The Chapel has been at the physical, cultural and spiritual centre of the College for over five centuries. In January 2023, we celebrated the arrival of the latest organ to become a part of our rich heritage of worship and music-making. To hear the organ in Chapel or even walking through Cloisters is one of the great pleasures of College life, and has been enjoyed by our community since the 15th century; the first record of an organ at College is from 1481.
Built by the highly regarded Herman Eule Orgelbau of Bautzen in Germany, it is the first Eule organ of its kind to have been built in the UK for almost 100 years.
The organ was blessed by the Bishop of Oxford, the Right Reverend Dr Steven Croft, at a Festal Choral Evensong on Saturday 21 January, attended by several former organ scholars, clergy, organ builders, organists, donors and current College Fellows, and which included solo performances before the service by Richard Pinel (2002), former Organ Scholar and Assistant Organist, and Anna Lapwood (2013), another former Organ Scholar.
The console is on the south side of the gallery and the case is based on the beautiful design of the previous organ by Julian Bicknell. Read more about this organ’s specification.
The new organ has 45 stops over four manuals and pedals, and is built along German Romantic Lines. It’s thought to be the only organ in the UK to boast free reeds (a ‘Physharmonica’ which to many will be reminiscent of the sound of a harmonium) and the only college organ in Oxford to have a tuba (which requires its own blower, owing to the higher wind pressure required to support such a big sound).
The instrument provides a broader tonal palette than its predecessor, which makes it ideal for accompanying the Choir in a wide repertoire, as well as offering a more extensive range of colours for organ voluntaries and recitals. It’s noticeably larger than our old organ, closer in scale to the one that occupied Chapel for more than 100 years between 1854 and 1985. Read more about the history of the organs in Chapel.
The organ was built thanks to a generous bequest from Anthony Smith CBE, former President of the College.
The Eule organ will bring a new and exciting world of sounds to the worship of Magdalen College Chapel, continuing and enhancing the rich tradition of music-making of which we are proud to be the inheritors and current guardians.Mark Williams – Informator Choristarum