Master of ChoristersAssistant Organist


STUART NICHOLSON organist & master of choristers

Stuart studied at the Royal College of Music with the late John Birch, during which time he was awarded scholarships at the Temple Church, St. Bride’s Church, Fleet Street and St. Paul’s Cathedral; he became an Associate of the Royal College of Music in organ performance with honours and graduated with a first class honours in July 1997.He then toured the USA and Europe whilst serving as Acting Assistant Organist with the mixed choir of St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Edinburgh.

Following appointments in Waltham Abbey in Essex & Birmingham Cathedral, Stuart was appointed Organist & Master of Choristers at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in March 2010. The Cathedral Choirs maintain a busy schedule which includes 12 weekly choral services, frequent broadcasts, concerts, tours & recordings. The choristers have recently recorded their first solo CD with Regent Records 'In Dublin's fair city' which was released in November of 2012 a second ‘Christmas from Dublin’ the following year to critical acclaim.

Back in 2002 along with guitarist wife Victoria, Stuart set up the Mandeville Duo combining the eclectic mix of organ and guitar performing many of his own arrangements as well as original works to much critical acclaim. Several of his other arrangements including a very popular samba inspired version of ‘Ding dong merrily on high’ have been published by Novello - click here for more details.

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DAVID LEIGH assistant organist 

David Leigh is the Assistant Organist and Director of the Cathedral Girl Choristers at St Patrick’s Cathedral Dublin, the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland. He also pursues a busy freelance career as conductor, orchestral keyboard player and organist, and is musical director of chamber choir The Gaudete Singers and of the University of Dublin Choral Society, and chorusmaster of the Culwick Choral Society. Freelance work includes regular appearances in a wideranging repertoire with the RTE Concert Orchestra and frequent work with other major Irish performing groups.

David was educated at Bolton School and Oxford, where he read music as organ scholar of St Peter’s College and was Assisting Organist at Magdalen College. He was organ scholar successively at Blackburn and Lichfield Cathedrals before university, and moved to Dublin to take up his current position in January 1997. He won the Turpin and Durrant prizes in the Royal College of Organists’ Fellowship examination at the age of nineteen, and is a former student of David Sanger and of Nicolas Kynaston.

He has performed as a recitalist in many major venues on both sides of the Irish sea, especially championing large-scale late nineteenth and twentieth century repertoire, having given the first performances in Ireland of a number of major works; he has also presented cycles of the complete symphonies of Louis Vierne, and of the complete Messiaen organ music, the latter jointly with Tristan Russcher. In June 2003 he became only the fifth person to perform in its entirety Francis Pott’s monumental organ symphony Christus, which lasts for approximately two and a half hours, a performance which he repeats in this year’s Pipeworks festival. He has broadcast regularly on RTE and BBC television and radio, toured in most European countries and the USA, and features on numerous CD recordings as conductor, accompanist, continuo and orchestral keyboard player (including, unusually, the keyboard playing on the soundtrack of the film The League of Gentlemen’s Apocolypse with the RTE Concert Orchestra in 2005), in addition to three critically acclaimed solo discs made on the organ of St Patrick’s. A CD of organ duets, made with Charles Harrison on the organ of Lincoln Cathedral, was released in the summer of 2011.

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THE ORGAN a brief history by David Leigh

Click here for a specification of the Cathedral Organ.

The earliest record of an organ in Saint Patrick's is in 1471 when Archbishop Tregury bequeathed 'a pair of organs' for use in the Lady Chapel. During the next two centuries there are various records of payments to organists. Of the many organs in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, the most visually impressive must have been that of Renatus Harris in 1697, built on a screen dividing the nave from the choir, an earlier plan in 1678 having come to nothing. It was completed by 11 March 1697 and extra stops were added two months later; it is thought that the Great No. 4 Diapason and Choir Stopped Diapason in the current organ date from this instrument. At some stage in the eighteenth century a third manual was added and in 1751 a new organ was installed in the Lady Chapel. The main organ was repaired in 1815 by Messrs Gray of London. Pedal diapasons were added by Bucher and Fleetwood, who took charge of the organ until 1831 when it was taken over by Telford and Telford of Dublin.

By the 1850s the organ was in a state of disrepair and in 1865 it was rebuilt by Bevington of London, retaining many of the old organ pipes. As part of the Guinness restoration the organ, which had stood on the choir screen, was moved to the north choir aisle. A fourth manual was added in 1881 by Telford, who also undertook repairs when the organ was damaged by a falling buttress in 1882.

In 1902 a new organ was built, incorporating some of the existing pipework, by Henry Willis and Sons, in a specially constructed chamber in the triforium above the north choir aisle. This was a major undertaking; flying buttresses similar to those on the south side of the choir were partly removed and the chamber was built on to the north side in keeping with the original architecture. Access was provided by a spiral staircase of marble, designed by Sir Thomas Drew. ‘Father’ Willis planned the new organ in consultation with Sir George Martin, organist of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London, where there is an earlier ‘Father’ Willis instrument. Willis's son Henry completed the job, distinguishing himself in his treatment of the powerful reed stops.

When the instrument was rebuilt in 1963, by J. Walker & Sons, little modification was made to the original design, but a good deal of upperwork was grafted on to the specifications. In line with the prevailing taste of the day, much of the original orchestral palette of the choir organ was displaced by mutation and mixture stops. The original tubular pneumatic action was replaced by electro-pneumatic action and a new console provided in the Walker house style of the time, which featured adjustable pistons via setterboard. This was upgraded in the 1980s to a solid state system.

The original Willis console of the organ is preserved in the Cathedral as a memorial to George Hewson. Harrison & Harrison Ltd of Durham carried out some work in 1995, including cleaning of the instrument and revision of the mixturework to bring it closer to Willis models, most especially the installation of a new tierce mixture on the Great, which replaced a somewhat shrill Walker Scharf dating from 1963.

Since the 1990s the organ has been in the care of Trevor Crowe, who is executing a phased programme of work to address both mechanical and tonal issues outstanding from the 1963 rebuild. This work has included the installation of new blowing plant (replacing blowers which dated from 1910!), work on the winding system, replacement of key and stop actions, upgrading of the electrical system and restoration of the swell Vox Humana, replacing a mixture II (a 1963 addition), as per the original scheme. It is hoped also to replace the orchestral ranks lost from the choir organ at a future date.

We are privileged to have one of the finest late romantic cathedral organs in the world, and are grateful to the Dean and Chapter for their ongoing commitment to keep the organ at the peak of health.

Recordings of the Cathedral Organ are available from the Cathedral Shop.

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To learn more about music in the Cathedral click on one of the following links

Cathedral ChoirCathedral ChoristersCathedral Girl ChoristersOrgan & Organists
Cathedral Choir SchoolRecordings of the Cathedral ChoirVisiting Choirs