1920s Harrogate organ which soundtracked the golden age of silent movies is at heart of £75,000 fundraiser

Its pipes rang out to thrill Harrogate’s film-lovers in the golden age of silent movies.

Pam Dimbleby, the church’s musical director, with the organ

And now fundraisers have set a goal of £75,000 to save a Conancher organ for future generations.

The organ now plays out to the congregation of St John the Divine Church in Rastrick near Brighouse, but is in urgent need of repair and restoration to safeguard its future.

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After a full inspection by experts, the volunteer fundraising committee of the church has been told that it needs new leatherwork, including on two of its single rise bellows, as well as repairs and improvements to its tonal quality, hohl flute and pipes.

Julia Tam, who is the head of the committee, said: “There is a lot of air leaking out of the bellows for the great and choir trumpet, so that is unusable. There are a lot of other issues as well.

“Following extensive advice and inspection it is thought the Conacher should also have full electrification of the action.”

Most new organs are built with electric actions, which sends a low voltage signal to the key and stop mechanisms.

Pam Dimbleby, the church’s musical director, said: “The action is simply the way in which the message gets sent from the keys to the bellows and the pipes.

“The organ itself, what creates the sound, will not change but it will be cleaned, mended and refurbished.”

As part of the fundraising campaign, open days will be held at the church for residents to come inspect the instrument for themselves.

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“Many of the local residents will not have seen an organ like this close up and this will be a wonderful opportunity for them.”

The instrument has a fascinating history, and residents believe it the last cinema organ still in regular usage in a church.

Before movies had their own sound, organists were employed to perform soundtracks to silent movies

The Rastrick organ began its days in 1920 when it was installed in the Central Cinema in Harrogate. Records showed it had been installed for £3,000.

But the Central Cinema became Harrogate’s first that was equipped for talking pictures in 1929, meaning the organ garnered less and less usage.

On the closure of the Central Cinema in 1949, it was then moved to St John’s and dedicated in November 1955, by the then Provost of Wakefield, the Very Rev Noel T Hopkins.

For fellow church fundraiser David James, the restoration project is not just about the enjoyment for the current congregation.

He said: “Music is really important to the church and we are creating a legacy for future generations.

“We are custodians of the present – and we’re ensuring its future.”