Recreated ‘Medieval’ Organ to complement Medieval Church

The oak organ case arrives The oak organ case arrives An unique musical instrument is being unveiled at St Fagans National History Museum on 8-9 April. The highly decorated organ, which has quite a different sound to the modern church organ, recreates the now lost medieval organ. It will recreate the authentic sound medieval church music and complete the interior of the medieval St Teilo’s Church at St Fagans.

The organ is based on a few surviving medieval organs parts and has been built using traditional materials and manufacturing techniques and using cutting edge research and ‘creative archaeology’ to recreate the lost sound of the medieval organ.

The organ will be launched publicly with a workshop and presentations on 8–9 April at the reconstructed medieval church of St Teilo at St Fagans National History Museum, Cardiff.

Assembled OrganAssembled OrganAll are welcome to attend the launch events in St Teilo’s. There is a practical workshop on Friday 8 April 10.30-12.30 and 14.00-16.00 and a general presentation on Saturday 9 April (10.30-11.15, repeated 11.45-12.30). However, since space in the church is limited, places must be reserved by contacting Keith Beasley at or 01248 382490.

This is one of the first major results of a research project: The Experience of Worship, funded by the Arts & Humanities and Economic & Social Research Councils, which operates in close collaboration with St Fagans Museum and Salisbury Cathedral.

Professor John Harper, who is leading the research at Bangor University’s School of Music explains: “The aim is to explore what the experience of late medieval worship was like for those who participated in it, and how we can connect our present experience of surviving medieval cathedrals and churches with the texts, artefacts and music that were once used in them. That includes the late medieval organ, of which almost all trace has disappeared in Britain – even though documents and music testify to its wide use in church at that time.”

Prof Harper explains further: “The organ is attempting to recreate the type of instrument known to have been used around 1520, the period that St Teilo’s itself has been decorated and furnished to represent.”

 The organ has been designed and constructed by the Worksop firm of Goetze and Gwynn, who have much experience of historic organs. The oak case is a simplified form of the only surviving pre-Reformation organ case in the British Isles which still stands in the parish church of Old Radnor (Powys). The pipes are based in part on early West Country examples – chosen because of the medieval trade links with Wales across the Bristol Channel. The hand-operated bellows, which provide wind for the organ, are based on medieval illustrations.

The doors of the organ are magnificently decorated – painted with scenes from the Annunciation and Nativity, again using materials authentic to the early sixteenth century. The work has been undertaken by Fleur Kelly, an Italian-trained specialist in medieval and Renaissance painting techniques, whose work on the rood screen and panels will already be familiar to visitors to St Teilo’s.

The organ will enable new research into the late medieval and early modern British repertoire for organ, and organ with voices. It has two chromatic keyboards with different ranges, the second designed to demonstrate changes in late Tudor performance practice. Though it is intended that St Teilo’s will provide a permanent base for the organ, it has been designed to be moved so that it can be available elsewhere for specialist use, educational outreach, advanced teaching, and research. A residency is planned in Bangor Cathedral in early 2012.


 See and hear the organ here and here.

Publication date: 1 April 2011