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St Mary’s Witney

Cosole in workshop 2“It’s interesting when preconceptions based on limited experience are shattered. I will freely admit that I hadn’t considered Viscount/Regent as a serious contender for the rebuild of the organ at St Mary’s, so I went to hear one of their recent installations expecting to be disappointed. How wrong could I have been? Walking around the church while its new Physis-based organ was being played rapidly convinced me that it was the system we needed to use. I heard a full, warm sound with remarkable pipe-like realism, and this in a church with only modest reverberation. The physical modelling synthesis allows the sound of each note and stop to change in a subtle way all the time, according to what else is going on, simulated wind pressure changes, and so on, which gives it interest and life. Even up close to the loudspeakers, by the console in that case, where all the warts are usually revealed, it was remarkably good. I felt that I was listening to, and playing, a musical instrument rather than a toy. In a former life I specialised in audio engineering and sound quality perception, so I am not easily pleased. I went back to our church excited and ready to persuade our little organ committee that this was the way we should go.

To cut a long story short, I have been extremely pleased with the process of getting to the point where we have the instrument installed and working in all its glory. David and Jeremy have made the process as painless as possible, and have responded to my many queries in a positive and helpful way. Peter is a genius at doing installations, and nothing is too much trouble. As I am a sound engineer, they let me help them with the calculations to rebuild the bass loudspeakers from our old system, installing modern long-throw drivers that enabled us to get a wonderfully full and extended response right down to the 16 Hz end of the 32 foot pedal stops, while reducing the number of cabinets from three to two. At the last moment I was able to get the console thumb piston spacing amended to the matrix I wanted, as David sent me the drawings before getting the holes drilled. We also got the console height raised slightly to accommodate my knees! All this at a competitive price, I must say.

Francis at play

We put in a new choir division with loudspeakers in the chancel, which gives the instrument some valuable spatial and acoustical variety, as well as supporting the choir much better than before. I love playing the positif-like stops of that department, which have convincing chiff and wind noise. If you listen to my Widor 6 from the opening recital, on the Regent website recording, I think you’ll agree that the results are staggeringly good. If I’d had half a million pounds to spend on a pipe organ I would have done so, but I didn’t, and it’s hard to imagine we could have done better than we have done under the circumstances. Most people in the body of the church simply can’t believe they aren’t listening to pipes. We’ve done an English cathedral-style voicing for now and I’m quite looking forward to spending some time with all the French and German stops before too long to create an alternative (or two).  To listen to this organ please click HERE


Francis Rumsey

Organist and Choirmaster, St Mary’s, Witney


Pedal  12 Great  13 Swell  12 Choir  10 
Contra Bass32Double Diapason16Open Diapason8Gemshorn8
Open Wood16Open Diapason I8Gedackt8Gedackt8
Violone16Open Diapason II8Viola8Principal4
Bourdon16Claribel Flute8Voix Celeste8Rohr Flute4
Octave8Stopped Diapason8Principal4Nazard2-2/3
Bass Flute8Octave4Stopped Flute4Octave2
Gemshorn4Harmonic Flute4Flautino2Tierce1.3/5
Mixture 19 22 26 29IVTwelfth2.2/3
Mixture 15 19 22 26IVLarigot1.1/3
Contra Bombarde32Fifteenth2Double Trumpet16Clarinet8
Opheclide16Mixture 19 22 26 29IVTrumpet8Fanfare Trumpet8
Fagott16Double Trumpet16Oboe8
Great to PedalSwell to GreatTremulantTremulant
Swell to PedalChoir to GreatSwell to Choir
Choir to PedalGt & Ped Pistons combined