The organ in the UK on which Paul gave
100 recitals between 1993 and 2003
is now the centrepiece of the Gulangyu Organ Museum, Xiamen, South East China.
The 1909 Norman & Beard instrument left Cradley Heath for Gulangyu in July 2004.
Read on for the full story and news updates....
Paul Carr writes:
'The very fine 21-stop 1909 Norman & Beard organ, formerly of Cradley
Heath Methodist Church, is about to become the first and main pipe organ
at the Gulangyu Organ Museum in Xiamen, South East China. The only such
museum in China, soon to be the largest of its kind in the world, will
open following the installation of the Cradley Heath organ. The building
which will house the museum was built in 1907. It has an acoustic of
around four seconds and as the organ is not going to be squashed
into a corner, as it was at Cradley Heath, it could sound up to 50%
louder! The piano museum there already attracts approximately 2000
people per week. Regular concerts and recitals are planned.'
left: at Cradley Heath before work begins to move
the organ to China in July 2004
centre: Day 1 - casework, action and open wood are removed
right: Day 1 - timber to build packing cases is
left: Day 2 - console removed, Great and Choir
pipework being removed
centre: Day 3 - various pipes and parts of the console wrapped
and ready for packing
right: Day 5 - the church hall as the shipping container is
Day 5 - all gone!
'This marvellous turn of events came about only at the eleventh hour;
Thanks must go to Mark Checkley, organist of Belbroughton Parish Church,
who assisted in initially spreading the
word via the internet, all over the world, that this instrument needed a new home.
We had received and replied to hundreds of emails over the previous
eighteen months, but despite this huge effort and countless projects
which had raised and then dashed our hopes, as the church's closure date
loomed the best offer we had was from a local organ builder, and friend
of mine, who would salvage the pipework and possibly some of the chests
for use in future rebuilds of other organs. This kept the scrap-man away
but was far from a satisfactory outcome for such a fine heritage
Then in June I met Philip Rogers, a member of the Bedfordshire
Organists' Association, which was visiting organs in the West Midlands,
including Cradley Heath. He forwarded to me a few more contacts to try
as a last attempt to save the organ. One of these contacts was Peter De
Vile formerly of Hill, Norman & Beard, who forwarded details to Derek
Byrne, now based as an organ builder in South Africa. Derek had
previously served as apprentice to Charlie Hosier, who looked after the
Cradley Heath instrument from 1941 until the late 1980s. Derek was
involved with the 1979 overhaul at Cradley Heath and remembered the
instrument well. He knew that an organ builder, Ian Wakeley from
Victoria, Australia, had been looking for an organ for a client of his,
the museum in China.
Many emails later and the deal was done - taking only a fortnight to
complete what we had been trying to achieve for over
eighteen months!! Patience was rewarded! The church's final service was
on Sunday 18th July 2004. I had my final play later on that evening -
some Hakim (of course!) the Bach/Vivaldi A minor concerto, a
sumptuous Vierne Clair de Lune and an emotionally charged
Franck Choral no. 2 before a twenty five minute improvisation on
the Kyrie Eleison (plainsong) saying 'au revoir' after nearly eighteen
years of all those wonderful sounds!
Both Ian Wakeley and Derek Byrne had arrived in England only a few days
previously and began work dismantling the organ the very next day,
assisted by Peter Spencer, who also worked with Charlie Hosier and has
looked after the instrument since Charlie retired. I spent much of that
week at the church, watching the organ being dismantled and being
carefully packed into boxes and crates, which were being made to order
on the spot from the huge pile of timber and bubble wrap(!) stacked at
the front of the church. After four long days of very hard work, a
shipping container arrived. It took four men six hours to load it.
Hannah and I busied ourselves by bubble-wrapping parts of the organ's
At 7.00pm on Friday 23rd July 2004, we stood and watched as it left the
church, destined for Southampton docks…. and eventually China.'
left: on goes the pedal board
centre: the team with Paul and Hannah
(from left) Anthony Byrne, Peter Spencer (from right) Derek Byrne, Ian Wakeley
right: and away it goes - the organ's
destination: south-east China
installation of the organ in Gulangyu has been successfully completed
by Ian Wakeley.
The original tubular
pneumatic action has been retained, and the instrument is said to be "playing as new."
Three concerts were given on 29th, 30th and 31st January by Rhys Boak
and Ryoko Mori from Australia. Both Rhys and Ian have
reported that the organ sounds fantastic in the four to five-second
acoustic in the museum.'
'This month recordings of the organ both at Cradley Heath (played
by me in April 2004) and at Gulangyu
(played by Rhys Boak and Ryoko Mori) have been broadcast on a programme
for Australian radio.
Hearing the recordings together really proves just how important
acoustics are to an instrument... '
There are no vehicles on Gulangyu island. When the organ arrived it
had to be transported from the coast in hand-pulled carts!
The organ in its new home
from left: view from the front, from the upper
level of the dome, from the side, from the back
'News from Gulangyu: Over recent months the museum has been
undergoing comprehensive refurbishment.
The completion of
this project, due during this month,
has been delayed due to unexpected
additional structural work which needs to be urgently carried out.
Plans for me to perform concerts this
year, to mark the centenary of the building of the organ, have been
postponed since the building will remain
closed while the construction work is carried out.'
Below is a link to a programme all about the Gulangyu Organ Museum,
which features the organ from Cradley Heath being played in its new
home, along with other smaller instruments and footage of the large
Casavant organ which will be reconstructed in the building’s new
here for more information about the museum and the island of
which is also known also known as 'The Cradle of Musicians'
and 'Island of Music'
because of its reputation for music appreciation.
Paul's 100 recitals at Cradley Heath: