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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 September 2006, 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK
Restored organ has concert debut
Restorer Richard Payne at the keyboard
Restorer Richard Payne said the job was a labour of love
A unique organ built at the start of World War I has been brought back to life after lying silent for decades.

Restoration of the Welte Philharmonic Pipe Organ at Canterbury Christ Church University's campus near Tunbridge Wells, Kent took more than three years.

It is to be played professionally for the first time at a concert on Thursday by BBC Radio 2 organist Nigel Ogden.

"This organ is a time capsule," said restorer Richard Payne. "What you hear is what they would have heard in 1914."

The 17ft high organ, at the Salomons campus in Southborough, was bought by Victorian inventor and MP for Greenwich, Sir David Salomons.

This is a remarkable instrument containing many thousands of valves and pipes
Sir David Salomons

The restoration, funded with the help of a 316,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant, followed years of neglect.

"After Sir David died in the 1920s, it is unlikely anyone played it," said manager of the campus Matthew Salomonson.

"It just stood here and mouldered. The leather dried out and the lead pipes started to perish and it became unplayable."

The instrument was built by Welte and Sohne of Freiburg in Germany and was the only one of its kind ever made.

Writing in 1923, Sir David said: "This is a remarkable instrument containing many thousands of valves and pipes and it took many years to manufacture.

"Only one manufacturer can produce such an organ and the makers say that a similar one can never be attempted."

Following the premiere, the university plans to hold regular concerts featuring the Welte organ, including Christmas carols by candlelight.


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