The Pipe Organ in China Project Website: Updates for September 2022.

30 September 2022

Our colleagues at Casavant have informed us of an installation in Beijing, dating back to 2016 when they installed three other organs in the Chinese capital. This two-manual practice organ, now at CCOM, is a relocated organ originally built for McGill University in Montréal in 1962, and has the Census identifier PEK2016d.

HKG1860: “Brigands in the Church”, and the Disorganized Organ.

Prof. Urrows writes:

HKG1860 was the Bryceson and Son organ installed at St. John’s Cathedral, Hong Kong, and removed when the new Walker organ (HKG1887) was installed. After several years of debate over what to do with it, it was sold in 1890 to Union Church, to be reinstalled by Walker in the new church building on Kennedy Road. It served there until 1917 and the subsequent installation of the Blackett and Howden organ (HKG1917) that occasioned William Charlton Blackett’s personal visit to Hong Kong, from which place he never left.

This summer, I came across a fascinating news item in the Hong Kong Telegraph for 12 November 1892, that rewrites, perhaps, a little bit of this story. Apparently, on 11 November there was a robbery at Union Church, and the thieves “got away almost all the brass fittings and sound-tubes of the new organ now being fitted up in the chancel.” It is a little difficult to interpret this, as the organ was not new, and ‘sound-tubes’ could mean pipes, but these would not, of course, be made of brass. Perhaps these were conduits for a possible conversion to pneumatic action.

The news story (see below) goes on to say that “In consequence of this burglary the organ will not be in playable order for many months to come, it being necessary to send to the makers for the brass pipes and tubes that are – goodness knows where.”

Again, it’s not entirely clear just what was taken in the robbery. Does this mean that HKG1860, although sold to the new church in 1890, was not actually erected until the middle of that decade? Was Walker (still) doing the work in late 1892? And what of the report I found this summer, that in the Autumn of 1896, Vittorio Facchetti was invited to work on the Union Church organ at the time he was erecting his enormous masterpiece, HKG1896, over at the nearby Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception? And in what sense does this impact the fact that this organ was again completely rebuilt by the Hong Kong branch of S. Moutrie & Co. in 1907-08?

Finally, the police estimate of the total loss at the church, including the non-organ parts, was “$200”. This refers to the ‘dollar Mex’, which was the accepted currency at this time, and it appears this would have been equivalent to about 35 GBP in 1892. This relatively small sum (in the scheme of the cost of a pipe organ) suggests that not all that much was actually taken, but doesn’t resolve the question, when was HKG1860 finally ready for use at Union Church? Research never ends!

Organs in the Census: 199

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