Diocese of

Hexham and Newcastle

Bishop Séamus Cunningham

Diocesan Church Music Association - Gallery of Past Events

Harrison & Harrison Ltd. Workshop Tour

On Wednesday 3 October, Kate Swaddle, treasurer of the Diocesan Church Music Association organised a workshop tour of Harrison & Harrison Ltd., who are prestigious, world-renowned organ builders, situated in Meadowfield, Durham, in the heart of our Diocese.

Twenty-five participants, including; organists, clergy and musicians signed-up for the free tour, in which Harrison & Harrison’s voicers, Andrew Scott and Andy Fiddes (ex-pupil of St. Bede’s, Lanchester) kindly facilitated.

As participants arrived at St. John’s Road, Stuart Wright Funeral Service Ltd had kindly agreed to show case their Perlee Dutch Street Organ, which was manufactured in Amsterdam, in 1983. The barrel organ is a mechanical musical instrument consisting of bellows and two ranks of pipes, housed in a case (usually of wood), and are often highly decorated. The basic principle is the same as a traditional pipe organ, but instead of being played by an organist, the barrel organ is activated either by a person turning a crank, or by clockwork driven by weights or springs. The pieces of music are encoded onto wooden barrels (or cylinders), which are analogous to the keyboard of the traditional pipe organ. You may have heard of the phrase ‘organ grinder’, this phrase is derived from a person (or in some cases, a trained animal!), who played a barrel organ. All of the fun of the fair was had as the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack and the BBC theme tune echoed around the carpark and certainly delighted the audience.

Then, at 4:30pm, Harrison & Harrison Ltd. kindly opened their doors for participants. Having nearly 160 years of experience in organ building, Harrisons are clearly meticulous experts in this highly-specialised field, caring for organs, throughout the world, in countries like Nigeria, Australia and America and those closer to home such as the Royal Albert Hall and Windsor Castle. Additionally, an insight was gained, into the rebuilding of the Henry Willis organ from Canterbury Cathedral as the organ was in various stages of being overhauled and refurbished.

Tour delegates were taken to the ‘bellows’ manufacturing area, as their employees explained how 15-20 sheepskin leathers help to form the outermost layers. Significantly, Andrew Scott, Head Voicer, also conveyed how he was responsible for the tuning of the organ in Westminster Abbey, for the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, in 2013. Harrisons’ experience in manufacturing, creating, researching, lasering and casting metal enables them to be world leaders in the production of organs.

Both ‘Andrews’ were incredibly modest as they demonstrated their expertise in tuning; while describing how the flue pipes produce the ‘principal’, ‘flute’, ‘diapason’ and ‘string’ sounds. Committee member Paul Berry even attempted to tune a clarinet reed! The talks were incredibly informative, explaining how the wood used tends to be manipulated from poplar hardwood trees and that keys are now made from bone, as opposed to ivory. The new workshop extension also allowed an insight into the workings of the trade. The annexe will enable ‘rebuild projects’ to be assigned to a team of individuals, who can then work together, in close proximity of one another, thus improving efficiency and effectiveness.

A number of questions were asked during the evening, including: ‘Is this a dying trade?’, ‘How can you estimate the cost of a rebuild?’, and answers were carefully considered with Harrisons identifying that a huge proportion of the cost of the manufacturing and rebuilding costs are largely due to labour costs. For example, a new organ would take a team of twenty, an entire year to build and finish.

Some of the local Harrison & Harrison Ltd. organs include St. Robert’s, Fenham (1980), St. Andrew’s, Worswick Street (rehoused in 1997) and All Saints’, Lanchester (1985). Furthermore, Durham Cathedral’s organ was originally installed by Henry Willis, 1876, but was rebuilt by Harrisons in 1905.

Overall, the tour was a terrific insight into the world of organ building, and participants were undoubtedly left with the feeling that an electric organ could never replace the bespoke craftsmanship, magnificence and beautiful sounds of a real mechanical or electro-pneumatic pipe organ. Delegates’ knowledge grew exponentially from the incredibly small amount of time that was spent on tour. The DCMA would like to formally thank Harrison & Harrison Ltd. and Stuart Wright for their expertise; it is reassuring to know that we have such talented experts in our diocese.

In conclusion to the workshop, the DCMA would like to encourage all interested parties to a ‘Come and Play’ organ session. Visit the DCMA Facebook page for more information, or access the DCMA webpage.

Additionally, Stuart Wright is also highly acclaimed organist, with a particular interest in the North-East Theatre Organ Association, and has invited all to attend the Mighty Wurlitzer Christmas session on Sunday 9 December, 2.00 - 5.00pm, at Howden-le-Wear.

Mass Setting Workshop

The Diocesan Church Music Association held a Mass settings workshop at St. Hilda’s Diocesan Resource Centre, Newcastle on Wednesday 25 April 2018.

The evening was facilitated by Chairperson Alison Purvis and committee member Paul Berry (Musical Directors at St. Cuthbert’s, Durham and St. Mary’s, Hexham respectively).

The evening was a huge success, with over 30 participants, who were all eager to learn new Mass settings, for their schools and parishes. The idea behind the workshop was that there was ‘something for everyone’, with accessible music catering for all parishes and musical abilities, be it organ or music groups.

During the evening, four different Mass settings and styles were explored, beginning with the ‘Psallite Gloria’ by The Collegeville Composers’ Group. Alison Purvis provided information sheets for all participants and each Mass setting was rehearsed to enable those attending the evening to hear its impact. The impromptu four-part choir who were able to sight-sing with ease, really allowed participants to hear each Mass in its best possible light. The DCMA were hugely impressed with the thirst for new music amongst the participants.

The Bakhita Acclamations by Nicky Baty (a musician and liturgical composer from Everton), were presented by the group as an accessible Mass setting for guitar, instruments and organ, with walking pace rhythm and flowing melody; it is an easy setting, which can be easily accompanied by the most reluctant of pianists/organists! These can be accessed through Concept Music online.

Bernadette’s Farrell, Mass of Hope, was a huge success and could easily be sung in unison, or parts. Farrell’s music is all covered under the Calamus licence scheme and is available to download from

The Dominican Mass by Sir Philip Ledger costs £2.60 and each melody edition costs £1.25. The Mass can be purchased online at RSCM Music Direct and was written at the request of a church in Baltimore, who wanted an approachable and sing-able congregational setting of the new translation of the Roman Missal. The setting has a strong melodic content, with optional descant parts choir and instruments, ideal for congregations who like to sing simple and accessible music.

Philip Jakob was previously Director of Music at the Cathedral Church of St. Marie, Sheffield, and now resides in Florida, in the USA, where he is Director of Music-Elect at St. Lawrence’s, Tampa. He composed the ‘New Wine Mass’ which includes Penitential Rites to Communion songs. This uplifting and joyful Mass costs £15 although this also includes permission for copying the assembly edition for your congregation. Should you require a copy then please contact Alison Purvis or Paul Berry.

The evening session concluded with a cursory glance at Advent! Alison presented the Comfort and Joy Acclamations by Martin Foster (who currently holds the role of Director of the Liturgy Office of England and Wales as well as being Director of Music at St. Mary’s University Chapel, Twickenham). Martin’s acclamations are available to download from his Bear Music website. Additionally, Martin’s website includes many psalms and music for antiphons, which are freely available to download, provided that you acknowledge them, as directed on the website.

The evening was a wonderful opportunity for musicians and liturgists to come together to celebrate new music and meet like-minded individuals. Watch this space for a date with the world-renowned Harrison & Harrison organ builders and more repertoire evenings.

Should you require additional help in the following areas; core repertoire, Mass settings, deanery days of reflection, school repertoire, liturgical advice, composition or copyright, then please get in touch with Alison Purvis (chair) by tel: 0191 371 9184, or email.

Past Events:

A Berry Good Workshop in Hexham

Paul Berry from St. Mary's, Hexham directed a workshop on music for the Triduum liturgies at Easter.

Read the article here and view a collection of images from the event.


Composer's Forum

A very enjoyable Composers’ Forum was held on 23rd January 2016 when parish musicians from across the Diocese came to meet each other and share their music.

Read the article here and view a collection of images from the event.