WITH REFERENCE TO "Who repaired the pipe organ?" (CN, Jun 25), you have left out one very important person - Robert Navaratnam, Singapore's sole organ builder and the one who gave the gallery organ a new lease of life.
The Belgian professional as mentioned in your article was only able to render minor repairs but much work was still required.
Robert Navaratnam completed the repairs to the organ and even added the two organ cases flanking the central one. Besides that, he even helped build the north transept nine-rank choir organ in 1994 to bring the number of organs in the cathedral to two.
The Belgian has long gone but Robert Navaratnam still plays at services in the cathedral. He has toiled for the cathedral for more than 20 years and I'm sure he deserves some recognition for his contributions.
By the way, the Belgian was an engineer called Hugo Loos. Below is an article on the cathedral organs, which I have pieced together from various sources.
(continued on page 2)
The cathedral organs
The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd houses two pipe organs - one in the second floor gallery and a smaller one on the ground floor in the north transept.
Dedicated on Oct 20, 1912 by Bishop Emile Barillon, the gallery organ is a two manual and pedal Bevington & Sons instrument which cost 5894.61 pounds to build, ship and install. To date, it has 28 working stops, the result of additions and alterations made to the original organ by Singapore's sole organ builder, Robert Navaratnam.
Ranks such as the trumpet are used on more than one stop. The organ also incorporates pipework from various other organs, notably the Bombarde 16' from the former St. Clair organ at the Victoria Concert Hall.
The gallery organ is easily recognized from its unusual asymmetric facade - only the central organ case is original, the left and right were added by Navaratnam. The action, once electropneumatic, is now fully direct-electric. This causes occasional problems with nonsounding notes and ciphers, resulting from the ingress of dirt into an open building and the general humidity. It is the oldest playable organ in Singapore.
The north transept nine-rank choir organ was built in 1994 by Navaratnam, utilising old pipework from various other organs. This is also a two manual and pedal instrument, the pipework housed in an enclosed chamber supported by steel square beams over the choir stands. There is no pipework for the pedal division and no expression shoe for the pipework.
(continued on page 3)
At the end of 2005, the old Conn console shell with keyboards and pedalboard which controlled the pipework was replaced with an equally old Allen electronic console. This replacement includes the Allen electronic stops, which adds colour to the nine ranks of pipework and also supplies the
There is very little literature available on the cathedral organs. In 2005, Lin Yangchen published a full article titled Singapore's Answer to Notre Dame de Paris in "The Organ" describing both instruments in detail ("The Organ" 334:8-10). Bits of information on the older organ are available mainly through personal accounts. An elderly parishioner recounted helping out on Sundays as a young boy operating the manual air pump of the organ.
By the 1960s, the gallery organ became so dilapidated that it remained silent for nearly two decades.
Hugo Loos, a Belgian engineer then based in Singapore, volunteered his services as both organist and repairman. Driven by his passion and love for pipe organs, he was able to render minor repairs but much work was still required. Towards the end of 1983, the then-cathedral rector, Father Robert Balhatchet, was introduced to Navaratnam who had been trained as a pipe organ builder in Germany. The organ has since been in the care of Navaratnam, who also plays for services at the cathedral.
On Dec 16, 1984, a concert was organized to rededicate the gallery organ.
Dr Margaret Chen, curator of the Victoria Concert Hall Klais organ and a well- known Singaporean organist, was one of the recitalists.