Memories of Calderdale

The organ at Northgate End Chapel


Terry Hunter

As a music student in the 1970s, I studied the organ as my "third" instrument and I was kindly given the use of (and, to some extent, learned to maintain) the three-manual Forster & Andrews organ in Northgate End Chapel as a practice instrument during holidays.

On one occasion, the organ stopped working mid-practice and I proceeded into the bowels of the instrument to investigate. The instrument had a windchest for each manual and one for the pedals. The air from the blower into each windchest of the organ was controlled by a valve and regulated by means of a string stretched over a pulley. One of these rather elderly strings had either rotted away (the Chapel suffered from both a leaking roof and dry rot at the same time) or the string had been nibbled through by church/Chapel mice. With the blower (pump) running, inspection lamp in hand, I climbed onto the now deflated great windchest. This windchest was the size and shape of a double bed and a bit of a wriggle to get onto. I pulled the string and tied the two ends together. This, of course, substantially shortened the working length of the string and allowed the windchest to inflate by more than its intended amount. It opened the valve letting lots of air into the windchest, over-inflating it and pinning me to the framework above. To let myself out, I had to cut the string again and allow the air to gradually escape. Once I had also escaped, I subsequently refixed at arm's length with a new string of the correct length. Curiously, I believe that the same thing happened in Austria, 150 years or so earlier resulting in Franz Gruber composing the melody for Stille Nacht (Silent Night).

I never played for services, as the main Chapel had ceased to be used some years earlier and services were being held in a small room on the town side of the Chapel. I only attended one of these and the singing of the small congregation was accompanied on the harmonium

© Malcolm Bull 2021
Revised 10:26 / 30th May 2021 / 3816

Page Ref: M_36

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