Love Durham Cathedral?Donate now

These instruments accompany our choir and congregation, as well as serving to inspire and sooth through solo recitals.

Who plays the organs?

Durham Cathedral has a team of organists. Between them they direct the Cathedral Choir, train the Cathedral Choristers and play the Cathedral organs.


A unique voice

The loudness, softness, or the tone or harmonic quality of an organ pipe is described as 'voicing'.

Organ experts can change the tone of pipe so, when combined with others, it produces the swelling, soaring quality so unique to a pipe organ.

Main Cathedral organ

Created by 'Father' Willis

This was built by Henry Willis I, known as “Father” Willis, in 1876-77. Its concept, design, placing, voicing and environment make it one of the most triumphantly successful organs of the English-speaking world.

It has:

  • four manuals (controlling six manual divisions) and pedals
  • 98 speaking stops
  • 23 couplers and accessories
  • 5,746 pipes

More than a century of repairs

Placing the instrument on both sides of the quire stretched Victorian technology to its limit. By 1900 much of the north side was unplayable.
In 1905 Harrison & Harrison of Durham began rebuilding the instrument. They:

  • restored it to working order
  • revoiced Willis' work considerably
  • prepared it for new additions

Financial constraints mean the work was only completed in 1935.

In 1970, towards the end of Conrad Eden's distinguished tenure of the post of Organist, Harrison & Harrison rebuilt the instrument again. They:

  • installed a new console
  • made further significant additions

Further house-keeping work, as well a few more developments, have now left the organ fit for service in its third century.

Laus Deo Organ

This 4-stop chamber organ evokes the sound-world of the organs of Father Smith.

A unique design

It was designed by Neil Richerby and built by Lammermuir Pipe Organs at their workshops in Oldhamstocks, East Lothian.

It has:

  • one manual and no pedals, with four stops
  • an 8-foot wooden Stopped Diapason
  • a 4-foot metal Principal – you can see the gilded pipes
  • a 4-foot wooden Nason Flute
  • a 2-foot open wooden Fifteenth, after the fashion of Father Smith
  • a keyboard with a transposing facility so it can perform at baroque pitch
  • a pedal to operate a shifting mechanism to quickly cancel all stops, apart from the 8-foot
  • casework to echo the dark oak of our seventeenth-century choirstalls

Another innovation is that the organ can be moved. This makes it invaluable in concerts and other events in the nave, the Galilee Chapel and the Chapter House.

This organ was built for us in 2004 as a gift by Dr David Boardman, a stalwart support of the Cathedral Choir and its work.

Another colour to our music

This versatile organ is used regularly as:

  • a continuo instrument in performances of 17th and 18th century European music
  • a chamber organ in Masses by Mozart and Haydn
  • an accompaniment of English music from Byrd and Tallis to Boyce