The original 1997 instrument was enlarged by Rieger in early 2011 thanks to a generous bequest from the estate of the late Frank Partridge. A new fifth division of the organ called Oberwerk, playable from the third manual was added to the existing four (Bombarde, Schwellwerk, Hauptwerk and Pedal). It houses mainly quieter ‘foundation’ stops, providing more options (for example when accompanying soloists, choirs or small ensembles), but also fills some gaps by providing two new solo reed stops (vox humana and clarinet). These are all enclosed, controlled by a separate Oberwerk pedal. A softer 16 foot Bourdon stop, playable both from the Oberwerk and the pedals, provides an alternative, quieter bass. Rieger's updated state-of-the-art electronic sequencing system is an additional bonus. Just two days' work, for final tuning of the organ, remained when the devastating earthquake of 22 February 2011 brought work to an abrupt and unscheduled end, so these new ranks will be heard for the first time.
Martin will give the re-opening inaugural organ concert, currently scheduled for Wednesday 27 February. It will be supported by the Friends of the Christchurch Town Hall Organ Trust, Vbase and the City Council and is planned as a free event to celebrate the organ's re-opening. Further solo concerts in the Town Hall International Organ Series are scheduled for Sunday 9 June (Maurice Clerc, France) and Sunday 18 August (Ben Sheen, USA).
It has been a long wait, but in the end, surely worthwhile. To keep up to date with details of the opening events and further concerts, and the new CD, please call back here.