Organ & Organists
The Cathedral’s four-manual Hill organ is arguably one of the finest of its kind in the country, equally versatile for accompanying and playing the solo organ repertoire. It was originally built in 1894, although it has since undergone a number of refurbishments, most recently following the fire of 2001, which necessitated a major restoration of the organ before its reinstallation in 2005.
Like other Hill instruments of the period, the Peterborough organ is set considerably sharper than modern ‘concert’ pitch. The present instrument can be traced back to 1894 when William Hill built a new organ incorporating some pipework from previous instruments. Hill was one of the two most celebrated organ builders of the nineteenth century, and his instruments were designed in a somewhat more classical style than the more symphonic organs of his rival Henry Willis. The main organ is situated in the north triforium, behind a case designed by Dr Arthur Hill, and the Choir Organ and two pedal ranks are in the north choir aisle.
The present organ has 86 speaking stops spread over four manuals and pedals. It includes comprehensive Great and Swell Organs of 19 and 18 stops respectively, with a large palette of 8’ colours and a complete chorus from 16’ pitch to two mixtures on both divisions. Unusually, every rank in the Pedal Organ is independent (there is no extension even for the 32’ ranks), as are the two Swell Oboes and the two Solo Clarinet ranks (16’ and 8’).
The Choir, Swell and Solo divisions are all enclosed. The Solo division incorporates twelve ranks of gentler orchestral colour as well as a Tuba at 16’ and 8’ pitches in a separate box. For the specification of the organ please click here.
Of the organists of Peterborough Cathedral, few before the Twentieth Century would be familiar to singers or musicians, though two anthems by Thomas Mudd (1631-32) and some Psalm chants by Haydn Keeton (1870-1921) remain in the repertoire. Henry Coleman (1921-44), a pupil of Sir Sidney Nicholson, published many organ compositions and two books on choir training. Douglas Hopkins (1946-1953) went on to become organist at Canterbury Cathedral, while Stanley Vann (1953-1977) succeeded him and transformed the Choir at Peterborough, contributing significantly to the choral repertory. Christopher Gower (1977-2004) directed the Choir through challenging times, instituting the Cathedral Festival which ran from 1982-1996. He was succeeded in 2004 by Andrew Reid. Among the many assistant organists and articled pupils at Peterborough were Thomas Armstrong, Malcolm Sargeant and Simon Lawford. The current Assistant Director of Music is David Humphreys (2011).