War links make organs worth every cent

01:20, Aug 20 2014
PRESTIGIOUS PIPES: St Mary’s Basilica organist Raymond White with the parish’s 99-year-old organ, which needs to be refurbished. 

A piece of World War II history could soon be housed at St Mary's Basilica.

The Invercargill parish is raising money to buy a pipe organ with a poignant connection to the deadliest war in history.

Known fondly as the "Blitz organ", the instrument was made from pipes salvaged from churches bombed during the Liverpool Blitz.

St Mary's Basilica organist Dr Raymond White said the organ was crafted in 1946 in London, but had "found its way" to New Zealand.

The basilica had been offered the special organ by the South Island Organ Company because it had great acoustics, he said.

The community is now set to launch a fundraising campaign so it can buy the instrument.


The basilica's current organ, which arrived at the parish as World War I raged across Europe, is also in need of a spruce-up.

For 99 years, the organ has sat atop the winding staircase in the choir gallery, played at countless weddings, concerts and sermons.

However, the instrument, made by Thomas Casson in London, needed to be refurbished ahead of its 100th birthday next year, White said.

It had been lauded by the New Zealand Organ Preservation Society as one of the country's best and was worth preserving, he said. Together, the organs would cost about $150,000.

While White acknowledged it was a lot of money, he believed the organs would be an important addition to culture in the region.

Southlanders gave generously towards rugby and other causes in the province, so this was their chance to contribute to music, he said.

The fundraising campaign for the organs will begin with a concert by internationally renowned bass baritone Jonathan Lemalu, to be held on September 1.

Tickets are available at the basilica on August 23 and 30, between 10.30am and 1.30pm.

The Southland Times