For more detailed information regarding the two organs of the Cathedral, please refer to the Organ Historical Trust of Australia website.
The Jubilee Pipe Organ
The Cathedral’s Jubilee Pipe Organ was completed in 2000 by the Melbourne firm of Knud Smenge. A medium size instrument with 47 speaking stops and three manuals, its case was designed by the architect of the Cathedral restoration, Mr Robin Gibson. The moveable console allows flexibility and can be placed conveniently for services, choral and orchestral concerts and recitals.
“Whoever sings prays twice.” (Attributed to St Augustine.)
The Jubilee Pipe Organ was installed in the Year of the Great Jubilee, honouring 2000 years of Christianity.
The casework is made of Tasmanian oak and Victorian fiddleback mountain ash. The arch design in the casework features the traditional Gothic shape and carved palm fronds. Palm fronds generically symbolise all martyrs, including St Stephen and palm trees are also a feature in the Cathedral precinct.
There are 2448 pipes, of lead/tin alloy or wood. The pipes are arranged in ranks, made up of 61 if played on the keyboard or 32 if played with the pedals. They range in size from about five metres to a few centimetres.
Electric action is used to link the keys with the pipes. A data cable transmits signals to eight computers in the casework. When the organist depresses a key, it sends an electrical signal to a magnet at the foot of the pipe, which causes the pipe to open to the source of air and the sound is released. The console has three keyboards of bone and ivory and 47 speaking stops, which are the knobs such as trumpet, flute reed, and which the organist uses to change the sound.
This organ has a digital recorder, which allows the organist to record a performance of a piece of music and listen to it played back. Dr Ralph Morton, a former Director of Music at the Cathedral, composed a piece for two players and recorded one part on the organ. He could thus announce the piece and have the organ begin to play before sitting down at the console and adding the second part. The digital recorder is a unique feature of this organ.
The organ was designed and built by Knud Smenge, a Danish-born organ maker from Melbourne. It was his 50th and last work. The casework was designed by Robin Gibson, the architect for the 1988/1989 cathedral renovations. The organ was blessed and officially commissioned in 2000 by Archbishop John Bathersby, following an initial recital given the previous evening by distinguished organist Dr Robert Boughen, consultant for the organ construction.
Music is integral to the participation of the congregation in the Church’s worship as reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council (1962 – 65). Thus the organ has a prominent position directly behind the Sanctuary. It is mounted on the east wall behind the sanctuary so the sound projects directly down the nave. The previous organ housed in the western gallery and used from 1921 to 1988, was too large (over seven metres from front to back) to fit into the new eastern wall position. It was sold to the Queensland Government, installed in the Old Museum building near the Royal Brisbane Hospital, and is used by the Queensland Youth Orchestra.
St Stephen's Chapel Organ
The organ was made by George Fincham and Sons of Melbourne, circa 1975. Initially it was installed in the Liturgical Commission of the Archdiocese of Brisbane in 1978. In the following year it was moved to the Institute of Pastoral Ministry, Clayfield, where it remained until 1988 when it was relocated to the Pius XII Seminary, Banyo.
In 1998 the organ was rebuilt by Simon Pierce of Pierce Pipe Organs, Brisbane and installed in its present location soon after the rededication of the Chapel in 1999.
The casework was completely remade in Tasmanian Oak, the soundboard reduced, and new pallets, keyboard and suspended action were fitted. All pipework was rescaled and revoiced, and much of the 8ft and 2ft ranks were completely replaced. Indeed, relatively little of the original instrument remains, and the resulting organ is essentially the work of W.J. Simon Pierce.
Note the colours of the keys. In the 18th century, the keyboards of harpsichords, organs, cembelos, spinets and early pianos had black keys for the seven natural notes, and white keys for the five half-tone keys. From the early 19th century when pianos became much more popular and widely available, the colours were reversed. Having the seven naturals in white, and the half-tones in black, was preferred by manufacturers and players.