WESTERN AUSTRALIAN PIPE ORGANS
Wesley Church Organ Centenary
The site for the church on the corner of Hay and William Streets,
Wesley Church was designed by Richard Roach Jewell, an architect, circuit steward, clerk of colonial works and church member. Jewell was responsible for the design of a number of other prominent
The foundation stone was laid on October 25, 1867, by Governor John Stephen Hampton. The church was opened Sunday April 10, 1870, with services by Reverend William Lowe (who married Joseph Hardey's daughter Mary Jane), Reverend W. Traylen and Reverend T.C. Laurence. The total cost of the building was approximately ₤3,000, a considerable sum for a church membership of 138 (with a quarterly income of a little over ₤66). The original bricks are made from local clay and the floor is jarrah. The church bell, originally hanging in the southern tower, came from the sailing ship Tranby which brought the original members of the congregation to the colony.
Wesley Church is built of load bearing brick in the Victorian academic gothic style and features a landmark spire, steeply pitched roofs, parapeted gables, label (hood) moulds and wall buttressing. The church has a strong verticality of form emphasised by tall lancet windows with plate tracery to the east façade. Angle buttresses divide the nave wall into five bays and the major windows have stucco label moulds above them. The bricks of the building, fired at uncertain temperatures in wood burning kilns, show a range of mellow tones and, laid in Flemish bond, create a chequerboard effect on the walls, which provides a decorative element to the walls of the building. The spire is 35 metres high with a weathercock at its point and is surrounded by four smaller spires at its base which are capped by metal finials. The north-east tower replicates these smaller spires above the gable. The roof structure is made of hand sawn timber and the roof covering was originally shingles but, at some point the Church was re-roofed in clay tiles.
Additions and alterations were made in 1895 to the design of Sir J.J. Talbot
The Perth Wesley Church stands as a tribute to the pioneers of the Wesley Mission in
The first pipe organ to be installed in
In 1926 the Bishop & Son organ was relocated by W L Roberts Ltd, Adelaide, to Wesley Methodist Church, Claremont (job no 96). A new Wurlitzer Company, North Tonawanda, U.S.A., Model F organ was installed in Metro Theatre, the refurbished Queens Hall, in 1928 (eventually removed in 1972 when the building was demolished and relocated to the Karrinyup Community Recreation Centre where it is currently well used). It is at this point a reliable specification of the Bishop & Son instrument can be obtained. When the organ was installed at
In 1955 the organ was rebuilt by J.E. Dodd & Sons Gunstar Organ Works,
Hale School Assembly Hall,
The organ, placed in an elevated loft in the left chancel, was built in 1908 by J.E. Dodd of
In 1954 there was a refurbishment and enlargement of the organ by J.E. Dodd & Sons Gunstar Organ Works,
A new blower was required as part of the enlargement of the organ, particularly to provide high pressure wind for the new Tuba unit. The blower was manufactured in Adelaide by a reputable engineering firm who chose to ignore the design given by J.E. Dodd & Sons Gunstar Organ Works in accordance with another blower made by them for the Adelaide Town Hall. Instead of placing the connecting rods outside the casing, they put them all together inside. This resulted in a very noisy, howling machine that took several years to adjust. The noise inside the church was bad enough, but even worse for the local shopkeepers and passing traffic, because the unit was mounted outside the church on the Hay Street side.
In 1964 the case was lowered and new electric underactions provided. A new Jarrah veneered console with oak inlay, ivory stop heads and ivory keys was fitted in 1968, situated centrally in a pit among the front pews in the nave. This console was of three 61 note manuals and 30 note pedal and had 61 drawstops from 35 ranks.
In the period 1994-1996 the organ was rebuilt and enlarged by F.J. Larner & Co.,
The original Diapason rank was labelled Phonon Diapason but was never, in fact, a true phonon because it did not have leathered upper lips and was not on higher pressure when first installed. In 1995 it was decided to increase the wind pressure of the Phonon Diapason, and on 7" wind it became a blast of sound that had almost no musical worth whatever.
As part of the renovation of the organ, it was agreed that the display pipes should be cleaned and repainted. The original idea was to spray paint the pipes silver (as they already had been brush painted in that colour), in line with the stock standard Dodd pattern of the time of construction - silver pipes with gilded mouths relieved with a band of red. A local example of the St Matthews, Guildford, (1911) organ and many others of his organs of this time were painted in such a manner around
No one at Wesley Church at the time had any notion that there was any decoration under the brushed silver paint but, when the surface paint was stripped off, it was found that there was only one layer of paint over lavish diapering decoration. The cylindrical bodies were olive green and the foot cones were brown and below the diapering layer was bare metal, so obviously the patterns and colours now uncovered were original, unless there had been an unrecorded removal of an even older decoration and replacement with the one now discovered. They are nothing like "the stock standard Dodd pattern of the day". In fact, evidence from this organ and the
Consideration was given to restoring the original olive and brown base colours, but this had the potential to make the whole edifice a great deal more sombre. The use of silver was seen as a fair compromise between ignoring the diapering altogether and restoring the entire colour scheme with original diapering. The pattern was based on the original designs and colours and the bodies of the pipes were sprayed a metallic sable-silver before the overlay of diapering exactly to the original pattern.
A rank of Diapason pipework of smaller scale by Dodd became available through F.J. Larner & Co., and this was installed in 2000 to replace the Phonon Diapason. This was named Melodic Diapason, following Dodd's practice in his larger organs (e.g.
In 2007 Pipe Organs WA Pty Ltd effected a major cleaning of the organ, refurbishing the Swell Hohlflute and improving the Swell Mixture III and Pedal Principal 8. Refinements were made to the Melodic Diapason on the Great and overhaul of the top three note chest for the Great.
The tuning flaps on most of the Hohlflute pipes were almost fully closed, which changed the tone from a true open wood flute to something of a stopped tone with a lot of the upper partials severely attenuated and many pipes very muted. The pipes were rescaled by 2 semitones. From research into the matter it was found that the open wood pipes were so closed and covered in tone because the pitch was lowered without consideration for these pipes and the deleterious effect on the tone. When the organ was built the British Concert pitch of A=452 was used in
The Great Clarabel was refurbished by Pipe Organs WA Pty Ltd in 2008 with the view to creating a more consistent tone of equal dynamic strength. No changes were made to the mouth parts, but the overhaul was effected through thorough cleaning and adjustments of toe aperture with repairs to mouth parts as necessary.
Currently the organ has a 40 stage memory, 6 divisional pistons, 10 general pistons, a reversible coupler and pistons, crescendo pedal, adjustable bench, clock, swell / choir pedal, position indicator. The organ has 6 reversible coupler pistons (duplicated on toe studs) and Tutti toe stud. The stop list of the organ is as follows:
To commemorate the anniversary of the opening of the Dodd organ a Gala Centenary Recital by Joseph Nolan, Organist at
It is not possible to write an article like this without the help of a lot of people. I would like to express special thanks for detail and critique from Bob Elms, John Maidment, John Beaverstock, Patrick Elms and Graham Devenish. The photo of Wesley Church came from Dan Arndt and the photo of Wesley Church organ by Graham Devenish. The stop list is supplied from the Pipe Organs WA Pty Ltd web site.
Additional information regarding the 1954 blower and the 1968 console supplied by My Lyall von Einem, Hope Valley, South Australia, 17 February 2009. Mr von Einem worked with J E Dodd & Sons Gunstar Organ Works in the period 1950-1973, including work on the Wesley organ.
This page last updated 17 February 2009