Pipe Organs of Malaysia

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Lebuh Farquhar

Morton & Moody, Oakham, England.
Action tracker to manuals, direct electric to pedals
Tab stops

Assumption Cathedral

The pipe organ in the Catholic Cathedral of the Assumption was built in 1914 by the firm of Morton & Moody of Oakham, England, but, probably due to the constraints imposed on shipping by World War I, raging at that time in Europe, the instrument was only erected in this Church in 1916.  The organ was the brain child of Father Louis Duvelle, the Parish Priest at that time of the then Church of The Assumption.  The design was reportedly made in consultation with the Organist/Choir Master, the legendary Mr. Ben D’Cruz (Bene Merenti). 

The original specifications of the instrument was as follows: - 

Great Swell
Large Open Diapason 8' Open Diapason 8'
Small Open Diapason 8' Viola da Gamba 8'
Hohl Flute 8' Voix Celeste 8'
Dulciana 8' Tibia Clausa 8'
Principal 4' Gemshorn 4'
Pedal Couplers
Open Diapason 16' GT to PED
Sub Bass 16' GT to SW

Action: Tracker Action on the Manuals & Pneumatic Action to the Pedals.

No records exist of any professional maintenance being effected to the instrument between the time of installation and 1972, by which time the Organ had deteriorated to a near unplayable state. 

In 1976, restoration was effected by the Leeds, U.K., firm of Wood, Wordsworth & Co. Ltd., at that time one of the major Organ Builders in England, with, to their credit, major re-buildings of the Organ(s) in Worcester Cathedral, the giant Leeds Town Hall Organ and the historical Father Willis Organ in The Long Library at Blenheim Palace, the home of the Duke of Marlborough. 

Progressive maintenance visits were subsequently made annually by Anthony Welby, an Organ Builder from Sydney, between 1977 and 1985.  In August 1979, some unknown party stole 129 pipes from the upper octaves of all the stops of The Great Organ.  Replacements were manufactured by Wood, Wordsworth & Co. Ltd. and were installed by Anthony Welby.  The opportunity was taken at this time to improve the somewhat “Victorian” original tonal specifications, brightness being added to the Diapason Chorus of The Great Organ by replacing the Small Open Diapason with a Fifteenth - 2ft. 

By 1983 the pneumatic action of the Pedal Organ had become somewhat unreliable and was substituted, by Anthony Welby, with a Direct Electronic Action.  Subsequent to 1985 the maintenance of the organ has been in the hands of Mr Ian Campbell, Choir Master/Organ Curator, with the help of an enthusiastic band of helpers, coupled with professional help in the form of visits in 1992, 1993, 1994. 1995 & 1996, from the firm of Peter Wood & Son. (The successors to Wood, Wordsworth & Co. Ltd.), of Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England.  Included in the work carried out by this firm was the removal of the original double rise bellows and its replacement with a single rise reservoir & “Schwimmer” Controls in 1995. 

Cathedral Penang

Cathedral Penang

Assumption Stops

Assumption keyboards

Specification of the organ (2008) is:

Great Swell
Open Diapason 8' Open Diapason 8'
Hohl Flute 8' Viola da Gamba 8'
Dulciana 8' Voix Celeste 8'
Principal 4' Tibia Clausa 8'
Fifteenth 2' Gemshorn 4'
Pedal Couplers
Open Diapason 16' GT to PED
Sub Bass 16' GT to SW

Organ photographs and specification from Mr Leonard Selva, Organist, Cathedral of the Assumption, Penang.
Historical information from Mr Ian Campbell, Music Director, Cathedral of the Assumption, Penang.
Photograph of the church exterior from Asian Explorers.

From New Straits Times 07 December 2013:

GEORGE TOWN: The almost century-old pipe organ at the Church of the Assumption is back from a six-month sojourn in England, where it received the restoration it sorely needed.

Fondly known as the "Old Lady", the pipe organ was built in 1914 by Morton & Moody of Oakham, England, and brought to the church in 1916.

Made of oak, pine and mahogany, the instrument boasts 640 pipes made of lead and zinc. For scores of years, it lent its rich notes to the parish choir from the loft of the church, which is located within the Unesco World Heritage Zone in George Town.

Over the years, however, the Old Lady , which is the oldest pipe organ found in a Catholic church in Malaysia, began to show its age.

The wood was infested with termites and rats and had to be replaced. The pipes had to be cleaned and the tuners atop each pipe had to be replaced.

In a labour of love, the church's former choir master and organ curator Ian Campbell and a band of dedicated and enthusiastic helpers saw to the Old Lady's care as it began ail and decline.

"It breaks our hearts to see the Old Lady slowly dying," Gurunathan was quoted as saying when its keys began to get stuck, its trackers jam and its wind chest leak.

The turning point for its proper restoration occurred last year, when Gurunathan appealed to then Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen for assistance. Her efforts helped to boost the fund set up to restore the organ.

Khanazah Nasional Bhd subsidiary Think City Sdn Bhd was among those stepping up with a generous donation towards the restoration effort.

The recent consecration of the restored organ by Penang Bishop Sebastian Francis at the church was an emotional moment for Campbell, Gurunatan and the current choir master Claude Richars.

"We are moved by all the support received. The Old Lady has been infused with new life and is ready to ring in more songs of praise and thanksgiving to God this Christmas and beyond," said Gurunathan.

"Our heartfelt gratitude to the corporate sponsors, fellow parishioners and all who have helped to save the pipe organ -- we will always remember this," he added. 

By Marina Emmanuel


The Church of the Assumption choir, accompanied by Leonard Gurunathan on the pipe organ, at practice. 
Pic by Marina Emmanuel


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