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St Michael’s Church, CORNHILL

The Church of St Michael is known to have been in existence before the Norman Conquest. Unfortunately, in the Great Fire of London in 1666, the church, with the exception of the tower, was completely destroyed. It was subsequently rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren between 1669 and 1672.

St Michael’s houses one of London’s landmark organs, made famous by the broadcasts, recordings and 1800 recitals by the legendary organist-composer, Dr Harold Darke (1888-1976). The church also claims to have the world’s longest-running organ recital series, a tradition that is kept alive by the current Director of Music, Jonathan Rennert.

The 63-stop, three manual organ contains pipework dating back to the Renatus Harris organ of 1684 with later additions by Green, Robson, Bryceson, Hill and Rushworth & Dreaper. In 2010, Nicholson & Company completed its first comprehensive rebuild since 1926.

Mechanically it is new; soundboards, chests and actions have all been replaced. The console has been refurbished and its playing aids enhanced. The old wind system was particularly noisy and the wind fed from the roof-mounted blower was a continual source of rainwater ingress that damaged the roof fabric. The problem has now been completely solved by a new wind system with a specially designed quiet blower installation within the case.

Musically, the only significant changes have been the revoicing of Swell reeds, re-configuration of the mixtures and 32ft Pedal bass and replacement of the Great Tierce by one of more appropriate scale. The historic pipework remains, restored to correct speech while benefiting from improved winding and action. Its full-bodied tone and wealth of colours makes it the ideal medium for the English solo romantic repertoire.

Dr William McVicker acted as consultant for the project and the opening recital was given by Dame Gillian Weir on the 5th October 2010.