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How's Life Down Under?

Anthony Poole

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Is your new organ at Sydney Grammar School complete. I'm assuming it is as the school seems to be having opening concerts in the second half of August.


Could you comment on the experience your team had out in Australia with the installation.


Let's hope this is the first of many Mander instruments south of the equator.

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Guest Geoff McMahon

The organ for Sydney Grammar School is indeed complete. We finished it in May of this year and would have put it up on this web site, but for the fact that we are currently building a new web site, so elected to wait until that was done before doing so. However, there seems to be a certain amount of interest in the organ, so I will see if an interim description of the organ can be put here perhaps.


It is a modest organ of 17 speaking stops (21 total, four also being playable on the Pedal) on a gallery which is also new. If anybody would like a .pdf file describing the instrument, just write to me at ManderUK@mander-organs.com and I would be happy to send it to you.


I will leave it to others to assess the instrument, but would say that we were very happy with the result. It was a delight to work for the people at the school who were every one of them helpful, supportive and encouraging during our work. There is no doubt in my mind that this sort of support has a significant affect on the final result as the final stages of the installation is very much a joint effort.


Sydney itself is a delight and interesting city, the weather was wonderful and the two colleagues and I who did the installation and tonal finishing have many happy memories of our time there. I hope that somebody from Down Under will give us a less biased report on the organ than I can.


John Pike Mander

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  • 1 month later...

As consultant for the project and Organist at Sydney Grammar I am happy to report our delight with the new organ. In a city that boasts some of the world's finest 19th century English organs in original condition (not only Sydney Town Hall), we now have the best of contemporary English building. It is a new voice in Sydney (indeed, in Australia!), quite different to the few other new instruments installed in this city in recent years.

The organ is in a unique setting; the hall 'Big School' in which the organ is installed was built for, and is used for secular purposes. The hall's seating is limited to 200 people for concerts to preserve the excellent acoustics. The only other secular concert halls in Sydney with fine organs are much bigger (eg: Opera House, Town Hall, Sydney University).

In brief, some of my observations.

The Great chorus is warm, clean and is a fine vehicle for polyphonic music. The Mixture stays fairly low throughout the compass, very much a stop of harmonic reinforcement rather than sitting on top. The Trumpet is the cap and is a bold, blending stop that works beautifully by itself as well. The Stopped Diapason is quite recognisably English, chattery and distinctive but not chiffy.

The Swell organ is remarkable; virtually any combination works! The two 8' stops are gorgeous by themselves (the Viola da Gamba is a favourite of mine), and are an acceptable imitiation of an Open Diapason when combined. The chorus is a fine balance to the Great; Bach/Vivaldi concerti can be programmed with confidence. The Sesquialtera can be used with any combination of the flues for different effects, suitable to be accompanied by either of the Great 8' flues. The reeds are magnificent; a true Full Swell can be attained. Lack of space was a significant issue when designing and the box is quite crowded, but I wonder if in fact the small box contributes to the fine crescendo/diminuendos that are possible.

The two 16' stops on the Pedal do the job extremely well. More than once I have had comments that the lack of full length resonators in the bottom of the Trombone just cannot be noticed in concert, such is the weight of the sound. I have already been very glad for the four borrowed Great stops on the pedal both in teaching and concerts.

A lack of negative comments from the consultant is probably not surprising to the casual reader, but I really do think that this is a superb instrument that does everything asked of it and more. My thoughts have been confirmed by the steady stream of positive reactions from knowledgeable colleagues as well as an almost total absence of the negative from the same.

I was interested to read elsewhere in this discussion board about an 'ideal' 15-20 stop organ. I would suggest that this instrument would be hard to beat. Many years of thought and discussion went into the specification of the SGS organ.


I look forward to reading comments from others who have heard and played the organ.


Robert Wagner

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  • 19 years later...

Continuing the recent tradition of resurrecting long abandoned threads, can report it is a lovely instrument, and probably deserves to be better known. I’ve never played it, which seems a terrible oversight on my part. 

anyone interested in Australia’s organ heritage could easily waste a few days on https://ohta.org.au/organs-of-australia/


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