New organ for St Patrick’s Church at Colebrook

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Home > Media > News > New organ for St Patrick’s Church at Colebrook
New organ for St Patrick’s Church at Colebrook

A new pipe organ built by a Tasmanian master craftsman has been installed at the historic St Patrick’s Church at Colebrook.

Hans Meijer, a former primary school teacher who emigrated from the Netherlands with his wife and four children in 1982, spent 18 months constructing the organ in his Launceston workshop.

“It is an enormous commitment to build an organ,’’ Mr Meijer said.

“It is a full day’s work, five or six days a week.

“You have to love this thing, otherwise it is not feasible.’’

Mr Meijer painstakingly made almost every part including the 258 metal and wooden pipes, the keys of second-hand ivory, and even the organist’s stool.

The only things he did not make were the blower (organ fan, made in Germany), and the front panel and two back doors (made by a cabinet maker due to time constraints).

It is an exacting business; if the pipes are cut to the wrong length, the notes will not be the right pitch.

The ‘mouth’ and ‘toe’ of the pipes have to be just right as this affects the loudness and the quality of the tone.

Mr Meijer’s love for the organ began when he was a child.

One of four children born to a landscape garden designer in Sliedrecht, near Rotterdam, Mr Meijer had music lessons first from his father and later from teachers at the Conservatorium in Rotterdam.

When he was an organist in Arnhem, Netherlands, he and two friends decided to restore an old organ in a poor state of repair.

They worked on it for five years at nights, in addition to their day jobs.

The restoration was so successful that the Dutch Government put the organ back on its heritage register.

Mr Meijer has given recitals at St John’s Anglican Church in Launceston and he still plays at the University of Tasmania graduation ceremonies at the Albert Hall in Launceston.

After being made redundant from his job at a Launceston primary school in 1995, he gave organ and piano lessons privately and also started work restoring and maintaining pipe organs throughout the State and tuning and maintaining pianos.

Building an organ requires fine cabinet making, metalwork, soldering, musical, mechanical and even leatherwork skills (for the bellows).

For Mr Meijer, the most satisfying part of the process comes when the work is complete and he hears the organ’s ‘voice,’ as he envisaged it, for the first time.

"I like the variety in the sound, the colour, the timbre, the beautiful harmony, the flute sounds, the chorus,’’ he said.

"Every organ is different and that makes it exciting.’’

An accident with a table saw during construction of the St Patrick’s Church organ severely cut two fingers of Mr Meijer’s right hand and required an operation.

While Mr Meijer, now 71, is happy that he can still play the instrument he loves, with arthritis now affecting his hands he is realistic that this organ will be the last that he builds.
Mr Meijer and his wife Trudy, recently loaded up the myriad of organ parts in their campervan and travelled from their Launceston home to Colebrook, to put the musical jigsaw puzzle together.

The unique Colebrook organ features Tasmanian blackwood, and the outer casing was French polished in Hobart.

The organ’s construction has been made possible through the Pugin Foundation, and is supported by the Tasmanian Community Fund.

St Patrick’s Church was designed by renowned English architect Augustus Pugin, whose work can also be seen in the interior design of the Palace of Westminster in London.

Hans Meijer was commissioned to build the organ to mark the bicentenary of Pugin’s birth.

To view photos of the construction and to hear the organ please click here.