New organ for St Ethledreda's, Ely Place

A magnificent new organ handmade in Switzerland was inaugurated at a special recital at the Church of St Etheldreda’s in London on Friday.

The acclaimed organist Dame Gillian Weir CBE played music extracts from the Robertsbridge Codex, the 14th century manuscript of the earliest music written for keyboard, in  a wide-ranging programme which also featured organ music written by JS Bach, Mendelssohn and Messaien.

“The choice of music is perfect,” said Carmen Spaeth, who with her husband Hans runs Spath Orgelbau, the company made the organ. It took ten employees five months to make it. Frau and Fraulein Spaeth had come specially from their hometown of Rapperswil near Zurich to attend Dame Weir’s recital. “It is a honour for us that Dame Weir is playing tonight,” said Frau Spaeth. His wife added: “With this programme, she shows all the possibilities of the stops.”

The organ has 11 stops in the Great Organ, eight and a tremulant in the Swell, five in the pedal organ and three in the couplers. It will be used primarily in the Sunday liturgy, said Simon Lloyd, the organist at St Etheldreda’s, which is famous for its sung Latin Masses with choir. He said: “Pope Benedict recently said: “The organ has always been considered, and rightly so, the king of musical instruments, because it takes up all the sounds of creation…. By transcending the merely human sphere.. it evokes the divine.”

The organ is dedicated to Fr Kit Cunningham in gratitude for his 30 years as priest of St Etheldreda’s and was paid for by the Ely Place Trust.

Fr Cunningham, who flew over from Italy for the recital, said: “I feel like the prophet who said: “Now Lord thou hast dismissed thy servant because he has seen the coming of the saviour of Israel.” I feel I can say something rather similar – that at least I can say music will survive at St Etheldreda’s for hundreds of years to come.”

He was thanked by Fr Dermot Power on behalf of the diocese of Westminster and by Fr David Myers, the Provincial of Fr Cunningham’s order, the Rosminians.  Champagne was served in the Crypt of St Etheldreda’s, which lays claim to be the oldest Catholic Church in England, during the interval.

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