The organ of Selby Abbey is one of the finest romantic instruments in Britain. It was built in 1909 by William Hill and Son, the founder of the London Organ building Company. It was considered to be the best organ that the Abbey could have obtained at that time and represented a high point in the course of the British craft that was soon to be lost. The organ case is the work of his grandson, Dr Arthur Hill and Oldrid Scott, son of the celebrated George Gilbert Scott. Arthur Hill was trained as an architect in the office of George Gilbert Scott, where he worked alongside Bodley and Pearson – two other architects who designed beautiful organ cases. Hill’s finest organ cases can be found at Selby Abbey, Chichester Cathedral, Peterborough Cathedral and Sydney Town Hall.
For more than a century, the instrument has served generations of Abbey congregations for regular services, special events, weddings and funerals. It has also been used for concerts and recitals and many of the worlds greatest organists have performed on it, including Jean Guillou, Titulaire of Saint-Eustache in Paris; Dame Gillian Weir DBE; Marilyn Mason; Francis Jackson CBE; Carlo Curley and Daniel Roth. But it was the three LP recordings by the Italian Virtuoso, Fernando Germani, for HMV in the early 1960s that made the organ famous. As one of the outstanding organists of all time, Germani had the most formidable technique of his generation and will be forever remembered as the fount of enormous musical and technical inspiration. Unlike most of the other great master organists of Europe, he held a liturgical position for a number of years as the Pope’s Organist at St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
By 2012, the organ had already become regularly unreliable and the rate of deterioration made it clear that it was nearing the end of its active life. It had been patched and repaired a number of times but the moment had finally come for a complete restoration to ensure the glorious sound of this world famous organ could be heard by generations to come.
With the financial backing of the Liz and Terry Bramall Foundation, a major new appeal was launched the same year to raise the estimated £520,000 needed. The appeal was also supported by The Prince of Wales Charitable Foundation and endorsed by many famous international organists.
Thanks to the heart-warming support of a growing number of Benefactors from across the country and abroad, we have raised the funds needed and the restoration by Principal Pipe Organs of York has begun under the direction of Organ Consultant, Paul Hale.