Highfield Church

Highfield Church


Wyvern Organs has just installed a new, custom built organ in this well-known landmark church in a most popular and picturesque part of Southampton. This adds to our other installations in this city, some of which are over 30 years in situ.

The requirement was to replace an ageing and very unreliable Walker pipe organ, which had suffered from poor maintenance, mainly due to a disastrous rebuild in the seventies at the hands of a local firm. Confined to a difficult layout, the pipework was voiced very forcibly in order to escape an elevated and rather difficult chamber. The organist, buried underneath the organ behind a screen, facing a wall, had little idea of what sound was being produced and felt somewhat inadequate in most liturgies. The pedal organ was particularly unreliable and many of the large (and inaccessible) wooden pipes had split due to the heating system, and were not speaking at all. Many stop sliders were jammed or only half drew making the whole organ very unpleasant to play.

The church whilst not particularly large, does suffer musically due to an almost complete lack of natural acoustic due to soft furnishings, a wooden floor and a relatively low wooden roof. Having had various aisles added to it over the years, it has become an awkward shape, allowing poor tonal egress from the organ chamber. Wyvern opted for a belt and braces audio system on this organ comprising over nineteen separate loudspeaker channels and over 2000 watts of audio power. A ‘West End’ section, including a brilliant “Festival Trumpet” was also deployed to give support when there is a large congregation and to announce the entrance of brides and for special occasions.

The organ is constructed along traditional English lines with a solid Great with two Open Diapasons and two well-crafted mixtures providing a real firm foundation on which the rest of the organ can sit. A traditional English Choir Organ was required with no room for baroque-sounding stops with screaming continental mixtures. A gentle flue chorus with Clarinet and Tuba were all that was required here.

The Swell was also designed upon traditional lines with a solid ‘full swell’ sound with the addition of an octave coupler to provide flexibility amongst the quieter registers.
The Pedal was to be firm, foundational and flexible too – a big ask in a difficult building. We opted to provide multiple separate and very different speaker channels here, including a very large ‘column’ speaker cabinet, over eight feet long. This gives a real presence to the 32’ Sub Bass and 16’ Open Wood stops which pervade the building without boom and the unpleasant ‘one note’ problem when trying to reproduce low bass frequencies in acoustically deficient buildings. Additional speaker cabinets provide the ‘point’ and support that the rest of the organs needs in which to fulfil its musical requirement in this popular and well-used building.

Best of all – was the provision of a splendid new console to control the organ. The requirement was for a traditional drawstop presentation, to match the church furnishings but to be low enough for the organist to see over the top in order to direct the choir and to see what is going on in the building. With the addition of a fully adjustable bench, the organ is truly comfortable to play and invites everyone who sees it to ‘come and have a go!’