Durban’s largest organ turns 100
Regular check-ups mean Durban’s biggest working church organ is in rude, good health as music lovers prepare to mark the instrument’s centenary on Tuesday.
A special ecumenical recital is planned for the occasion at the organ’s home, the Emmanuel Cathedral, from 1pm to 2pm, with five well-known organists lined up to perform.
The church’s spokesman Paddy Kearney, said the organ caused much excitement when it was first played on April 17, 1912, “filling the church long before the starting time of 7.30pm”.
On that day, the cathedral choir was augmented to 67 voices, which included 21 sopranos, 17 altos, 14 tenors and 15 basses.
Organists lined up to play on Tuesday are Henry Ratering, from the Monastery church at Mariannhill, Christopher Cockburn of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Melvin Peters of St Paul’s Anglican Church, Peter Carruthers of the Durban North and Stamford Hill Methodist Churches, and former cathedral organist, Barry Carbis.
Pinkie Mtshali, cathedral director of music at the church and the choir at Comtech High School in Umlazi, will also attend the centenary, which is expecting an audience of “hundreds” .
Kearney said over the past 100 years the organ had added splendour and dignity to countless liturgical celebrations and events, “including the Marian congress of 1952, the consecration of Denis Hurley, the installation of Archbishop (now Cardinal) Napier in 1992, the burial of Archbishop Hurley, and the Cathedral’s centenary in 2004”.
The organ arrived at Durban harbour in January 100 years ago on the SS Umgeni.
“It had 1 773 pipes, of sizes ranging from two feet to 32 feet in length, 46 stops and weighed 13 tons altogether,” said Kearney.
The instrument took six months to build in Leeds, at the famous Abbott and Smith factory, and has withstood the test of time.
Kearney said in 2010 an electric storm “totally destroyed” the components in the organ’s console and “it took six weeks to rebuild it”.
Mtshali said the organ was serviced three times a year, which had kept it in good condition throughout the years. - Daily News