The world-renowned Chapel at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, England is now the home of a large 4-manual custom Allen organ. The instrument was specifically designed to meet the demanding musical needs of the Chapel Choir. "There has always been a Chapel Choir at the Royal Military Academy. From the early years of the original chapel right through to the present day" said Simon Dinsdale, Sub-Organist. He continued; "For several years now the 1954 Rushworth and Dreaper organ has been struggling to keep pace with evermore demanding musical requirements."
The pipe organ is situated away from the choir and the action has become less responsive and noisy despite regular maintenance and modifications. Additionally, the organ's tonal shortcomings have become more obvious over recent years as the Chapel Choir has expanded its repertoire.
A report was commissioned to consider the rebuilding of the pipe organ. However, because the price tag was approaching seven figures and the organ location is unsatisfactory for Choir performances, digital alternatives were considered.
The Chapel's Organist and Director of Music, Peter Beaven, spent countless hours researching, talking with a number of organ manufacturers in the UK and abroad and visiting a number of installations around the country experiencing their different instruments, talking to their players and assimilating many good suggestions into the console design of the instrument they finally chose - created by Allen.
"Of the companies we looked at we felt that the Allen technology was the best available", said Mr. Disndale. "And the level of pre-sales service we received from the Allen team was outstanding. Allen Organ lent us an instrument in the Chapel to explore for a day and provided us with a technician who could voice each stop to any requirement we had at the push of a laptop button."
The diverse specification includes a unique Antiphonal String division. To see the stoplist, please click here.
The organ includes 52 speaker cabinets located in four areas of the Chapel. The majority are in the main pipe organ case, carefully placed to ensure that the old instrument is still fully playable and that none of the speaker cabinets are visible anywhere in the building. Slideshows and a video of the installation can be watched by visiting the Choir of the Royal Military Chapel website. Please click on the "organ" drop-down menu at the top of the home page or click the image below.
The Chapel staff reports the instrument is a joy to play; comfortably laid out and amply equipped with playing aids. They made a number of modifications to the standard Allen console in terms of layout which they agree work well. "Allen even fitted a Great to Pedal Combinations Coupled stop; something, that is usually missing from all sizes of American organs" they remarked.
"Would we prefer pipes" asked Mr. Dinsdale? "There are not many organists who would say 'No' to this, provided the pipe instrument is fit for purpose. Are we delighted with the digital alternative? Most definitely!"
The organ was featured in a Gala Concert performed
by Carlo Curley on June 19, 2011.