Abington Avenue United Reformed Church

The previous organ at Abington Avenue URC was a Makin Encore 3 manual & pedal instrument with 38 stops and the usual array of couplers and pistons. It was installed in the church around 1993 and it is believed that prior to its permanent installation at Abington Avenue it was used by the organ builders as a demonstration instrument, probably being originally built around 1990. Of its kind and period it was reckoned to be a good quality electronic organ and perfectly adequate for the needs of the church.

By 2013/14 it was recognised by the organist that it was becoming unreliable with intermittent faults such as notes not sounding or being noticeably out of tune and some stops and couplers becoming temperamental. Makin Organs Ltd, the original builders, and now part of Church Organ World which included Copeman Hart Ltd, advised that as it was around 25 years old, the internal electronic components were obsolete, meaning that maintenance would become increasingly expensive with many of the components no longer available.

In early 2015 at the request of the organist a survey and report was commissioned from Church Organ World with a view to rebuilding the organ within the existing casework. This would provide a bespoke organ suitable for the building and for its principal use in leading congregational singing in services, plus weddings & funerals, and its role in accompanying choral concerts.

The proposal put forward by Church Organ World provided for a very high quality sampled pipe sound based on a recording (or “sample”) of a pipe rank for each stop, providing a very realistic and accurate method of recreating pipe sound. They suggested a revised specification for the range of stops but based on the stops in the “old” instrument, with a number of additional stops to provide a wider tonal palette, allowing greater musical variety. Critically the proposal also included a revised speaker system using modern technology with new speaker cabinets mounted at high level either side of the main window on the west wall of the sanctuary. Some minor modifications to the console would be incorporated to allow provision of state of the art console features, and new keyboards would be incorporated.

Following discussions between the organist and Church Organ World a final report was prepared and presented to the Elders on 1st March 2016 with a recommendation that Makin Organs Ltd of Church Organ World be instructed to rebuild the current organ in accordance with the recommendations in the report. Discussions by the Elders at their meeting on 16th April 2016 approved the proposal which was confirmed by the Church Meeting on 26th June 2016.

Detailed discussions then took place between the organist and Dr Keith Harrington of Church Organ World to finalise the specification and stop list and it was agreed that the “old” organ would be collected from Abington Avenue URC during week commencing Monday 1st August 2016 with a return to the church of the rebuilt organ before Christmas 2016.

In the event the organ was collected on Thursday 4th August 2016 and removed to Church Organ World’s workshops at Shaw, Oldham where it was stripped ready for the rebuild.

Whilst at the workshops the whole of the interior of the organ was removed to be replaced by state of the art technology. New wood core keyboards and stop jambs were made in oak, new piston rails added and a digital display screen installed. The majority of the drawstops and solenoids were re-used and a number of additional stops and couplers were added giving a total of 14 speaking stops on each of the four stop jambs. Two new speaker cabinets were manufactured each with room for one bass subwoofer and seven main speakers. The Specification of the new organ is given below and the new stops & couplers are indicated.

The rebuilt organ was returned to the church on Wednesday 14th December 2016 and the installation was completed by the evening of Thursday 15th, the team consisting of Steve Lanyon, Steve Bell and John Harrington. Initial reaction was that the new organ lived up to the promises of Church Organ World, with a hugely improved sound and range of tonal colours.

On Tuesday 20th December Richard Goodall of Makin Organs Ltd attended to carry out a preliminary “voicing”, and this was followed by the full “voicing” carried out by Professor Ian Tracey, organist of Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, together with Richard Goodall on Wednesday 1st February 2017.

Thanks to the patience and skill of the staff of Makin Organs Ltd we now have a virtually brand new organ able to reproduce a wide tonal palette with an optimum delivery of sound into the church using a sampled pipe-sound system. This results in an instrument as close as possible to a real pipe organ for use in worship and concerts in the church.

As seen from the specification with stops ordered on the jamb from top to bottom, the order is a little unusual, with the octave couplers at the top of each jamb rather than at the bottom. This is something the organist requested as he has found this a most satisfactory layout.