Wolff Organ Restoration Appeal

Update: Monday, 21st August, 2017: We are very pleased to announce that the appeal target has been reached, thanks to the generosity of donors. It is now anticipated that the project will be complete by the end of September and the organ will be blessed and reintroduced into the Sacred Liturgy on Sunday 8th October, 2017. The appeal committee wishes to thank those who through their donations and their time have contributed to the successful completion of this project.


The organ at St Aloysius was installed by the Blessed John Henry Newman parish in 2010. It came to us after 130 years of hard work in other churches in Adelaide. It is of national significance, as one of only two surviving largely intact examples of the work of Johann Wilhelm Wolff.

Wolff is significant in the history of Australian organ builders. He was born and learned his trade in the north of Germany in what is now the City of Bremerhaven. He migrated to Adelaide in 1849 and soon rose to become the prominent organ builder in Adelaide. He brought with him and developed the German organ building style, reflected still in the St Aloysius organ built in 1880 with its preference for wooden pipes. In its present location in Melbourne, the organ is unique in that most organs built before 1900 still in use in Melbourne are English in style. The Wolff organ therefore represents a historic link between modern Melbourne and 19th Century German culture.

The organ’s specification is small in scope, with two manuals and pedal board and 10 speaking stops. There are no reeds or mutations. The original stops are mostly wood, although a metal Dulciana was added. The sound is thus gentle and pure and is particularly suited to the acoustic in the St Aloysius’ Church.

As a small and gentle organ, the Wolff at St Aloysius is well suited to younger musicians as a venue for performance, practice and teaching. It is an important community resource.

Of course, the organ finds its highest use within the context of the classical Latin Liturgy of the Catholic Church, sometimes called the “extraordinary form” of the Roman Rite. The Blessed John Henry Newman Parish exists to give pastoral support to those who aspire to worship God and lead a Christian life according to traditional forms. It is one of the few places in Australia where the traditional liturgy is celebrated in all its fullness throughout the entire liturgical year. By itself, this has cultural significance for Melbourne. The Wolff organ’s understated tone combined with the fine acoustic of St Aloysius is well adapted to the Roman liturgy and complements the cultural dimension of the work of the Parish.

The organ is now badly in need of a full overhaul. The Parish has commenced an appeal, which has the support of the Organ Historical Trust of Australia. Donations are tax deductible.

The appeal was launched on Pentecost Sunday, 15th May 2016.

All funds raised from donors will be used in the restoration and for no other purpose. The restoration will be supervised by Mr John Maidment. Local firm Hargraves Pipe Organ Pty Ltd will carry out the work. The Appeal Target is $130,000, of which some has already been donated.

William Rimmer
Chairman, Wolff Appeal Restoration Committee


Significance of the Wolff Organ

The Wolff pipe organ at St Aloysius’ Church, Caulfield is significant for the following reasons:

• It is one of two surviving examples of a two-manual organ built by J.W. Wolff to remain unaltered;
• Wolff was among the leading organ builders in South Australia during the second half of the 19th century.
•The overall sound is highly pleasing, in a fine acoustic, with sounds that differ from the normal English-inspired traditions that were prevalent in Australia;
• The placement of the Great drawstops in a single column on the left side of the console and the Swell drawstops on the right;
• The presence of the unique Suavial (harkening back to its builder’s Germanic background – a type of Lieblich Gedackt) and the Salicet (a narrow scale string rank);
• The inclusion of seven ranks of splendidly made wooden pipework, mainly with inverted upper lips – a reflection of the difficulty of obtaining metal organ pipes in Adelaide at the time and in accord with German traditions;
• The casework, which has three flats of (originally) gilt dummy wooden pipes placed within three flats with carved ogee-shaped Gothic canopies;
• The layout of the windchests is locally unique, with the Great divided on C and C# chests on either side of the centrally placed tenor C Swell - these have ‘push up pallets’.
The instrument is now 132 years old and has never received a major restoration. The casework, console, action and wooden pipework now require major attention, although the wind reservoir and pedal windchest have previously been restored and a new German blower installed. It is considered to be of state significance.

Restoration Work will include:

• Complete refurbishment of the casework, now badly worn and restoration of original finishes and materials, including replacement of the three missing finials;

• Regilding of the facade pipes in gold leaf;

• Restoration of the mechanical key and stop actions;

• Restoration of the key coverings, console area and rectification of damage incurred through the insertion of electrical fittings;

• Restoration of the wooden pipework, some of which is damaged, and fine regulation;

• Restoration of the manual slider windchests to obviate leakage.

The organ will continue to contribute to the beauty of the liturgy at St Aloysius and be an essential community resource for musical performances and teaching, particularly by younger organists.

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