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    THANK YOU: St Peter’s Lutheran Church in Stawell is celebrating the return of its historic Hill and Son chamber organ. Oscar Herrick is pictured playing the instrument alongside, from left, Australian Pipe Organs restorer Daniel Bittner and restoration appeal committee members John Simpkin and Karen Jenkins. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER
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    St Peter's Lutheran Church in Stawell is celebrating the return of its historic pipe organ. Church members Karen Jenkin and John Simpkin listen to Oscar Herrick play the organ as Australian Pipe Organ restorer Daniel Bittner looks on.

Stawell church organ home again

By SARAH MATTHEWS

Stawell residents and visitors will once again be able to hear the sounds of one of the oldest organs in Australia following the completion of a $90,000 restoration project. 

Organ specialists last week reinstalled the 1858 Hill and Son chamber organ in St Peter’s Lutheran Church.

The restoration, completed by Australian Pipe Organs technicians in Melbourne, was made possible following a fundraising appeal.



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Restoration appeal committee chair Karen Jenkins said it was a ‘great relief’ to welcome the rare instrument back home. 

“The organ is of very high heritage and musical significance,” she said. 

“It is the oldest substantial chamber organ in Victoria, the oldest Hill and Son organ in Australia and an extremely rare, if not unique, example in the world of a Hill and Son chamber organ from this period.”

William Hill, founder of Hill and Son, was the most important organ-builder in Britain in the mid-19th century.

“Our organ was built in England in 1858 and shipped out to the colony of Victoria,” Mrs Jenkins said.

“It was built for a Mr Davis in Melbourne and when he left Australia it was auctioned by Beauchamps and ended up in an Anglican church, St Andrew’s in Brighton. It was in their church hall, which was gratuitous, because their church had burnt down.

“But the organ survived and then it was moved on to Holy Trinity in Stratford in Gippsland. They were going to put electronic workings in it but they couldn’t afford it, so they decided to sell it.

“A local pharmacist in Stawell, John Kriewaldt, went down and bought it and brought it back up to Stawell on a ute and trailer.”

Mrs Jenkins said the Hill and Son chamber organ had been in St Peter’s in Stawell since 1968. 

“The church community has kept it going, with John Kriewaldt’s help,” she said. 

“It was refurbished back in 1996 but the recent work is the first major work carried out on the organ in its history.”

Church leaders launched an appeal in 2018 to raise money for the restoration project. 

“We were able to raise money quite quickly,” Mrs Jenkins said.

“We received money from foundations and Heritage Victoria, Northern Grampians Shire, the harness racing club and private donors.”

Australian Pipe Organs workers dismantled the organ and relocated the instrument to a Melbourne workshop in 2020.

Daniel Bittner oversaw the project, including the reinstallation of the organ in Stawell last week.

“It was finished earlier but we couldn’t bring it back because of the restrictions, we couldn’t leave Melbourne,” he said.

Mr Bittner and his team dismantled the organ to refurbish the windchests, action and wind system.

“Inside, the action was completely restored,” he said.

“The pipes were all rounded out, repaired and revoiced to make them sound the best they can. 

“The front pipes were sprayed in gold, the case was fixed up, there’s a new pedal board, new stops and new stop knobs.

“There’s also a new stool – the wood matches the one they would have had originally.”

Mrs Jenkins said Reverend Chris Raatz rededicated the organ during a service on Sunday.

She said committee members were in the process of organising a gala concert to thank project donors. 

“That’s planned for early next year,” she said.

“We have to wait a little while because the organ needs to settle back into its home.

“We’re looking forward to hearing it being played again and making it available for people to look at.” 

The entire November 24, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

The entire November 24, 2021 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!