The design of a small practice organ for a modern home

Towards the end of 2006 I decided that the time had come to replace my house organ, which was Opus 43b by Lammermuir Pipe Organs of Oldhamstocks, East Lothian ( Until Opus 43b was sold, I had the possibility of practising either at home or at church, so anything that didn’t ‘work’ on my house organ (which had D-compass manuals and pedal) could be taken to church. In the natural course of things I shall no longer be the organist of a church, so the design and specification of a new practice organ for the performance – and, perhaps, teaching – of a wide range of repertoire was an important issue. There were certain imperatives:
mechanical action.
two manuals, C-c4;
a pedal-board, C-f1;
dimensions and volume level to suit a modern house or flat;
to be able to play at 4ft pitch on the pedals while the hands are playing at 8ft pitch on both manuals;
to be able to play at 8ft pitch on the pedals while the hands are playing at either 8ft or 4ft pitch on both manuals;
at least one distinctive solo sound;
a manual coupler; the fingers can easily become lazy!

Over the last 14 years I have worked regularly with three Lammermuir organs:
Opus 6, a practice organ now in Lanarkshire;
Opus 12, the organ in St Mary’s Collegiate Church in Haddington, East Lothian;
Opus 43b, a practice organ now in Cambridgeshire.
These experiences led me to have no hesitation in asking Neil Richerby of Lammermuir Pipe Organs to build my new instrument.

Our discussions and the design process led to the following specification for Opus 55:

Upper manual
8ft Chimney flute (Oak and walnut)
4ft Quintadena (Oak, maple and walnut)

Lower manual
8ft Bourdon (Oak and walnut)
4ft Clear Flute (Oak, pine and walnut

8 ft Bourdon (from lower manual)
4ft Flute (from lower manual

Shove-coupler, coupling upper manual to lower

Height: c. 2.1 metres
Width: c.1.7 metres
Total depth: c. 1.6 metres

The pedal organ has its own playing action linked to pallets alongside those of the lower manual; the stops are activated separately by a conventional slider action on the soundboard.

The organ is fully enclosed, but the front has hinged, decorated doors that may be opened should more volume be required.

I was delighted to find, on a visit to the Lammermuir workshop shortly after ordering the instrument, that Neil had already constructed some notoriously difficult-to-voice Quintadena pipes for me to hear; we were able to agree the sound that would best suit the instrument and my musical requirements.

Opus 12, surely Lammermuir’s magnum opus, can be heard on the CD Music from St Mary’s Collegiate Church, Haddington. Details both of the programme and of how to order a copy can be found on my web-site ( by following the link to “CD recordings.”