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Rules for Use of the Cathedral Organ

Another highly relevant record held in the Cathedral Library for my master’s research into Dr. Herbert Brewer and his articled pupils is a copy of the ‘proposed rules for the use of the organ for practice.’ It is undated, but other evidence suggests that it dates from 1907 – 1908 and drawn up by the Dean and Chapter in consultation with Dr. Brewer.

Rules for Use of Cathedral Organ

They include granting the Organist the ‘liberty to use the organ for personal practice and for the purpose of giving lessons,’ and including the right to practise after the cathedral is closed. All free of charge. There were strict rules for his articled pupils however. These included only being allowed to play loudly and using the full organ for only a few minutes at a time between 8.30am and 9.40am. Thereafter there was a gradual scaling back on the organ stops that were allowed to be used until only the quietest ones were left.

The articled pupils also had to pay for the use of the electric light and blower ‘according to scale in force.’ It is this detail that dates the document to after December 1907. Electricity was introduced to the cathedral in 1906 – 1907 and by December 1907 the organ was in receipt of a new electric blower. In the Chapter meeting of 7 December 1907 Herbert Brewer put forward a proposal that his pupils be allowed to use the organ for practice. This was agreed, for a period of one year, provided that 'Dr Brewer is responsible for its proper use and that proper payment is made for the amount of Electric current consumed.'

Incidentally soon after Brewer’s arrival as Organist in 1897 he had wanted to have the organ completed for his first home Three Choirs Festival (1898) by adding the solo organ and pedal stops contemplated but never carried out in the 1888 restoration by the firm of Henry Willis. This was not achieved, and as he records in his ‘Memories’ Henry Willis also refused to contemplate the introduction of an electric blower, regarding it as dangerous and unreliable and suggested a hydraulic engine as the best practical method of superseding ‘the arms of three strong men for ordinary services.’ 

Article written by Simon Carpenter, Cathedral, Library Volunteer


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