Payneham Road Uniting Church Organ
The Payneham Road Uniting Church is prominently located on Payneham Road at its intersection with Lower Portrush Road. The church (built in 1882) and the adjacent hall (built in 1905), are listed in the SA Heritage Register as a pair of fine Gothic revival buildings of outstanding architectural importance. They constitute a notable and familiar landmark. Both buildings have recently been re-roofed. The interior of the church has been sensitively restored recently and investigations are in hand to repair and internally upgrade the hall which has suffered damage due to its close proximity to heavy traffic on Lower Portrush Road.
Music for worship is led by a pipe organ which was presented to the church by a local family almost 100 years ago. Notably, the organ is a three-manual instrument and is one of the earliest in Adelaide to be built with electric action from inception, in contrast to more usual later conversions from mechanical or pneumatic actions.
The organ was built by Josiah Dodd, who built many of the church organs in and around Adelaide. Tonally, it is a 19th century English romantic organ with a preponderance of unison (8’) stops. Of its 20 stops, 14 are at 8’ pitch, 4 at 4’, 1 at 2’ and 1 at 16’. The unison stops include four useful reed stops labelled trumpet, horn oboe and clarinet which partially compensate the lack of the higher harmonics missing from the range of flue stops. The organ is approaching its 100th anniversary, having been commissioned in 1918.
The organ is regularly tuned and, where possible, running repairs have been undertaken to maintain functionality. Not surprisingly, there has been a progressive loss of functionality as various elements have aged. The wind supply is unstable, resulting in inconsistent voicing and the under-actions have deteriorated so that some notes no longer speak or are unreliable. The touch of the keyboards has also deteriorated. In the words of Adelaide organ builder and tuner, Richard Larritt, the instrument has been patched up for the last 50 years and is now in urgent need of rebuilding.
Quotes for major work have been sought on several occasions over the past forty years, but funds have never been available and no major work has been undertaken. The most recent quote, dated May 2014 was to
- Re-fit the existing console with new keyboards, and stop tabs.
- Re-wire the whole instrument, fitting a new Solid State Switch System
- Fit seals, new electric drawstop actions and underactions in existing windchests
- Rebuild some of the existing windchests and build some new windchests to cater for some re-configuration of existing pipe ranks and to accommodate some additional pipework
- Install a new expression box for the Choir organ
- Restore and strengthen the existing Swell box, including a proper roof to permit safe access to the Choir and Great organs
- Replace the shutter fronts for Swell and Choir boxes
- Replace the original blower and trunking
- Build three new bellows for the Swell, Choir and Great organs
- Supply additional pipe work for two mutation ranks, two three-rank mixture stops and the extension of three existing ranks.
In summary, the proposed work is to restore full functionality to all of the existing pipework and to enhance the tonal structure by the addition of some mixture and mutation stops and more flexibility in the use of the reed stops . The original casework will be retained.
In addition to its pivotal role in regular church services, the organ also features in weddings, funerals and public concerts. The proposed enhancement of the tonal structure will expand the organ’s capability over a wider range of repertoire and increase its appeal to students of the pipe organ. The work will be undertaken by a local organ builder.
The congregation has been actively fundraising to enable the work to be undertaken and over a quarter of the needed funds have been raised to date. Following an assessment of the organ in its context as part of the fabric of the heritage listed church, the National Trust determined that the proposed re-building is worthy of its support and is launching an appeal to assist in raising the remainder of the funds.
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