Christianity was first established in Japan by the Portuguese missionary St. Francis Xavier in 1587. The Anglican Communion was not established until 1859 in Nasaki, but was only permitted to serve the British and American communities in the Nagasaki foreign settlement until 1860, when restrictions on religious freedom were lifted. The first Anglican bishop, the Rev. William Ball Wright, was appointed in 1866. In 1881 the first Cathedral Church of Kobe was established. The existing Cathedral Church of St. Michael, Kobe, was built in 1959, and while provision was made for a pipe organ, none was installed until September 2013.
Initially, the new organ was to be placed close to its final location, but against the rear wall of the church, which is what led to the unusual asymmetrical design. Later it was decided to place it against the liturgical north wall, but the church decided it wished to retain the asymmetrical design. Creating an asymmetrical design that is also balanced is not as simple as creating the more usual symmetrical design; it also introduces technical issues, which must be resolved. The Great and Pedal organs are on a common soundboard at impost level and the Swell organ is above these, leading to the ideal vertical disposition of the three departments. The key action is mechanical and suspended, the drawstop action electric, with the usual playing aids.
The specification was conceived to offer all the requirements of the Anglican liturgy, while also providing Kobe with an organ that could be used to teach aspiring organists in the area. In the short time the organ has been there, a teaching program has already blossomed. Tuned to Vallotti’s temperament, the organ offers insight into the earlier repertoire without compromising the more romantic repertoire too much. The voicing is based on traditional English principles, with emphasis on a high degree of blend between the different registers. The organ was dedicated on September 29, 2013, St. Michael’s Day.
—John Pike Mander
Managing Director of Mander Organs
Photo credit: Mander Organs