The Organ Builder
William Hill (1789 - 1871) was still active in his successful London based organ building business when he was eighty years of age! He may even have been involved in the specifications and/or building of this one.
From his family workshops were delivered many fine organs. Examples of original Hill Organs (or rebuilt organs) exist in Westminster Abbey, Manchester Cathedral, Chester Cathedral,Selby Abbey, Melbourne Town Hall, Australia and locally the organs in The Ulster Hall and St. Thomas Church, Belfast, as well as here in St. Aidan’s.
This instrument was originally built for Trinity Church Dublin 1865, however the Church was closed in 1919 and the organ aquired for Kilmore.
The organ was installed on the west gallery ( a perfect location) as a memorial to those who had served in the First World War. The purchase price was a little over £100 and the dismantling/rebuilding cost the parish £168. The current value of the instrument is in excess of £200,000.
In the church records there is an interesting account from 1935 when the Select Vestry were discussing a tender for repairs to the organ costing £32.00. The ladies guaranteed to raise £11 with £21 being in the Bank!
No major work was carried out until 2000 (80 years after its arrival here) when a reputable Lisburn firm were employed to carry out a complete restoration at a cost of c.£50,000
The Organ Features
2 manuals - 24 stops and 1,454 speaking pipes.
The original hand blower is still in perfect working order.
An amazing low wind pressure - a real tribute to the style and quality of Hill voicing where the pipes are given a full and unrestricted wind supply. (The organ is capable of making a huge sound.)
The instrument retains the original casework, soundboard, wind system, mechanical key and stop action. The pipe work is original with the exception of three stops.
Philip Elliott MA (Oxon) FRCO who is a regular accompanist and recitalist says of the instrument:
Sitting at the console of the Hill organ in the west gallery of St Aiden’s fills the organist with a sense of anticipation and excitement, for it is rare to find an instrument of such size and power in a church of this size in a rural part of Ulster. Its two manuals and pedals are capable of producing contrasts of both dynamics and timbre, from the full diapason choruses on great and swell to the quietest string- and flute-toned stops. The organ is limited in the assistance it affords to the player, lacking many of the accessories (no pistons nor a balanced swell pedal) and the layout (a straight rather than radiating pedal board) of a modern console, but these do give the organist a sense of history and the instrument a feeling of authenticity.
It is a versatile instrument and can be used for both solos and accompaniments: with judicious and imaginative registration, it can facilitate performance of organ music from all periods and in many styles; it can give a strong lead in the congregational singing of hymns, psalms and canticles; and it has the requisite tonal colours to enhance the accompaniments of choral anthems. It benefits from the warm acoustic of the church and from its prominent position on the west gallery, from where it speaks directly into the building. In addition, the rural location and elevated position of the church is most fully appreciated from the organs home on the west gallery, where the rolling countryside of County Armagh can be seen through the south-facing windows: a delightful bonus which enhances further the pleasure of playing this superb instrument.
On 9th June 2007 the British Institute of Organ Studies awarded a certificate to St Aidan’s in recognition of the organ being a good example of an instrument by Hill & Son 1865 and listed the organ in the Institutes Register of Historic Pipe Organs as being an instrument of importance to the national heritage and one deserving careful preservation for the benefit of future generations.
In recent years, with the full support of the Select Vestry the church has been the venue for regular choral concerts and organ recitals, mostly to a full church.
In 2004 a fund was established to preserve the instrument for use by future generations.
In 2006 the first CD, “Lord,for the years”, ever made in the church includes organ solos by Philip Elliott and singing by The Lowry Singers.
In November 2007 - the launch of The Lowry Singers 2nd CD - Christmas @ Kilmore in aid of the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice took place. This CD features organists Martin White and Philip Elliott, as well as Louis-Alexander Desire (boy Soprano, Paris).
© Earl Moffitt, Organist