The chapel was originally built without an organ, and was consecrated in 1666. It was some two hundred years later, in 1866, that a small one-manual and pedal organ was built by the Suffolk-based company J.W. Walker Ltd and installed on the North side of the chapel, where the ‘loft’ for the organ console now resides. In 1955, Walker rebuilt the organ with two manuals and pedals, constructing a new case on the West wall, and significantly expanding the resources of the instrument, providing an enclosed Swell division, as well as a then state-of‑the‑art detached console and associated playing aids. Walker also kept almost all of the pipework from the previous instrument, although the new Swell division had more of a neo-Baroque flavour, reflecting an early stage in the revival of the performance of baroque organ music. The Swell division, because space was at a premium, relied on the principle of extension, whereby extra octaves of pipes could be added to just a few ranks to give an apparently far greater number of stops.
The 1955 Walker instrument gave many years of faithful service, but eventually failing electrical components both in the console and the organ itself, many of which were impossible to reach for repair or replacement, necessitated the rebuilding of the instrument. In 2012, the Leicestershire-based firm Peter Collins Ltd, were commissioned to rebuild the instrument within the existing Walker case. Where possible, original pipework (including the six stops in the Great division from the 1866 organ) has been retained, but the opportunity has also been taken to make some tonal alterations – in particular to try to better match the tonal style of the Great and Swell, as well as to provide tonal colours more suited for the instrument’s main role – the accompaniment of the college’s chapel choir at the weekly Choral Evensong. The guts of the organ – the blower, windchests, swell enclosure, the frame and console (with a full complement of modern playing aids), are all new, and will provide many generations of organ scholars with a versatile and exciting instrument for performance of a wide range of the organ literature, as well as choral accompaniment and as a teaching instrument.
The Collins Continuo Organ
The chapel also now houses a three-stop continuo organ by Peter Collins Ltd. It transposes to A=415 to enable performance with historical instruments, and consists of a Stopped Diapason 8ft (wood), a Flute 4ft (metal, open from Tenor C) and a Principal 2ft (metal). It is used to accompany the choir in early choral repertoire, as well as in concerts given by both professional and student ensembles. Univ is one of only a handful of colleges to own such an instrument.
Francis Shepherd (2012, Music)