Project of St. James´ organ reconstruction

The origin of the great St. James´ organ dates back to 1705, when it was built by Abraham Starck of Loket. Its organ cabinet, which we still admire today, was also unique in its time. However, the original two-manual organ with a pedal had 26 stops, a short lower octave, and therefore limited playing possibilities. Over the centuries, there have been several layout modifications, the most significant in the 20th century, which are described in detail in the “Great Organ” section (THIS AS A CLICK LINK). Today, the unique large organ of St. James has 4 manuals, 91 stops and 8,277 pipes and actually represents a large symphony orchestra. Thanks to the current disposition, music from the Baroque to contemporary works can be played on them without restriction.

Recently, more and more defects have appeared in the St. James organ, which are both the remnants of past modifications and the wear and tear of the material over the years. The current state of the organ can only be maintained thanks to the careful work of organ builders Vladimír Turnwald and now Václav Vála. However, this is not a long-term sustainable situation.

Last year, we approached 10 organ building companies from abroad and two Czech organ building workshops. Of this number, 7 companies wrote and showed interest, unfortunately, due to the size of the organ, none were Czech. Subsequently, a total of 5 organ builders from Germany, Poland and Switzerland came physically, inspected the organ thoroughly and expressed their opinion. It was not a tendering process; it was just about obtaining high-quality opinions of experts and unbiased persons, from which several fundamental facts emerged:

Recent interventions in the organ and its modifications have shown that these are not able to permanently improve the condition of the instrument, only a general reconstruction can lead to long-term success. A total modernization of the action and of the wind system, proofreading of the disposition and revision of the pipe system is necessary. The internal structure of the main cabinet is now chaotic, which affects the sound and consequently the maintenance. It is necessary to make new wind chests, bellows, wind trunks, provide new fans and build new side louver cabinets, because the existing ones do not fulfill their mission when they open to the organist and not to the nave. A modern console with the use of a renewed action and a digital memory system will allow more comfort during the play. Everyone has cited the absolutely exceptional acoustics of St. James´ Basilica.

The work on the restoration of the St. James´ organ is estimated to take approximately one to two years. Dividing the reconstruction into stages which would allow playing the instrument in between the stages is not technically possible. It is necessary to reconstruct the entire instrument, and in the case of reconstruction in stages, it could happen that the work would remain in the middle of the project, as in previous partial modifications, and the necessary overall reconstruction of the organ would not be completed again.

In order to start the reconstruction of the organ, it is necessary to collect funds that would cover the costs at least up to 80%. This will be followed by the selection of a specific company, the detailed elaboration of the reconstruction plan, the signing of the contract and the agreement of individual works according to the idea of the client, i.e. the Order of Minorities and the advisory board.

We believe that with the help of God and all donors, who are not indifferent to the St. James’ organ and the Basilica of St. James, the reconstruction will be carried out.