Hopes for a new era of financial success were high on Saturday as Llandaff Cathedral celebrated £1.5million of fundraising for their new organ.
The Cathedral, which has been battling a deficit of £81,000 since November last year, celebrated the installation of the new organ with a recital by leading Welsh organist Huw Tregelles Williams.
Crowds packed into the nave of the cathedral to hear pieces by Bach, Karl Jenkins and William Mathias played on the organ’s 4,870 pipes by the former director of BBC National Orchestra of Wales.
Mr Williams OBE said: “My task today basically is to show you the wonderful colours available in this organ.” The organ, which was finally completed this year, is the largest to be built from new in the UK since 1862 and was commissioned by leading organ builders Nicholson & Co.
It took over 30,000 hours and six years to build but according to the new cathedral dean Rev’d Gerwyn Capon, the organ is a vital part of cathedral life. Rev’d Capon said: “Music is an intrinsic part of our life as a cathedral community because it is a well established Christian tradition.” “It’s an enormous achievement. Raising this kind of money for an instrument, there’s a lot that’s been achieved and I’m delighted to be able to welcome people to celebrate with us.”
But some have argued the expensive new organ was a foolish move given the cathedral’s financial situation which led seven members of the cathedral choir to be made redundant last year.
Sacked assistant organist Sachin Gunga, 27, said: “How can the cathedral sanction such an expense on the organ and then sanction the sacking of the choir the next?”
The chairman of the Organ Appeal Committee gave thanks to the hundreds of donations they received but said the financial struggle is not over. “We had sums of money ranging from 50 to several thousands and to all of you we give our warmest thanks.” “Now the cost of the organ is fully recovered, we have an urgent need for roof repairs and other essential maintenance.”
But given Llandaff Cathedral’s tumultuous history with their organ, perhaps the worst is over. Their previous one originated from 1900 and was destroyed when a German landmine devastated the building in January 1941. After the War Damage Commission and Board of Trade were unable to finance a new organ, the cathedral underwent repairs bit by bit until a lightning strike finally finished it off in 2007. Since then the cathedral choir used a digital organ until the fundraising began to commission Nicholson’s of Malvern, who have made organs for Hong Kong and Madrid, to build a new one. Work almost came to a standstill in May 2010 after financial difficulties meant the solo organ and four pedal stops could not be completed, but fundraisers came to the rescue.
Paul Hale, of the Organist’s Review, said: “I can say with conviction that the Llandaff Nicholson is also the best new cathedral organ.”
But does the celebrated achievement of £1.5million in fundraising mark a new era for the cathedral’s finances? Former property developer Rev’d Capon certainly thinks so. He said: “Most of these great institutions are not immune from the financial pressures that affect every organisation and it’s how we respond to them which will set us apart.” “We have a long way to go in order to be able to build confidence again but there is no doubt at all it is a priority.”
Listen to the full audio here: