Organ 28

The Blessing of the Organ

Before the singing of Solemn Vespers on Sunday 27th September 2009 the organ was blessed.

It is recorded that when the Cathedral organ was blessed in 1890, the Very Revd Canon Scott gave the recital, and preached two sermons. 119 years later, Fr Andrew is incapable of giving a recital, and refrained from preaching even one sermon.

However, it is worth pondering the occasion.

Back in 1928, the young Eric Miles Phillips attended an ordination in the church of St Sulpice in Paris. The occasion moved him to the extent that he began to ask whether he might also be called the Priesthood.

We cannot know what in particular what caused these thoughts, and it is probable that it was not one thing in particular but rather, the entire occasion.

Amongst the elements of any liturgy is the music, and the organist at St Sulpice at that time was the eminent composer, teacher and player, Charles-Marie Widor.

The organ at St Sulpice had been built 66 years earlier by the famous organ builder, Aristide Cavalllé-Coll. At that time, among his trusted staff was August Gern.

Now one of Gern’s later organs graces St Gregory’s, Northampton, the church build by Fr Eric Phillips. There seems to be a rightness about this.

Some may grumble that a pipe organ is an expensive luxury in these days. Others may suggest that it is more appropriate to accompany the liturgy with more contemporary instruments such as guitars and electronic keyboards.

But yet the majesty of the organ still in some mysterious way is able to address the worshipper in a deeply spiritual way; in a way that little else can. And the longevity of the pipe organ makes it, in the long term, not that expensive an investment.

And so the blessing of the organ is more than asking God’s blessing on the pipes and mechanism of the instrument. It is looking forward to the many people who will, in the many years to come, be moved by the sounds; the music; the beauty; the power of the organ. Some, perhaps, moved like the young Eric Phillips to recognise a call to priesthood. Many, by God’s grace, be helped to find their own vocation and path through life.

We were reminded that traditionally the organ has been seen as an allegory of God Himself, whose voice sings without the need to take a breath, whose voice sings for eternity.

This happy connection is echoed by another. The first home of the Gern organ was in the church of the Holy Trinity, Grazeley, just south of Reading. This church was built in 1850 by Revd. George Hulme, who lived in Shinfield. This was not the first church he had built. In 1826 he had built another church dedicated to the Holy Trinity, in Oxford Road, Reading. It was in this church, solidly in the Anglo-Catholic tradition, that Fr Andrew grew to love the Catholic Faith.