J. S. Bach and Central/South European Influences

An international conference honoring Harald Vogel and celebrating the new Hellmuth Wolff organ at Christ Church Cathedral

A collaborative conference sponsored by:
Christ Church Cathedral
Westfield Center for Keyboard Studies

Christ Church Cathedral
Victoria, British Columbia
June 7–10, 2006


Harald Vogel (Germany)
Lynn Edwards Butler (Canada)
William Porter (United States/Canada)
Edoardo Bellotti (Italy)
Colin Tilney (Canada)
Hans Davidsson (Sweden/United States)
Ulrika Davidsson (Sweden/United States)
Keith Hill (United States)
Erica Johnson (United States)
Carole Terry (United States)
Hellmuth Wolff (Canada)
Cleveland Johnson (United States)
Michael Gormley (Canada)


Hellmuth Wolff Opus 47
Christ Church Cathedral
930 Burdett Avenue
Victoria, B. C.

Harald Vogel

The balcony location around the rose window could have inspired us to build the case in a Southern European Baroque style, but harmonizing it with the cathedral's Gothic architecture was more imperative than anything else. The case became a style that could be labeled as "Modern-Gothic-French-Cathedral-Organ." It is free-standing and made of solid mahogany and mahogany veneered on solid wood. A vacuum press made it possible to make and veneer these curved parts. The lines highlighting the curves and the floral ornaments in the under part (hiding the swell louvers) are gold leaved.

The organ's appearance may reflect its musical style, but such is not always the case, especially not in our time, in which we can choose from so many different stylistic periods. The personal taste and musical background of the players are often the point of departure for the stylistic direction that a new project may take, and so it was decided by Michael Gormley, the cathedral's Director of Music, that the organ's tonal qualities be Southern-European. His many years spent in Vienna made him love this type of instruments with their silvery plenum sound, their lovely flutes, their mysterious string stops and colourful reeds.

Christ Church Cathedral

We opted however for a slightly more eclectic approach, more in line with builders of Upper-Swabia (or Oberschwaben, in the region between Stuttgart and Munich), like Holzhey and Riepp, who were also linked to French building practises, (in addition to the more profitable activity of wine growing). This French Connection squares well with our own building style, specially the reeds, of which there are a good number in French style. Nothing suits a cathedral organ better than these trompettes with their characteristic éclat!

Admittedly, there was a time of suspense during the voicing period, as it is unusual to base the style a new organ on models taken from a completely different acoustical, architectural and cultural environment. However, all our apprehensions vanished once the musicians started to play. It vigorously, or humbly, filled its duties for congregational singing and accompaniment of the choristers. It also made Muffat, Pachelbel or Kerll, the music it was intended for, well at home, but Sweelinck and Bach — even Franck and Duruflé can be performed convincingly on this organ.

– Hellmuth Wolff