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Resurrection story


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Sometimes a really good news story comes along and this is one that I'm especially proud of. Back in 2005 I was the organist of Christ Church Sparkbrook in central Birmingham, which housed an 1877 three manual Bishop. It wasn't in a great state of repair but had a lovely tone and plenty of potential though was sorely in need of a rich benefactor to turn it around.

In July 2005 a freak tornado struck central Birmingham, destroying many houses and taking part of the roof off the church. Deemed beyond repair, the building was condemned and demolished, but I was allowed inside briefly to make a final recording of the organ and facilitated its removal by a team from the Dutch firm of Feenstra who have made a name for themselves rescuing Victorian British organs and transplanting them to churches in continental Europe.

For several years it remained in storage, but was subsequently offered to a church in Holland and the fully restored organ was reopened in 2020. Despite being adorned with a plain 19th century pipe rack case it has been sanded down and looks simply stunning in its very modern new home. The specification is almost unchanged though the pedals were augmented a little with a new 16 foot reed (the original specification had a planned for but never installed 16 foot soft bourdon).

The choir division was installed some years after 1877, though I believe the Feenstra website is inaccurate in claiming it date from within the last forty years, since the NPOR registration documented three complete manuals in the 1943 survey. There was a plan in the 1980s to convert it into a two manual electric action extension organ which mercifully fell apart due to lack of funds however.

A detailed description (in English) of the organ, including current specification, many photos and video made during its recent restoration/installation can be found on Feenstra's website HERE.

The organ in its old home is referenced on NPOR here.

All the church's services are recorded and hosted on Youtube. They clearly have an active music ministry with singers and instrumentalists of all ages and the organ is used (and filmed) a lot during their services. Here's an example that includes a lovely demonstration of its mesmorizing choir Clarionet here. And here is a solo on the majestic Great Trumpet played against the full Swell. And some organo plenum with Mendelssohn's second sonata and Boellmann's Gothic Suite. It' s absolutely thrilling to see how gloriously the organ has restored up to, having been in quite a sorry condition after the tornado in its previous home. And even better to hear it in its splendour. I often wondered if I would ever hear it again - I have, and it's been worth the fifteen year wait.

Interestingly as a historical and bizarrely coincidental aside, the organ has a "twin sister" which was of almost identical specification (including a Choir division which was added a few years after the original installation) and age and also relocated by Feenstra to a shopping mall in Japan a few years before they removed ours. Unfortunately it only lasted five years before suffering damage in the huge earthquake and it was moved yet again, this time to a music college in Copenhagan under the watchful eye of Jacques van Oortmerssen:

Link 1

Link 2

You may wonder what happened to the church. After demolition of the original building it was spectacularly rebuilt (without an organ - it serves a highly ethnically diverse congregation now for whom organ music is a totally different tradition to the Asian style of Christian worship they are familiar with) and can be read about here.

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