Final concert for York Minster’s Grand Organ before once-a-century refurbishment

The final gala concert featuring York Minster’s Grand Organ will take place this Saturday (25 August) before the instrument undergoes a major, £2m refurbishment for the first time in 100 years.

The event will include contributions from York Minster’s current and former organists and provides the finale to a series of concerts and recitals which have run throughout 2018 to celebrate the famous instrument.

In October, work will begin on a two year refurbishment project, which includes removing the instrument – including almost all of its 5,403 pipes – for repair/rebuilding in Durham by organ specialists Harrison and Harrison.

Robert Sharpe, Director of Music at York Minster, said: “The summer recitals are always special as they provide a unique opportunity to hear the organ played to its full potential in atmospheric surroundings. Saturday’s concert will be particularly so, as the last opportunity to hear this magnificent instrument in a concert until it is reinstated in autumn 2020.”

The programme includes performances by Robert Sharpe, Ben Morris, Assistant Director of Music at York Minster and John Scott Whiteley, Organ Emeritus of York Minster.

Due to their regular use and environment, cathedral organs ideally require small-scale cleaning and adjustment every 15 to 20 years, with more extensive repairs carried out every 30 to 35 years and a major refurbishment every 100 years. The last major refurbishment of the Minster’s organ was carried out in 1903.

The project will include replacing the organ’s mechanism, extensive work to dismantle, clean and overhaul the instrument and minor changes to the organ case to both improve how it looks and the sound it allows out. The plans also include creating a new music library underneath the organ, inside the screen which separates the Quire from the Nave, subject to the relevant permissions being obtained.

The aim is to ensure the unique sound of the Minster’s organ is preserved, while restoring the grander, imposing qualities which were altered during work in the 1960s.

During the two years of refurbishment work, the Minster’s full music programme will continue. A grand piano will be used alongside an existing chamber organ in the Quire and a digital organ will serve both the Nave and Quire.

The summer gala concert will take place on Saturday 25 August at 7pm, with doors opening at 6.30pm. Tickets cost £8 and can be purchase online at www.yorkminster.org, on the door or by calling 01904 557200.