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 New Zealand Organ Manufactory



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Dr Ron Newton


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Oamaru's Historic Quarter




Oamaru Mail 21 July 2000:

New Zealand Organ Manufactory Opening July 22

Pipe dreams become reality

Big things are planned for the 'New Zealand Organ Manufactory' starting with the opening tomorrow afternoon.

Ron Newton is the man behind the plans and he has a few things prepared for the special day that will no doubt be of interest to the public.  The workshop, open every day for visitors, will be informally opened between 2:30 and 4 pm with a few speeches and some music.  And you may be wondering just what it is that Ron does have in mind for his new business.

"I will be looking after pipe and reed organs in this part of the country.  I can travel all over the South Island but will mostly be concentrating on Dunedin, North Otago and South Canterbury."

The New Zealand Organ Manufactory is situated in the historic precinct on Harbour Street and is named after the workshop of New Zealand's greatest Victorian organ builder, Edgar Jenkins, who built his in Christchurch in 1882.

"It's quite inspiring to be able to work in a building that dates from the same period as Jenkins'.  There is space for other craftsmen to ply their trade as well."

On display will be old and new organ building tools, photographs, and historical information.  One item bound to be of interest on the day will be a partially restored pipe organ from 1881, which has been a long-term hobby of Ron's.  He is an avid collector of historic instruments.  Recent projects are the restoration of the organ in Herbert Presbyterian Church following the fire last year, and the near completion of the Hampden Presbyterian Church organ.

"We may even get some sound out of it on the day.  This is a business that takes a while to get going, but I've received a lot of interest from churches, and am hoping that it will inspire those people with old reed organs tucked away in their sheds to bring them out and get them restored," Ron said.


Otago Daily Times 5 October 2000 p11:

Church organ restored

The distinctive tone of the organ at the Hampden Presbyterian Church has been restored, thanks to the efforts of Oamaru organ restorer and tuner Ron Newton.

Mr Newton has been restoring the 101-year-old organ during the winter months and yesterday it was back in church where it was given the "thumbs-up" by the church's organist, Florence Wilson.

Made in Canada by the Bell Organ and Piano Company  in 1899, the organ was in poor mechanical repair and it was hard to get the sound out before its restoration, Mr Newton said.

It was a very good example of a reed organ and it had survived "beautifully", he said.  The casework was hardly scratched, which was rare.

Mr Newton is also restoring organs from churches at Maheno and Dunedin.


Oamaru Mail 6 October 2000 p3:

Hampden organ lovingly restored

The rich sounds of organ music will again reverberate through Hampden Presbyterian Church following the restoration of its 101-year-old American reed organ.  Oamaru pipe and reed organ restorer Ronald Newton worked on the Canadian made organ over winter, replacing its soundboard, patching bellows and "generally cleaning up" the instrument.

Because the soundboard was held together with gelatine-based animal glue, it was riddled with borer, Dr Newton said.  The foot pedals received new carpet and new metal.  "The original chrome had turned green and had fallen off," he said.  Dr Newton treated the wood and polished the case, which has survived in very good condition.

The organ operates on a vacuum principle, with the organist pumping air from bellows inside the instrument, creating a vacuum.  Stops above the keyboard are pulled out to let outside air into the reeds to produce sound when the keys are played.

To enable organists to play without the effort of pumping all the air from the bellows by foot, Dr Newton has installed a vacuum cleaner into the back of the organ.  The vacuum cleaner is to sit under the floorboards, sucking air from the bellows by a hose attached to the instrument's back, muffled by carpet and floorboards.

The organ came from the Masonic lodge in Port Chalmers, and may have originally been in a private home, Dr Newton said.  It was made by the Bell Organ and Piano Company in 1899, and was very large for its kind.  Most American reed organs featured three or four different stops, or sound variations, but this one had eight, producing a very loud, rich sound.  Some of the stops were installed simply to look impressive, however, and did not make a significant difference to the sound, he said.

Dr Newton has a PhD in the history of pipe and reed organs and completed a three year apprenticeship to become an organ restorer and repairer.

The restoration process was very precise, he said, due to the large number of springs that needed to be adjusted to the right tension. "Everything needs to move easily without being too sloppy.  And it must look splendid," he said.

He is next to restore the reed organ at St. Andrew's Church in Maheno.


High Country Herald 24 January 2001 p4:

He has organs in his blood

Behind the doors of an old Victorian warehouse in Oamaru's Harbour and Tyne precinct the art of organ restoration is being practised by organ expert Ronald Newton.

Highly qualified in the history of organs and the playing of the instrument, Mr Newton also has trained as an organ builder, and the results of his first completely overhauled organ are to be displayed next month.

He has restored the 1938 Herbert Brett organ at St Andrews, Maheno, over the past three months, and it is to be opened in February ina  service featuring David Burchell, the organist from Dunedin's St. Pauls Cathedral.

Mr Newton has a long association with organs.  He began playing when he was 15.

A Bachelor of Music degree from Canterbury University was next.  Since then he has been awarded a PhD for studying the history of organ building and organ builders in New Zealand, taught the organ at Wanganui Collegiate, studied music history at Berkeley in the United States, and gained an honours degree in music history from Canterbury University.  He has also been an organist at Auckland Cathedral, and every year for the past six has taken two tour buses on a Historic Places tour around various organs in Canterbury.

"It is simply that I have never been able to think of anything else."

He moved to Oamaru last year andcontinues to teach, and service and restore reed and pipe organs as New Zealand Organ Manufactory, named after his favourite New Zealand organ builder Edgar Jenkins' Christchurch workshop.

Aside from his great passion for it, Mr Newton believes the instrument is experiencing a rise in popularity.

"Interest in the organ is growing again but not for religious reasons but simply because the organ is an instrument in its own right.  People love listening to organ music.

"They are lovely pieces of furniture.  They are actual working pieces of Victoriana.  People will be keen to have them for sentimental reasons."

His next major contract is to overhaul the first organ built in Canterbury in 1875 situated at St Bartholomews Church at Kaiapoi.

Mr Newton hopes to build his own organ in the future, with a New Zealand influence, rather than copying the traditional English style, as well as a little street style pipe organ to be used at Victorian fairs and fetes in Oamaru.

"There hasn't been a new pipe organ built in New Zealand since the late 1980s.

"If I built an organ it would be more in the style of a small instrument that someone could have in their home."


Oamaru Mail 5 March 2001 p1:

Sound of music fills country church

The restored organ at St Andrew's Church, Maheno, has been pronounced an excellent instrument by the organist of Dunedin's St Paul's Cathedral.

David Burchell gave a performance in the church on Friday night, testing the instrument's capabilities with works by Purcell, Hayes, Mendelssohn, Scarlatti and Bach.

Restorer Ron Newton said the congregation had never heard the real sound of the organ.  He began the restoration of the 1938 Brett pipe organ in September, cleaning, repairing and revoicing the pipes, overhauling the instrument's actions and electrical components.

Friday's performance, a fundraiser for the Association of Anglican Women, was the official opening of the organ.  "It's quite a privilege to have David here.  It brings the whole restoration project to a very satisfactory close," Mr Newton said.

Mr Burchell, previously an organist at the Oxford University Church in England, said the single-keyboard organ had a gentle sound fitting for the size of the building.  "The emphasis is not on the sheer brute force you get out of a big instrument.  It's gentle, mellow, but it still has a brightness to it."  It was more of a challenge to play a smaller instrument because on a bigger organ the musician was spoiled for choice, he said.

"It's a very useful instrument for a parish church," Mr Newton said.


Oamaru Mail 9 September 2002 p1:

Old pipe organ now as good as new

 The organ at St Alban's church in Kurow is dust and leaf-free, and ready to make bright sounds again.  Oamaru organ repairer Dr Ron Newton has been performing surgery on the 91-year-old instrument, built in London.  The pneumatic or puffer bellows-type pipe organ needed a clean and overhaul.

"It has been in any number of churches around Oamaru and Dunedin since it was built.  Smaller organs were made to travel a lot.  It hasn't had a good clean and overhaul for many years.  Different parts of the organ were full of leaves.  Organ blowers also would sit outside the church so it was sucking in dirty air... they get full of different kinds of rubbish.  All the action needed adjusting," he told the Oamaru Mail.

The 'nonagerian' was considered quite modern when it was made, Dr Newton said.  "The main reason it's different is through the use of the pneumatic action, and that most organs of that size would be simply mechanical.  It's absolutely packed with pneumatic technology which in my opinion is overkill," he said with a laugh.

All the organ's pipes have been taken to Dr Newton's Oamaru workshop and repaired, and then tuned as they were put back in.  Most of the work on the organ has been done.  The refreshed organ could be heard at St Alban's in November when the Oamaru Choral Society was to perform.  "It's got a lovely, very strong, bright sound," Dr Newton said.


Oamaru Mail 27 January 2003:

Special attention for Oamaru organ

Oamaru's organ specialist Dr Ron Newton has come to the rescue of the antique pipe organ belonging to St Patrick's Basilica.  He began cleaning and overhauling the 1870s organ last week.  Most organs like it needed similar treatment every 30 to 50 years, he said.

The most dangerous part of the job was reaching the Positive Organ Company instrument at the top of a very steep spiral staircase.  "There's a number of people who won't go up there.  It is the narrowest and steepest freestanding spiral staircase I've seen in a Catholic church," Dr Newton said with a laugh.

The English-built organ featured "very prettily painted pipes" and was slightly larger than the pipe organ Dr Newton recently restored at St Alban's church in Kurow.  It was made by the same company.  Once cleaned, the Basilica organ would again make a "lovely sweet sound."  The organ's swell box in which the pipes sat would be improved, "so it should sound brighter and louder," he said.


Otago Daily Times 16 August 2003 p20:

Truly moving music from organ

After 100 years in shadow, the organ from the Church of St Dunstan finally saw the light of day yesterday.

The organ, the exact age of which no-one seems to know, was moved from its position in the church to a truck to be taken to Oamaru to be restored by Dr Ron Newton.  It is believed to be the first time the organ had moved since the church opened in 1903.

Dr Newton will be tuning the Geo. Prince & Co organ, and checking the woodwork, before the church centennial celebrations on November 23.

The church has been given a grant of $5000 from Central Lakes Trust to paint the church's side windows, build a new altar and restore the organ.

Centennial organising committee member Billie Tohill said the organ would take two months to restore but was still in good tune despite its age.  She had been playing the organ for about 40 years and said she preferred it to the more modern organs as it had a deeper and truer sound.


The Northern Outlook 17 October 2004:

Doing the dusting

If there are any spiders in the Rangiora Methodist Church they are going to have to find a new place to live.  The pipe organ at the church, former home of 50 years worth of dust, dirt and spiderwebs, has been cleaned by Oamaru organ builder Ron Newton.  The cleaning of the 600-plus pipes in the organ took nine days.  Broken pipes were also repaired, and the pitch of the organ altered to match the piano.  The cleaning follows the refurbishment of the church, to remove the dust caused by the renovations.

The organ started life in 1874 at the Holy Trinity in Avonside before moving to the East Belt (now Fitzgerald Avenue) Methodist Church in 1882.  It arrived at its current location in 1907, where it has since been rebuilt twice.


February 2005:

St Matthews' organ heads to new home

Lovingly handled by New Zealand's organ master Ron Newton, the 106-yr-old zinc and pewter pipe organ in St Matthews Church has been carefully dismantled piece by piece and is on the move to St Patrick's basilica in Oamaru.  The mission involves dismantling 1100 pipes, which will fill two trucks for the journey south.

When the St Matthews parish in Masterton's Church Street decided its huge pipe organ was not meeting modern requirements, it went out to tender.  The St Matthews organ is a Hobday organ, one of several around the country, and was the first built by Arthur Adrian Hobday, the son of Arthur Hobday senior.  Dr Newton's interest was a godsend and a "happy set of circumstances", according to April Bamford, who has arranged the organ sale.

Dr Newton had played on it 15 years ago in Masterton and knew its history.  He also heard it was up for sale and was thrilled with the prospect of it being included in his patch of the South Island, where there are several other Hobday organs in churches.  When the Methodist church in Masterton closed and was turned into the Wesley Wing at the Wairarapa Arts Centre, its Hobday organ was sold to a church at Darfield in Canterbury.

Dr Newton, director of the New Zealand Organ Manufactory, based in the historic area of Oamaru, is well-known in his field as an organist, tuner, repairer and restorer of pipe and reed organs.

Mrs Bamford said it was a difficult decision to sell the organ but the reality was it did not match up with church activities today.  Good organ acoustics is vital in a church and St Matthews has been struggling with the organ being built into a side wall of the chancel and not projecting the music appropriately.  "We would have people say they could not hear music at all from some parts of the church", Mrs Bamford said.  It has been replaced with a Rodgers Trillium 927 digital organ that can be moved about the church and which plays through a series of speakers within the building.  Mrs Bamford is especially excited with the new organ as she is the co-ordinator of Music at St Matthews, a series of public musical events throughout the year.

The old organ was built in 1899 for the Matserton Anglican church on the site where the New World supermarket in Church Street now stands.  It was enlarged in 1909 and in 1913 was moved to the brick St Matthews on the present site.  The building was extensively damaged in the 1942 earthquake and the pipes were knocked around.  In 1958, the existing church was opened and the organ re-established there.


Otago Daily Times 4 March 2005 p11:

Pot maker paints organ pipes

Richard Bowering is usually associated with painting pots, not pipes.  He is helping organ restorer Ron Newton who is working on a 1910 pipe organ from St. Peter's Anglican Church in Caversham, Dunedin.  The organ was made by Englishman Edgar Jenkins, who built organs in New Zealand between 1874 and 1920.  St Peter's Church has decided to get a larger instrument and so the organ is for sale.  Dr Newton said the aluminium paint applied to the pipes in 1944 had deteriorated and needed refinishing.  That was a job Dr Newton usually did with a spray can.  However, he asked Mr Bowering to paint the pipes with the metallic paint he used on the pots, for a "professional finish."

Mr Bowering moved to Oamaru in 2001 and opened a shop and studio in the historic precinct, making and selling painted pots.  Victorian organ pipes were always painted in complicated patterns but, from about 1905, that changed to plain silver, Dr Newton said.

The organ was 4.2m high - "if anyone wants to put it in their living room", he said.  There were two other organs in Oamaru built by Edgar Jenkins.  They were at the Methodist Church in Eden St and St Paul's Presbyterian Church.


Taranaki Daily News 22 June 2005:

Recital celebrates organ renovation

Sweet music and true notes are again being played on the antique organ at Otakeho's St John's church.  Just part of a major refurbishment of the 112-year-old South Taranaki parish church, the rebuilding of the organ took just a little over two months, the president of the church's guild and management committee, Mary Coombes, said today.  "But it was worth every minute of it when we heard it played at a special celebration on Monday night.  It was just beautiful."  She said almost 70 people packed the tiny church for a recital by Ronald Newton, of Christchurch, the pipe and reed organ expert who restored the 89-year-old organ.  The organ, which was originally donated to the church to commemorate a member of the Le Fleming family, was installed in 1916.  "It was completely taken apart, there were bits of it spread throughout the church.  Now it has all new leathers and has been completely rebuilt.  It was extremely clever work," she said.  

The Reverend Peter Barleyman said the $6500 organ restoration, partly funded by a TSB grant, was made necessary as the leathers had been badly eaten away by time, use and mice.  "It was essentially operating on one lung, but now it could cater for a much bigger church - if we ever needed to extend."  He said the recital performed by Dr Newton comprised a selection of classical pieces that were designed for the type of organ represented at St John's.  "The organ is an English-made Positive, and Dr Newton said it was built of the finest materials and has quite magnificent pneumatic capacity."  He said the organ recital had been complemented by a piano accordian selection from Campbell and Christopher Thwaites, the splendid voices of Bev Perrett and Janice Carrol and Karaoke Idol Hohepa Murray.  "There was also a magnificent white mulled wine made to a Roman recipe that dated to the first century, which added a little extra spice to the evening," he said.


Timaru Herald 6 November 2005 p1:

Keith makes sure his home is the most organ-ised in town

Temuka man Keith Davey is right at home with a pipe organ.  And his pipe organ is right at home with him.  Mr Davey had the impressive Jenkins organ installed in his Temuka home six months ago but his affair with the instrument dates back over 50 years to his induction as a church organist.  His son Paul had recently set up a smaller organ in his home and Mr Davey began to toy with the idea of doing the same.  "I've always wanted one," he said.

Noted organist and organ restorer Ron Newton found the organ, which came from St Peters Anglican Church in Dunedin, and the major task of installing such a large instrument into a family home began.  Mr Davey's wife Winsome, was away at the time and the bets were on as to whether she would stay long enough to have a cup of tea once she saw what the boys had been up to.  But Mr and Mrs Davey and their pipe organ have managed to live in perfect harmony.

The couple have planned a musical recital to commission the organ at their home at 1 Lachlan Street, Temuka, on November 26, from 2-5pm.  Organists Ron Newton and Russell Kent will be joined by Jenny Davey, cellist, and Richard Bowering, bass soloist, and other musicians, to celebrate the occasion.  Members of the public are invited in return for gold coin donation toward cancer research.  Mrs Davey suggested guests might bring a chair, cushion or rug to enjoy the musical from the garden.


The Havelock North Village Press 7 March 2006 p6:

Travelling's just part of the job

Apparently there isn't an official title for the trade of organ restoring. Reporter Mark Story thinks visiting organ expert Dr Ron Newton should coin one. As well as playing, restoring and tuning both reed and pipe organs, Ron is a musicologist, historian and teacher and he's here in the village to diagnose and treat St. Luke's ailing pipe organ - his biggest project yet.


Assignments across the country make your job a transient one - is this a perk or a pitfall?

I enjoy travelling immensely, and look forward to my tuning rounds, which take me all over the country four times a year. While I am away for a month each trip, I always travel with an assistant. My family and I live in Oamaru, which we absolutely adore, but the travel would be no different wherever we lived. We are looking forward to when we can travel together. We homeschool, so some sort of house bus with room for my gear would be perfect. We have all been up here for the Havelock North contract, and Tani and our three children have been staying in Waipawa, and are now in Coromandel at the family home, awaiting my imminent arrival. This has been our largest contract to date, and as the business grows, the North Island will be seeing more of us.


Why is the pipe organ synonymous with worship above any other instrument?

After the Reformation very few churches in the new denominations had pipe organs, as they are not commanded in Scripture to be part of worship. So until the middle of the 19th Century most congregations sang metrical psalms only, unaccompanied. Under the influence of German Idealism, or Transcendentalism, the aesthetic movement opened the way for churches to purchase organs, sing hymns, adopt gothic architecture, stained glass windows, and many other aesthetic innovations, and so the greatest numbers of organs built in the latter part of the 19th and early part of the 20th centuries were for churches which would not have contemplated possessing one even a decade before. From this time on, the pipe organ gained its "spiritual" or "other-worldly" status, as evidenced in films and books such as Phantom of the Opera and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and churches simply could not contemplate putting on church services without one. Apart from this trend, the pipe organ has always been the most efficient means of accompanying the singing of large numbers of people.


There seems to be a strong link between organ music and sport - particularly baseball.

The use of pipe organs in theatres, exhibitions, circuses and sports arenas has been a development of the 19th century, when the industrial revolution enabled pipe organs to grow louder, stronger and more varied. When skating became immensely popular in the 1880s, pipe organs began to replace instrumental bands as the entertainment of choice. As orchestral musicians began to unionise, theatres began to install organs (some automatic) to accompany silent films, for the same reason: They couldn't afford to hire musicians anymore. An English telephone engineer came to the party and the Wurlitzer (with its many clones) was born. The Dunedin Town Hall organ was at Wembley Stadium in London before it came out here, and of course there have been a number of Wurlitzers, the most notable being at the Civic Theatre in Auckland, now in Southward's Car Museum in Paraparaumu.


Are NZ pipe organs denomination specific?

N.T. Pearce of Invercargill, then Christchurch, was a leading Methodist, being a Trustee as well as an organist, and a leader in the Temperance movement. He built organs mostly for Methodist churches, North Island examples being in Wanganui and Hastings. The Hobdays of Wellington built quite a number for Catholic churches, Gisborne, Napier and Hastings included, but he was agnostic. Otherwise, no. Church organs were built specifically to accompany choirs, so have a variety of quiter sounds, while Town Hall organs were totally different in scale and use. A lot of organists would like their instruments to be miniature versions of secular instruments, but they have to consider what it is they are trying to achieve.


Do you think Britney Spears should have driven with her baby on her lap the other week?

Well, we had Britney over for dinner last week, and she told us the whole story. You media people got it all wrong! She was giving her dwarf brother a driving lesson.


St. Luke's organist Elizabeth Curtis mentioned pipe organists are often either intimidated by its power or become megalomaniacs.

When on a tour of western Victoria, in Australia, looking at historic pipe organs I asked a little old lady next to me on the bus how she became an organist. She said that when she was a little girl her grandmother sat her beside her on the organ bench while she played for a church service, "and I've been a megalomaniac ever since," she told me. Others never get beyond selecting the same stops for accompanying everything, never develop beyond piano technique, and never graduate past Allan's Harmonious Voluntaries. I suppose it's like driving a Ferrari as if it were a Ford Anglia. Certainly the technical requirements for playing an organ are far greater than any other instrument. Someone once told me while l was assistant organist at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Auckland, that playing a pipe organ for a cathedral service involved more concentration and co-ordinated movement than landing a jumbo jet. While pilots also have a captive audience, landing a congregation with a Bach Toccata at the end of a service with a bishop or royalty present is much more fun, I'm sure.


While writing your PhD thesis 'Organ Building in New Zealand 1895-1930: A Documentation of Cultural Context,' what was a personal highlight/of most interest?

Again, travelling the country on a Suzuki GN250 with Tani, laptop, tent and all the gear aboard for five weeks over a summer, followed the next summer by a similar trip on a GS450 for three months, searching out small-town newspaper archives and church records, in all manner of decrepitude, for transcription for the thesis. Discovering forgotten instruments was also good.


A pipe organ restoration site is akin to an archeological dig - what's the strangest thing you've discovered/found while on project?

Skeletons of rats, mice, birds and cats turn up in unexpected places from time to time. Old organ builders used anything at hand to achieve certain jobs. Jenkins, our most important 19th century builder, used his children's exercise books for packing the bearers, so in opening up the soundboard one is confronted with elegant, spidery copperplate of "the cat sat on the mat" variety, not having seen the light of day since the 1870s. Old newspaper fragments, some with dates, were also used for some odd packing jobs.


With its history, intricate yet handcrafted workings and secretive nooks within the chamber, there seems to be a certain sanctity associated with the pipe organs. Have you ever had anything, ah, rather unexplainable happen...

Pipe organs are extremely complex, and until the Industrial Revolution nothing came remotely close to the clock and the organ. Both of these began to be reintroduced into the West in the 8th century, and achieved a massive jump in technological complexity in the 11th and 15th Centuries. In the 19th Century some functions were taken over by pneumatic and later electric (and then of course electronic and now digital) technologies, but the heart and soul of the pipe organ is still fundamentally that of the ancient world. Sometimes one is confronted by very intricate faults that seem to defy solution, but with immense patience everything gets sorted out. I have never heard one play itself for no good reason, although I have heard stories of organ builders meeting the departed souls of famous organists in their organ lofts. If anything turns up at St. Luke's, you'll be the first to know.


Waiapu News Issue 19 June 2006 p12:

St. Luke's organ back on deck

A little over 12 months ago parishioners at St. Luke's, Havelock North were faced with the very real possibility of losing their 80 year-old pipe organ forever.

Built in 1926 and overhauled in the 70s, the Lawton & Osbourne organ was not in a happy state. Vicar Brian Dawson recalls where things were at: "We would get extraneous notes, just coming from nowhere, at the most inconvenient times. Sitting beside the organ chamber was like standing behind a 747 at takeoff. God was most certainly not in that rushing wind! And then, for no discernible reason whatsoever, every now and then the thing would just refuse to work at all, usually in the middle of a wedding! In purely technical terms it was pretty much stuffed."

Stuffed it was then, and the $80,000 estimate for repairs was more than a little daunting, particularly as there were no guarantees that would be the end of it (one eventual quote topped the $200,000 mark). Given all this, St Luke's vestry went to an AGM with the recommendation that the organ be replaced with a digital alternative.

The meeting was quite well attended! With a clear 'No' vote recorded, the parish vestry was left to find the money needed. The response to calls for financial assistance, says Brian Dawson, has been "amazing. People have really caught onto the fact that a church organ, and not just at St Luke's, is really an asset to the community. Weddings, funerals, all manner of public occasions benefit from this instrument so it's more than appropriate that everyone helps make it viable." The viability of the project was greatly aided by a chance meeting with the principal of a new company, the New Zealand Organ Manufactory. "For a long time," Brian notes, "there has really been only one company in the country, based in the South Island, and Ken Aplin doing mainly tunings and smaller jobs in the North. That meant prices could be quite steep. Now, with Ron Newton and the Organ Manufactory taking over Ken's business, there is another option." Having all the refurbishment work done on site at St. Luke's meant some disruptions, but also saved the parish a lot of money in transportation. Imagine freighting an entire pipe organ around the country! Brian Dawson says the end result has not been cheap, but it has certainly not been anything like the worst-case scenario originally put to the parish. A public concert to officially unveil the newly refurbished and enlarged organ is to be held on June 29 featuring renowned Wellington organist Douglas Mews.


NZ Catholic 25 February 2007:

Hobday organ enriches worship at Tauranga

 One of New Zealand's oldest parishes now has the country's oldest surviving Hobday organ to enhance worship.  The organ at St Mary Immaculate, Tauranga, was blessed by the parish priest, Fr Joe Stack, with Frs Gerard Boyce and Nicholas Dillon following vespers of the Divine Office for the Presentation of the Lord.

Fr Stack spoke of the importance of music in celebrating the divine mysteries.  He quoted Pope Benedict XVI, who recently blessed a pipe organ in Germany and said: "The organ has always been considered, and rightly so, the king of musical instruments, because it takes up the sounds of creation and gives resonance to the fullness of human sentiments.  By transcending the merely human sphere as all music of quality does, it evokes the divine... The manifold possibilities of the organ in some way remind us of the immensity and the magnificence of God."

Tauranga's new organ was built by Arthur Hobday in Wellington in 1898 for St John's Presbyterian church, Greymouth.  A seminarian on placement at Tauranga, Ken Joblin, heard through Fr Dillon, from Gore, that the organ was available.  He did a feasibility study, got permission, raised the $30,000 needed and arranged for the organ to be moved and reassembled.  The three-tonne organ left Greymouth on a truck on January 14 and the giant, three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle was reassembled by February 2 - the smell of coal dust being replaced by linseed oil and polish as the kauri woodwork was restored to its original state.

Dr Ron Newton of the New Zealand Organ Manufactory, who reassembled the Hobday, said, "The organ is not just a collection of great sounds - it is a collection of all the elements of creation: leather from animals, wood from trees, metal and air.  It is a symbol of creation, bringing together many disparate elements as one, just like the Church."

The Tauranga church already had a 1922 stained glass window from the Sisters of Mercy convent in Greymouth in its Blessed Sacrament chapel.

A recital of organ and choral music on February 2 featured Fr Dillon, soloist David Griffiths (former singing tutor at Holy Cross Seminary, Auckland) and the parish's new adult choir, Schola Mariae.  The parish has rich choral participation at all Masses.  Choir mistress Beverly Roberts has kept a high standard, encompassing congregational singing, three choirs, chanted Masses and contemporary Christian music.  Since Mr Joblin's arrival, two new choirs have been formed - Schola Mariae, which sings Gregorian chants and Latin motets, and Sursum Corda, a choir from St Mary's primary school.

Although the cost of the organ and its installation have been met, funds are being raised for scholarships so young musicians who wish to play the Hobday organ have the tuition they need.


Nelson Anglican Witness February 2008 p1:

'Tuning Up' for Worship

Watching Dr Ron Newton ('the organ man') at work is like watching a vintage car buff enthuse over an exceptional paint job.  Within minutes of meeting Ron at St. Michael's, he had the Mason & Hamlin reed organ in pieces on the floor, oohing and aahing about everything from its Brazilian Rosewood case to its vacuum bellows system and unique construction.

Despite some keys having been chewed by mice he pronounced the organ to be "in good condition for its age" with no borer.  Modelled on a French harmonium, the date in pencil on the first key attests to its completion on 19 September 1868.  The neighbouring key bears the marks of an overhaul in 1960.

The organ came to St. Michael's from All Saints in Nelson when that church acquired a new pipe organ in 1884.  Ron noted an interesting anomaly on the bass stop, with the word 'bass' having been mis-spelled 'base', making the organ even more individual.  After cleaning a piece of grit from one of the reeds, Ron demonstrated his considerable skill in coaxing the best sound out of an organ (he has a PhD in Music and a degree in Music Performance).  Every three months Ron travels around the country for a month at a time tuning and repairing both domestic and church pipe and reed organs, and giving recitals.

Director of the NZ Organ Manufactory based in Oamaru, Ron is passionate about all things 'organa' - especially the history of their manufacture and use in New Zealand.  His thesis on the subject can be accessed via his website, nzorgman.co.nz.

Jacqueline Brown - Waimea Parish


Auckland Anglican Cathedral Music Foundation Maestoso March 2009 p1:

The Organs..

The Cathedral organ marked the fortieth anniversary of its opening in late 2008 and on 25 March we celebrate the centenary of the George Croft organ in St Mary's with a special Evensong sung by the women's voices.

We are delighted with the very high standard of work exhibited by our new organ tuner, Dr Ron Newton.  The organ sounds like a completely different instrument and remains in tune longer than previously was the case.

Philip Smith - Cathedral Organist