We have evidence an organ has been present Marchester Cathedral as early as 1635.
Today, the magnificent Stoller Organ, constructed by Kenneth Tickell and Company from 2016-17, is still used for weekly services, civic services, recitals, concerts, celebrations and memorials as organ music continues to play a central role in the life of Manchester Cathedral.
The history of the early organs in Manchester Collegiate Church is clouded. We know there was an organ here by 1635, as an organist appointed that year.
The genesis of the famous Choir organ in the church is clear from the Chapter register for 6th February 1682 which reads:
"then met in chapter Mr Mosley, Mr West and Mr Ogden at which time it was voted that Mr Smith have for an organ for the use of the choir only £20 and that fifth part thereof shall be forthwith paid to Mr Smith the make of the organ and the remainder when finished and set up."
The organ was completed by Father Bernard Smith in 1684. It stood on the screen until 1861, when it was removed to a side chapel and a large three manual organ was installed in the Jesus Chapel by Sidney Nicholson.
In 1871 a new organ was built by Hill & Son, the main part of which stood on the screen in the new case by Sir George Gilbert Scott. This organ was rebuilt by the same firm in 1910, with the majority of the organ divided each side of the choir stalls, and a second Great division on the screen. It was re-voiced and altered by Harrison & Harrison in 1918.
In 1934 Harrison & Harrison carried out a further scheme of restoration and additions, with the provision of new electro-pneumatic action. The choir organ was enclosed and re-modelled, and the small Father Smith organ was connected to the main console whilst also remaining playable from its own keyboard.
In December 1940, the organ was partially destroyed in an air raid. The Swell, Solo and most of the Pedal organ was seriously damaged, the Great, Choir and screen departments were only slightly harmed, and the console alone remained intact. The Father Smith organ was destroyed. In 1943 a temporary two-manual organ was constructed by Harrison & Harrison.
The organ which incorporated pipework of the 1934 organ, was installed between 1952 and 1957, and remained until 2015 and. The specification was drawn up by Norman Cocker, the then Cathedral Organist, in consultation with the organ builders, with certain modification suggested by his successor, Allan Wicks.
The organ was located within two westerly bays of the choir aisles. The Choir and Great organs were on the south side; the Swell and Solo on the north; the Pedal on both sides, with the open woods and ophicleides in the Jesus Chapel. The new console was placed in the chancel; the old console was retained and placed in the nave.
Restoration work was carried out in 1974 and 1979, when solid-state coupler and combination actions were provided. The nave console was removed, and the chancel console placed on the quire screen.
The new Stoller Organ, built by the Northampton firm of Kenneth Tickell and Company, has been designed to enhance worship in both the chancel and nave of the Cathedral, as well as being a distinguished concert and recital instrument.
The musical and liturgical needs of a cathedral should govern the design and placement of an instrument and, for most of the working life of this Cathedral, an organ, or portions of an organ, have been included on the screen. The beautiful medieval screen has been reinforced to allow the new organ to sit above it with case fronts facing both east to the altar and quire, where daily services are sung, and west to the nave where Sunday morning services, concerts and diocesan and national services take place.
The new Stoller Organ, of six divisions, comprises 79 stops over four manuals and pedal. The main screen case contains the Great, Swell and Pedal, arranged to speak equally east and west. A Choir organ speaks east into the chancel and a west facing Positif organ provides solo repertoire orientated stops. Both of these divisions play from the same manual, the Choir organ also being transferable to the Solo manual by means of a drawstop. On the south side of the chancel, a two-level Solo organ has been provided in a position least evident from the nave, allowing new eastward vistas to be revealed. The Jesus Chapel Pedal 32' stops has been retained, as have two of the high pressure solo reeds and the Contre Viole. The organ has tracker key action for Great, Swell, Positive and screen Pedal, and electric action for the Solo, Choir and 32' pedal chests. All coupling is electric.
The Stoller Organ may be played from either of two consoles; a mechanical action screen console positioned on the north side of the case, or the mobile electric-action console in the main body of the building.
The beautiful pipe shades have been designed by text artist Stephen Raw. The lettering on the pipe shades is taken from the words of the liturgy in Latin, the common language of Christian worship internationally. The cut-through lettering helps to release sound. There are over 4800 pipes inside the instrument, ranging from 6 inches to 32 feet high. The pipes facing into the quire were gilded by hand with wafer-thin 23.5 carat gold leaf, so they will never tarnish.
The building works completed in the winter of 2016/17, the voicing and sounding of the instrument took place from January to April 2017.
The Dedication and Blessing of the new Stoller Organ, with a recital by world-renowned concert organist, Thomas Trotter was held on Thursday 14 September 2017.
Christopher was a pupil at the Royal Masonic School in Bushey, where his interest in music was first stimulated and nurtured, before becoming a student at Trinity College of Music.
Prior to taking up his position at Manchester Cathedral, Christopher Stokes held posts in two of London’s leading churches, as Organist & Master of Music at St. Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square and Director of Music at St. Margaret’s, Westminster Abbey. As a conductor in London, he directed the professional choirs at St. Martin's and St. Margaret’s. He also founded The Baroque Soloists of St Martin-in-the-Fields, a group of leading baroque players and singers in London.
In Manchester, he directs the Cathedral Choir, which in addition to the essential Opus Dei, makes frequent television and radio broadcasts and tours regularly in Europe and the USA. The choir has recorded a number of CDs, which have received excellent reviews. In 1995 he founded Manchester Baroque, a group specialising in the performance of music of the 17th and 18th centuries. He has also conducted Manchester Camerata and the Northern Chamber Orchestra on many occasions.
Broadcasting has always been a central feature of Christopher’s life and he has over 3,000 broadcasts to his credit. He has conducted and played for many Songs of Praise for BBC1 and is a director and organist for Daily Service on BBC Radio 4.
As a soloist, Christopher has performed extensively in the UK, France, Germany, Italy and the USA. He has appeared as concerto soloist with many orchestras including the Manchester Camerata, the Northern Chamber Orchestra and the Orchestra of the Golden Age. He has performed widely in Germany and has made a live concert-recording of Handel’s great G minor organ concerto with the German Radio Orchestra in Leipzig’s Gewandhaus. This was followed by another concerto appearance, this time with the Halle Händel Festspiele Orchestra. His solo recordings of Elgar, Stanford and Howells’ organ music have received critical acclaim in the world’s press.
As a continuo player, Christopher has always been busy. He has performed, toured, broadcast and recorded with most of Britain's leading orchestras including the Hanover Band, the London Mozart Players, the London Symphony Orchestra, the London Bach Orchestra, the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, the Hallé Orchestra, Manchester Camerata and the Northern Chamber Orchestra. He has also performed and recorded with the Salzburg Bach-Chor and the German Radio Choir. Christopher also works extensively as a piano accompanist.
Teaching young organists is a very important factor in Christopher’s work. Whilst in London, he was senior professor of organ at Trinity College of Music and in 1994 he was invited to become Head of Organ Studies at Chetham’s School of Music. Students from both institutions have gone on to hold key positions in the musical world.
He has served as a Council Member of the Royal College of Organists and was the Artistic Director of the College’s Performer of the Year 2000 competition. He is also a diploma examiner for the College.
Geoffrey Woollatt began his musical career as a chorister at Southwell Minster. Subsequently he attended Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester. In January 2007, Geoffrey was appointed as Junior Organ Scholar at Manchester Cathedral, a post which he held for 18 months.
In September 2008, he became the Organ Scholar at Chester Cathedral. A year later, Geoffrey commenced his studies at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow. At the same time he was appointed Assistant Organist at St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow, where he played regularly for the choir and was involved in broadcasts, recordings and many performances while he was there.
In September 2012, he returned to Chester Cathedral as Assistant Organist, and in March 2015, he moved to Manchester Cathedral as Sub-Organist where he accompanies the Cathedral Choir and directs the Cathedral Voluntary Choir.
The Sydney Nicholson Organ Scholarship is an ideal opportunity for a gap-year, or post-graduate, student to experience all aspects of Manchester Cathedral’s music. The scholarship was renamed in 1995 to commemorate Sir Sydney Nicholson (1875-1947), who was Organist of Manchester Cathedral from 1908-1918, before being appointed Organist of Westminster Abbey.
The scholarship is open to anyone who is over the age of 18 and not in secondary education. The holder of the scholarship is the senior organ scholar within the Cathedral and is appointed from the beginning of September to the end of the following August each year.
The Sydney Nicholson Organ Scholar is an important member of the music department. The scholarship provides plenty of opportunities to accompany choral services, direct the choirs at some services, play a part in the training of the Probationer Choristers and also to gain some administrative experience. The Sydney Nicholson Organ Scholar also acts as the Music Librarian.
Each year an organ student from Chetham’s School of Music is offered the role of Frederick Bridge Organ Scholar at Manchester Cathedral. This provides valuable performing experience at an early stage.