When the Cathedral was reduced to ruins in an air raid in November 1940, the fine ‘Father’ Willis organ of 1886 (identical to that in Truro Cathedral) was totally destroyed. The building of the new Cathedral presented the opportunity for a brand new organ to match it. Messrs Harrison & Harrison were appointed in 1952 and a provisional specification was drawn up.
The 1950s saw great upheaval in organ building. The organ reform movement advocated a return to classical principles, as shown in the Harrison organ built for London’s Royal Festival Hall. On the other hand, more Romantic or eclectic organs, typifying the English cathedral sound, had their staunch defenders. It took a long time to reach agreement on the styling of the Coventry instrument and the eventual scheme agreed in 1959 – the work of Dr. Sidney Campbell (organist of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle) in conjunction with Cuthbert Harrison – was, intentionally, a compromise between the two extremes which resulted in what must surely be one of Harrison and Harrison’s greatest instruments. The organ is therefore something of a compromise, but in a busy cathedral where many demands are placed upon it – recitals, daily services, major events with capacity congregation – it fulfils its role admirably and there are many who hold it in high regard.
The organ was overhauled and upgraded to include solid-state technology in 1986/87.
The Norwegian Organ, which stands at the west end, was a gift from the people of Norway in 1967. It was built by Torkildsen Brothers and designed by Ole Rasmus Krag. The action is mechanical. In the chancel is a small chamber organ built by Peter Collins. This is a memorial to David Lepine, the first Organist of the new Cathedral who died in 1972 at the age of 43.
The suite of organs was completed in 2007 when we took possession of our newly restored Chamber Organ, thanks to the generosity of a private individual.
Hear the organs
You can hear the great Harrison and Harrison organ at all main Sunday services. In addition, from May to September we offer Lunchtime Organ Concerts with award-winning and international organists playing a wide variety of inspiring music.