‘Heartbeat’ of cathedral restored after makeover

A major restoration project on the country’s largest pipe organ — described as the “heartbeat” of the rich choral tradition of a landmark Cork cathedral — has been completed.

‘Heartbeat’ of cathedral restored after makeover

The €1.2m three-year project to revamp St Fin Barre’s Cathedral’s organ secures a 700-year-old choral tradition for future generations.

The 143-year-old instrument was rededicated during a ceremony at the weekend attended by Bishop of Cork, Right Reverend Paul Colton, and Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan, whose department helped fund the project to the tune of €212,000.

Dean of Cork Nigel Dunne said the organ is much more than “just tubes and pipes”.

“It is part of being what we are — a worshipping community,” he said. “We offer choral music here three times a week so this organ is really the heartbeat behind that.”

Bishop Colton said he was delighted to mark the end of the restoration which was also funded by the people of Cork through dozens of fundraising activities, which will continue.

The instrument is one of the largest organs in Ireland, with four manuals and over 80 stops. The restored organ now boasts more than 4,500 pipes. It is also the island’s only organ situated in a pit.

It was built in 1870 by English architect William Hill, regarded as the best organ builder of his time. He built cathedral organs at Westminster Abbey and King’s College Cambridge. He also built the organ in the Ulster Hall in Belfast, and the organ in Sydney Town Hall.

However, structural problems in the cathedral’s walls allowed water to seep in and affect the organ’s complex inner workings.

It has been restored twice — most recently in 1966. But by 2007, so many of its electrical components were failing that it became unreliable, prompting a complete rebuild rather than repair.

The restoration project was entrusted to Kilkenny-based Trevor Crowe, who recently installed the organs in Galway Cathedral and St Canice’s Cathedral in Kilkenny.

He said when he started the work the instrument was playing reasonably well.

“It was a little bit like an old car that is still driving but as soon as you start doing something to it, it falls apart,” he said.

The completion of the work was marked with a sung office of Choral Evensong and an organ voluntary on Sunday.

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