The Father Willis Organ is one of three organs at Truro Cathedral. Delivered by boat and installed in 1887, it has an almost identical specification to the organ Henry Willis built a year earlier for the then parish church of St Michael, Coventry (later Coventry Cathedral). In terms of specification, both instruments revealed standard Willis hallmarks – tierce mixtures on Great and Swell, characterful
The following video shows the former assistant director of music at Truro Cathedral, Joseph Wicks playing 'Images' composed by Owain Parks.
Willis is considered one of the greatest organ builders there has ever been. At
Willis built an organ of superb reliability. Apart from the addition of the electric blower in the 1920s, no major work was done until 1963, when the grandson of the original builder carried out a conservative restoration, at a cost of some £17,000. Prior to this date, the organ console was situated high up within the main case of the instrument. This meant a walk of two or three minutes up a spiral staircase in the North Transept (perhaps this explains the longevity and fitness of F G Ormond, organist from 1929-70!). The action was a mixture of Barker lever, pneumatic and tracker. There were very few playing aids and contact between the organist and choir, some forty feet below, must have been almost impossible.
In 1963, the organ committee, including Henry Willis, Guillaume Ormond, Sir John Dykes Bower and Mr Roger Yates, wisely decided to keep the original tonal scheme and voicing, and to move the console over on to the south side in a new gallery placed above the cathedral choir stalls to a design by the architect John Phillips. Here the
In 1991, after twenty-eight years of splendid service, the organ was again fully restored, this time by the organ builders N P Mander Ltd of London. Managing Director of Manders, Ian Bell, summarised the aims of the 1991 rebuild:
“The work on the organ in 1991 has included the renewal of all the low-voltage electrical equipment installed in 1963, both in the console and in the organ itself. The system is now entirely solid-state, and the opportunity has been taken to upgrade the controls available to the organist, to bring the instrument into line with
“Up in the organ, again all electrical equipment and cabling
“The large soundboards which support the pipes, and supply them with wind-pressure, have all been taken back to London and completely overhauled. The access ladders and walkways have been improved, and the humidification system enhanced.
“The organ has once more been left completely unchanged tonally; damaged pipes have been carefully repaired and cleaned, but the sound has been jealously preserved. Only one modification has been undertaken – the loudest solo stop, the Tuba, has always received criticism for being uncharacteristically modest. In a Willis organ the Tuba normally balances the Pedal reed in power, but at
Christopher Gray is the tenth organist of Truro Cathedral. Before him were G R Sinclair 1881-1890 (later organist of Hereford Cathedral), M J Monk 1890-1920, H S Middleton 1920-1926 (later organist of Ely Cathedral and Trinity College, Cambridge), John Dykes Bower 1926-1929 (later organist of New College, Oxford, Durham Cathedral and St Paul’s Cathedral), Guillaume Ormond 1929-1970, John Winter 1971-1988 (Organist Emeritus), David Briggs 1989-1994 (later organist of Gloucester Cathedral and now International Concert Organist) and Andrew Nethsingha 1994-2002 (now Director of Music at St John's College, Cambridge), Robert Sharpe 2002-2008 (now Director of Music at York Minster).