Pipe Organs of Durham and the North East
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The Cathedral, Newcastle
The first recorded instrument for St Nicholas' Parish Church was built in about 1670 by the older Harris, comprising just Great and Choir, with 17 stops. The Harris double fronted casework still remains, the distinctive east case design surviving as the central section of the present transept front, whilst the Harris west front now faces east into St George's Chapel.

The organ was rebuilt as a 3 manual instrument in 1767 by Snetzler. Further significant work was carried out by Wood, Small & Co.of Edinburgh (1814),  Bruce (1839) and John Nicholson of Newcastle (1844), resulting in a 28 stop instrument including two pedal ranks. In about 1880 Lewis made what was essentially new organ incorporating older material - a substantial 4 manual instrument with 58 stops and tubular pneumatic action.. The Great contained a typically virile Lewis chorus, from Double Open through to seven ranks of Mixtures. Just 31 years later, after St.Nicholas's became a Cathedral, Harrison & Harrison rebuilt the instrument in Edwardian style, moving the physically separate unenclosed Choir division closer to the console, and adding a handful of stops. The same firm did further work in 1954.

The present state of the instrument dates from a substantial re-ordering by Nicholson & Co.(Worcester) in 1981, resulting in a 4 manual instrument with 7 divisions and 110 stops. Tonally, the organ was considerably brightened, and much upperwork was added. A second console (moveable, of 3 manuals) was provided, based in the transept, in 1991.
   The instrument really comprises two 
   separate entities: the Main organ (Great, 
   Swell, Chaire, Bombarde and Pedal) in 
   the north Transept, and the Choir 
   organ (Great, Swell and Pedal) in the 
   Quire. The main console (see picture) is
   adjacent to the Choir organ, in the 
   westernmost bay of the north Quire 
    The organ is dominated by bright, glittering intonation,
    with fiery, colourful reeds. The result is an exhilaratingly 
    exciting sound, but with little subtlety. The Chaire organ 
    (in the lowest part of the Transept case) is delightful, with 
    refreshing delicacy and charm.  The Italian Principale is 
    particularly beautiful, with a thin, melodious sound that 
    seems to float around the church. The Tuba-en-Chamade 
    sits atop of the Swell box, and is just visible in the photograph 
    at the very top of this page. With such a commanding position 
    there is nothing shy about this rank! The Pedal department is 
    not overly large, but again dominated by the reeds. The flues 
    suffer from lack of clarity, and the player is not aided by a 
    rather slow action. The Choir organ is of great use in choir 
    service accompaniment, but should not really be thought of 
    as part of the main instrument. The lack of an enclosed 
    Clarinet anywhere on the organ is surprising (the Corno di 
    Bassetto so often written as being on the Choir Swell is in 
    fact on the Choir Great), and this is just one of the 
    shortcomings which might not be expected in so large an 
    organ. Nonetheless, the spine tingling sound of reeds and 
    mixtures is incredible, and really has got to be heard to be 

Above: Choir organ case in the Quire


Left: back of the Choir organ case (the console is just to the right, behind the panelling)
Right: main case in the north transept

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