Peterborough Cathedral organ's £350K pitch change

Robert Quinney and the Peterborough Cathedral organ pipes
Image caption The pipes will have to be lengthened to rectify their slightly sharp pitch

A cathedral has finally been given approval to re-pitch its 5,000-pipe Victorian organ nearly 70 years after first asking for permission.

Peterborough Cathedral's organ is slightly sharper than the "standard pitch" introduced in 1939.

Music director Robert Quinney said this means choristers and lay clerks are forced to make "subtle changes" which "may not be good for their voices".

Work should start on the £350,000 project within six months.

Re-pitching the organ involves slightly lengthening each pipe and will take two years.

'Odd one out'

Mr Quinney said: "The organ is mostly from 1894 and back then different organ builders built them at different pitches - and it was the same with orchestral instruments.

"It was not until 1939 that everyone thought we needed a standard pitch."

As a result, the organ is half a semi-tone sharper than "standard pitch" and this means the organ cannot be used alongside visiting orchestras.

But "the real issue", according to Mr Quinney, is the impact on the cathedral's choir.

"The choristers and lay clerks have all learnt to sing at the standard pitch, that's the pitch they hear when they play their violin and listen to their iPods, so the cathedral organ is the odd one out," he said.

"To get your muscles to make such subtle changes may not be good for their voices."

The organ re-pitch is a small part of the four projects undertaken by the cathedral in the run-up to its 900th anniversary in 2018.

Image caption The cathedral had to wait 70 years to get permission for the pitch change

Permission for the change had to be sought from the Cathedral Fabric Advisory Committee, a national body which oversees certain types of work in Church of England cathedrals.

James Dyer, campaign manager of Peterborough 900, said it had rejected applications for the pitch change by five previous directors of music.

"After nearly 70 years of applications we were granted permission to do this work, on condition that we used [organ makers] Harrison & Harrison Ltd in Durham," he said.

The work will be funded by grants from charitable trusts, individual donations and corporate sponsorship.

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