Front Cover

by Gary Tollerfield

St Mary the Great, Cambridge

The handsome organ adorning the front cover of this issue is the Father Smith two manual instrument of 1698 in the tower gallery of St Mary the Great, Cambridge. Whilst most of the original pipework will have been subject to alteration and/or replacement, the case is essentially as built. (Following the 1995 rebuild by Mander it is now a three-manual and pedal organ with Smith pipework on the present Great and Choir).

The case pipes are the Open Diapason of speaking lengths and scale, the bottom two pipes positioned at the centre two inner towers, the longest of GG length. What is believed to be the Smith specification states a Great manual compass of 55 notes, (GG to d with no GG sharp) and 37 of those 55 Open Diapason pipes are on display. The remainder of the pipes would be on the Great soundboard inside the case along with the other stops. Father Smith made many of his pipes of wood, so the Open Diapason might have been the only metal stop. There was a Choir organ, but of course no pedals, hence the longest pipe on display is the bottom note of the manual compass which at GG is five semitones lower than today's C manual compass.

The period of Father Smith and Renatus Harris in the latter 17th and early 18th centuries is considered the golden age of English organ case design, and this case at St Mary the Great is a joy to behold. It is often said that Father Smith designed four-tower cases whilst Renatus Harris designed three-tower cases, but Father Smith made organs with cases of two, three and four towers, although his favourite certainly seemed to be versions of the four tower theme seen here at St Mary the Great. When next in Cambridge, look at Trinity College for another.

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