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Organ and Organists

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The organ of Lincoln Cathedral

In 1826, William Allen built a new organ on the choir screen in a case designed by the Lincoln architect E J Wilson. Earlier instruments had been sited on the north side of St Hugh’s Choir. The Allen instrument proved insufficiently powerful for services in the nave, a problem which was apparently not remedied by the enlargement carried out by Allen’s son, Charles, in 1851. Henry Willis designed a new organ in 1885, but building work could not be undertaken due to a lack of funds.

When Dr G J Bennett was appointed Organist in 1895, the Precentor warned him that ‘…the organ is a queer old instrument… We shall certainly hope to get a new organ, but it may be some years first. We have no funds for the purpose…’

The realisation of Willis’s scheme was made possible when the Lincoln industrialist, Alfred Shuttleworth gave £1000 towards the total £4675 cost, with the remainder being met by several other individual donations, and by public subscription. Completed in 1898, it proved to be the last cathedral organ finished by ‘Father’ Willis himself, and one of his finest instruments. It also has the distinction of being one of two Willis organs in English cathedrals to retain its original tonal scheme.

The new organ was based on Willis’s 1885 design, and incorporated a few pipes from the earlier Allen instrument. Much larger than its predecessor, it required the enlargement of the Allen case, and the siting of the largest pedal pipes in the north triforium, along with the swell organ and the blowing plant. The organ was dedicated on St Hugh’s Day, 17 November, 1898, before a congregation of 4700. It was to be the first British cathedral organ to be blown by electricity, but at the time of its inauguration, Lincoln’s power station had not yet entered service, so it was pumped manually by soldiers of the Lincolnshire Regiment.

No changes were made until 1960, when Harrison and Harrison Ltd carried out a complete rebuild at a cost of £14000. Six new registers were added, but the Willis pipework was left unaltered. The action and blowing equipment were renewed, and a new console provided. A further restoration was undertaken by the same firm in 1998,  and the organ was rededicated on 20 November, just over a century after it was first played in public. You can find its detailed specification on the attached pdf.

The organ is admired by organists from all over the world. Organ concerts are held regularly in the Cathedral and in recent years performers have included:

Olivier Latry                     (Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris)

Daniel Roth                        (St Sulpice, Paris)

John Scott                          (St Thomas, 5th Ave, New York)

Simon Preston                   (formerly of Westminster Abbey)

Dr Francis Jackson           (formerly of York Minster)

Carlo Curley

Winfried Bonig                  (Koln Cathedral, Germany)

Martin Baker                      (Westminster Cathedral)

James O’Donnell               (Westminster Abbey)

Martin Neary                     (formerly of Westminster Abbey)

Thomas Trotter                  (Symphony Hall, Birmingham)

Philippe Lefevbre              (Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris)

Jean Guillou                       (St Eustache, Paris)

For a full listings of organ concerts held at Lincoln Cathedral in 2014, please click on the following link: Organ Concerts 2014

The organists

Colin Walsh is at the front of his generation of organists in England.  He has played many recitals in England in cathedrals, abbeys, college chapels and two at the Royal Festival Hall.

Further afield, he has played in most European countries, Russia, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the USA.   During the summer of 2005 he was involved in the third performance of John Tavener’s ‘The veil of the Temple’ as part of the Holland Festival in the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam and plays the organ for the Universal Label on a CD entitled ‘The Choirboys’.  In 2006 he toured New Zealand as European artist of the Organists’ Congress and has recently given concerts in the Svetlanov Hall, Moscow, Cologne Cathedral, Notre Dame de Paris and Saint Sulpice.

His many recordings on the Priory label include two early recitals of modern French music from Salisbury, Vierne and Duruflé from St Albans and Vierne (second and third symphonies; twenty-four pièces en style libre) from Lincoln.  The restoration of the Lincoln organ in 1998 was accompanied by a CD of more popular music on the Cantoris label and a recording of French music on the Guild label was released in 2005.  On the same label, a recording of the fifth and sixth symphonies of Widor was released in 2007, followed by a recording of organ music by Franck in 2008.  In November 2009 a DVD, featuring Colin Walsh, Lincoln Cathedral and its organ, was released by Priory Records.  He has recorded many times for the BBC.  His teachers have included Simon Preston, Nicholas Danby and Jean Langlais.

For details on works by Colin Walsh please follow these links: Priory Record and Guild Music

His three year studies in France with Jean Langlais at St Clotilde inspired him to specialise in French symphonic and modern music, in particular the works of Franck, Vierne and Langlais.  This has brought him wide acclaim throughout the world.  In 1988 he played Messiaen in front of the composer himself.

His work as organist has always been connected with long established choral foundations:  at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle and Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford; at Salisbury Cathedral as Assistant Organist and at St. Albans and Lincoln Cathedrals as Organist.  Since January 2003 he has been Organist Laureate of Lincoln Cathedral where he presides over the fine Father Willis organ and plays regularly for the Cathedral’s services.  He has served as a Council Member of the Royal College of Organists and has close associations with the Royal Academy of Music.  He is a visiting organ teacher at the University of Cambridge.  He is represented by PVA Management.

Contact Details

Email: colinwalsh1@btinternet.com

Tel: 01522 561646

07720 435347


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