Pipes returned to organ in £2m refurbishment

Work to rebuild York Minster’s historic grand organ as part of a £2 million “once-in-a-century” refurbishment is nearing completion as the final decorative pipes were returned to the instrument.

The organ, which is one of the largest in the country – weighing around 20,000kg and containing 5,403 pipes – was removed from the minster in October 2018 for cleaning, repair and replacement of its parts.

Rebuilding began in June and it is hoped that the refurbished instrument will be back in use by spring 2021.

Grand Organ refurbishment at York Minster
Grand Organ refurbishment at York Minster

The distinctive gold, green, cream and red pipes being returned on Monday are part of a set of 102 pipes, which decorate the organ’s case, and are some of the oldest surviving pipes in the organ – dating from 1832.

They have been silent for more than 100 years, since the last refurbishment in 1903, but the majority will be brought back into musical use as part of the current project.

Robert Sharpe, director of music at York Minster, said the organ was at the heart of worship in the cathedral.

Mr Sharpe said: “It’s a once-in-a-century project. The last time the organ was restored to this level where everything is new, mechanically speaking, was in 1903 and the organ is central to what we do. The choral services are the heartbeat of the minster’s worship so the organ is a really, really big part of that.”

He added: “We’re delighted to have reached this stage in the project and to see all the amazing craftsmanship which has gone into refurbishing the organ coming together.

“Organ music has been at the heart of worship at York Minster for nearly 1,000 years and we hope this project will allow us to continue that tradition throughout the 21st century and beyond.”

Grand Organ refurbishment at York Minster
Grand Organ refurbishment at York Minster

Jim Reeves, who works for specialist organ builders Harrison and Harrison, said: “I’ve worked on some very big projects but nothing as complicated and technical as this organ.

“It’s an absolute pleasure to work on an organ like this in such a fantastic building like this. I’m very proud of myself and the team for what we’ve achieved here, so it will be good to hear it.”