout January (and another lockdown!) the organ builder has been undertaking the final work to ensure the sound is balanced before the project is signed off.
The project has revealed additional work. A repair was required to the masonry on an external wall in the organ chamber, an area that’s not accessible when the organ is in place and we’ve had some further upgrading to the electrics in the organ. Most recently the cause of a longstanding fault has been identified. The organ has for many decades lost pressure, causing it to be temperamental and lose tune more quickly. The replacement wind reservoir has cost a further £2,500 but our organ consultant Paul Hale has assured us “this will be the best £2,500 spent on the Ranmoor organ as it will improve the entire instrument”.
At the time of writing our appeal has reached just over £68,000 – a tremendous total given all the uncertainty of the last year. We are enormously grateful to those who have supported the appeal including four grant funders; the Sheffield Church Burgesses Trust, the Sheffield Town Trust, Allchurches Trust and the James Neill Trust Fund. Our planned fundraising activities have had to be postponed but we do hope to hold a concert celebrating the project completion later this year. The fundraising shortfall is expected to be around £42,000 – of which the PCC had always pledged a contribution from church funds of £30,000. The formal appeal is closing with the 2020 accounts but if you would like to contribute and help us meet some of this shortfall then do visit the website to find out how you can give or contact the parish office.
The great organ is once again accompanying our worship and we hope that we can soon all be in church to hear it.
We are enormously grateful to everyone that has already supported the appeal and you can find out more about how to give on the website.
Learn more about the appeal by downloading our appeal leaflet below and consider making a gift to the restoration using the form below.
Organ Appeal Info Leaflet
Organ Appeal donation form
Inspire 2020 article about the organ appeal can be viewed here
Some Images of Work in Progress can be viewed here:
Cleaned and revarnished
Removing the pipes
Lots of electrics
Build up of the dirt
Console being removed
Stops with new felting