Organ at St John
J. W. Walker & Sons Ltd., founded in 1828, trace their origins back to the illustrious sixteenth century organ builder Thomas Dallum, whose exquisite organ case still graces the chapel of King’s College in Cambridge, England. Today, after 180 years of exporting organs worldwide, Walker operates from one of the most modern purpose-built organ builders’ workshops in Europe.
Recognition of the firm’s craftsmanship came from the English Royal Family in 1880, when the Prince of Wales ordered the new instrument for their country estate at Sandringham, and later, as Edward VII ordered a larger instrument. Queen Victoria made gifts of Walker Organs. The Royal Appointment was continued by: King George V in 1920; King George VI in 1940; and currently by appointment to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Many other worldwide commissions and distinctions throughout their long history have given J. W. Walker & Sons global renown for their quality, durability and attention to detail, truly placing them in the forefront of the minds of discerning musicians.
The free-standing case of St. John’s new Walker serves to focus and project the sound, for a musical, as well as a visual, purpose. Designed by Walker’s architect David Graebe, it is made from Brazilian Mahogany. The case pipes are made of tin mined in Thailand. Derek Riley hand carved the shades at the tops of the case pipes. These decorative items depict the instruments of praise from the 150th Psalm and also function to help mix and filter the sound that emerges.
Walker’s technical designer Andrew Pennells used a variety of materials and hardwoods imported from many countries for the construction of the organ, including: Rosewood from India for the sharp keys and drawstop knobs; African utile for the main structure; Canadian pine for the Pedal Subbass; American oak pedal keys; Western red cedar trackers; American basswood for the manual keyboards. The action parts are made variously of American hard maple, titanium brass and steel, according to their functions. The natural keys are covered in cow bone, and the stop names are hand engraved on ivory. The organ weighs 7,800 pounds.
Tonally, the Walker Organ is built in a style which embraces all schools of music. The organ has 2 Manuals and Pedals with 21 speaking stops, four couplers and two tremulants, comprising 26 ranks and 1384 pipes grouped into distinct divisions within the case and each provided at the console with its own keyboard to form its own harmonically complete chorus. Walkers’ tonal director Michael Butler designed the dimensions and other technical details for the construction of the pipes, while Paul Fulcher, his assistant, undertook the voicing and tuning of the instrument. The pipes are made of various alloys of tin and lead or wood, according to the tone required from each rank. All the pipes, as indeed all other parts except the electrical components, are manufactured by Walker craftsman.
The manual and pedal actions of the organ are tracker, while the stop control is electro-magnetic, with a solid state capture combination action. The organ was constructed and assembled in Walker’s workshops in Suffolk, England, under the direction of Andrew Dolby, then packed in a sea-going container for its journey to Sudbury. The unpacking and installation was undertaken by Andrew Pennells and Walker’s American sales and installation manager George Gilliam.