"The Organ at Kincoppal-Rose Bay School of the Sacred Heart"
by Patricia Horsley - Immediate Past President of The Chapel
The Society of the Sacred Heart, founded in France by Madeleine Sophie
Barat in 1800, spread worldwide but was centred in Paris until the early
1900s when anti-religious laws resulted in the closure of all its 45
French convents. At that time the chapel of the Sacred Heart Convent
in Sydney, designed by John Horbury Hunt, was just completed and its
interior being furnished. The organ was to be made by Hill & Son
of London. Then the French government began its confiscation of the
closed convents, but the formidable Mother General, Mabel Digby, had
foreseen this and preserved their valuable contents by methodically
removing and sending them to Sacred Heart institutes in other countries.
Thus the Convent at Rose Bay, established in 1882, would receive for
its new chapel the antique stalls, pulpit and confessional from the
Senior Boarding School in Paris (then situated in the rue deVarenne,
site of the present Rodin Museum) and the organ from the Convent in
Bordeaux. It had been specially commissioned and gifted to that school
in 1890, but served there for barely fourteen years before its removal
and was destined to become the only organ of its kind in Australia.
This instrument was made in the French-romantic tradition by the firm
of Théodore Puget Père et Fils of Toulouse and was the
one which Reverend Mother Digby – familiar from afar with every
aspect of the chapel at Rose Bay – designated to grace the beautiful
new building and its superb acoustics. It arrived in 1904 but, due to
the depression, remained in its crates until November 1905 when the
Convent journal reports: “Funds are low. Our Mother General wishes
us, however, to put up the organ at her own expense. We are beginning
to unpack it.” Repairs and assembly were carried out by organ
builder Mr Charles Richardson and the journal shows “...re-erection
involved a re-planning of the action and mechanism...,” presumably
to suit the gallery space already provided.
Finally the organ was installed, although the surrounding woodwork was
not fully finished until 1911, and it was first played, surely by one
of the nuns, at evening Benediction on 25 February 1906. Next day Cardinal
Moran, with the Community and pupils, was treated to an hour’s
recital of “the best German and French organ music” performed
by his organist from St Mary’s Cathedral, Mr Delany, “which
displayed to good advantage the varied resonances of the fine instrument”
(“a grand instrument” declared Mr D.) “The power and
sweetness of the organ”, was again evident in May 1922 when the
visiting Sistine Choir sang many Perosi works in the chapel to an audience
of 400 including the enraptured Reverend Mother Dobson, “….ravishing,
ravishing, it is all that I can say”.
Initially, the bellows were pumped by hand and then by a hydraulic system
from the USA: ‘Ross Water Engine, Troy, N.Y.’ An entry of
July 1909 records: “The hydraulic engine for blowing the bellows
of the organ” was struggling due to low water pressure from the
Convent’s tank, but dramatic improvement was effected by connecting
11⁄2 inch pipes to the Vaucluse mains.
Another entry in 1909 notes that Mr Richardson was to tune the organ
once a month for £10 per annum and without charge if needed before
special occasions. In April 1931 corrosion in the organ’s pipes
and borers in its pedals were both eradicated and in 1937 it was repaired
and cleaned by Mr Edwards. Despite such ministrations and the empathy
of its organists, memorably Mother McGee, rapid aging through the next
two decades finally warranted an appeal, for the School’s 75th
Anniversary, which culminated in major renovations carried out by S.T.
Noad and Son in 1960. This work converted the action from mechanical
to electro-pneumatic (by the Pitman system), a modernising trend of
the time, and provided new soundboards and console with an increase
of stops and couplers. The console faced the altar, as did the original,
and the pipes retain much of their French symphonic quality and tone.
Since then, inherent problems gradually emerged and increasing deterioration
outpaced repairs, prompting anxious specialists to urge for its expert
restoration before damage to its integrity became irreparable.
This cultural treasure, unique in our country, is significant to the
School in Sydney and those associated with it, past, present and future.
It is featured in Rushworth’s “Historic Organs of New South
Wales” and documented by the Organ Historical Trust of Australia.
The entire organ was dismantled in January, 2005, and all its original
casework and pipes sent to France. Restoration will be done by two separate
organ builders. Yves Cabourdin of Carcès has restored the façade
and casework and all the original 1890 pipes, re-made the 39 new façade
pipes and new bellows. Charles Henry of Entrechaux, Provence will re-construct
new windchests and a wind system, a mechanical action, and a replica
Puget console. It is due to return in 2008.
Australian organist David Rumsey of Basel, Switzerland, was the Consultant
to the project with Yves Cabourdin. The Consultant for the second phase
of reconstruction is Michel Colin, French Organist and Expert in restorations
of Historic Monuments. Michel Colin is titular organist of the Church
of Notre-Dame de la Victoire in St. Raphaël. Pastór de Lasala,
organist of Sacred Heart Church, Mosman, Sydney, is the Assistant Consultant
to the Project.
For further details of the various levels of sponsorship are available
on this website. Check our page for Donations and sponsorship at <http://www.puget-organ-restoration.org.au/restoration/sponsorship.html>
If you wish Receipt for tax deduction please make
cheque payable to
Kincoppal-Rose Bay School Building Fund – Chapel
The Kincoppal-Rose Bay School Building Fund is endorsed as a deductible
recipient under Subdivision 30-BA of the Income Tax Assessment
Further information contact The President of The Chapel Society,
Mrs Ann Henderson
Tel: (02) 9418-8856