NEWS: Claire M Singer launches appeal to save world-famous Union Chapel organ, built in 1877 by ‘Father’ Henry Willis

NEWS: Claire M Singer launches appeal to save world-famous Union Chapel organ, built in 1877 by ‘Father’ Henry Willis

Claire M Singer has shared details of a fundraising appeal to save the Union Chapel organ, one of the finest in the world, built in 1877 by ‘Father’ Henry Willis, whose portfolio includes St Paul’s Cathedral and the Royal Albert Hall.

Singer has served as the organ’s Music Director for the past 11 years where she has not only meticulously cared for the instrument but has also built a hugely innovative programme of concerts, a world renowned festival and record label and a programme of education for all ages in honour of the instrument she is so passionate about. Singer has now launched an appeal as the historic instrument is currently at risk and in need of urgent repairs after a significant crack in the swell section appeared caused by unprecedented climate activity in the Chapel when the building temperature and humidity dramatically dropped during the pandemic’s forced closure, which was then followed by several extraordinary dry hot summers. Once the crack is repaired, the chapel will install a humidifier to ensure no future damage can occur through the adverse climate fluctuations we will continue to face.

The rare organ’s 146 years of service so far has seen it as central part of the Grade 1 listed Victorian Gothic architectural jewel it was specially built for. As well as a venue, which hosts the annual Organ Reframed festival that Singer founded and curates – the only festival of its kind in the UK – Union Chapel is an inclusive and progressive church and home to their charity The Margins Project, working with people facing homelessness and isolation.

The Henry Willis organ features on Claire M Singer’s latest album release, Saor [pronounced Sieur, meaning “free” in Scottish Gaelic], the first in a triptych of albums inspired by the Scottish mountains and her own experimental approach to the pipe organ, exploring rich harmonic textures and complex overtones creating ever-shifting melodic and rhythmic patterns. Across the album, tracks flutter, pulse and build into imposing masses. Some use electronic processing and distortion to suggest texture and weather, others rely solely on the organ for heady atmospheres and throughout the artist’s love and joy in the instrument that has become a huge part of her life is evident.

Full details of the fundraiser:

Listen to ‘Forrig’ from Saor, recorded at Union Chapel, on the 1877 ‘Father’ Henry Willis organ:

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Listen to Saor:

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