First Chords 2 December 2018
The Very Rev’d Frank Nelson

Part I


His Excellency the Honourable Hieu Van Le, Governor of South Australia and Mrs Lan Le

The Honourable Steven Marshall, Premier of South Australia

Adelaide City Councillors, Councillor Jessy Khera and Councillor Franz Knoll

Stephen Watkins and Prof Michael Burdon, Patrons of the St Peter’s Cathedral Music Foundation

And with special greetings from the Lord Mayor of Adelaide, Sandy Verschoor, and The Most Rev’d Geoff Smith, Archbishop of Adelaide – neither of whom is able to be present tonight.

Brothers and Sisters in Christ

Welcome to you all. Welcome to this sacred place of St Peter’s Cathedral which stands on the lands of the Kaurna people whom we acknowledge and respect as the original custodians of the Adelaide region, and pay our respects to elders past and present.

Welcome to First Chords. What an exciting night! What a long awaited night!

Tonight’s service, while obviously intended to show off the organ has a lot in it. It is Advent Sunday – the start of the Christian year when we begin that intense period of waiting and longing building up to Christmas.

Today marks the start of a year long festival at St Peter’s Cathedral, Festival 150, as we mark the 150th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone on St Peter’s Day 29 June 1869.

This year also happens to be the one hundredth anniversary of the death of Sir Charles Hubert Humphrey Parry – one of the great early 20th century English composers. We will sing some of his music tonight.

But above all, it is a service of thanksgiving to God; thanksgiving to our donors; thanksgiving to those who have worked so hard in fund-raising, managing the restoration project, and preparing for tonight; thanksgiving to the contractors, in particular Harrison & Harrison Ltd, but all the other people involved in this first phase of a staged long term conservation plan of the cathedral. It is a service of celebration. Thank you so much for coming. Enjoy. Sing joyfully. Be enthralled.

Part II

In July last year, when the cathedral was closed and we were worshipping in another city church, someone asked me, with some incredulity, whether I believed St Peter’s Cathedral had a future? At first I was gob-smacked. What a question! But then I thought, no, it is a very good question – and one that I, and indeed all of us who ‘own’ St Peter’s Cathedral in some way or other, need to ask.

The answer, as tonight so amply demonstrates, is a resounding YES – yes we do believe that St Peter’s Cathedral has a future, and what we are doing tonight positions it for the future.

A project such as we have undertaken dos not come lightly, or indeed cheaply. It has been years in the dreaming, the thinking, the wondering until finally some action. The first action was nine years ago with the invitation to four organ building companies to visit, advise and suggest. The fact that the Cathedral Council decided to offer the work to Harrison & Harrison Ltd is now a matter of history. But even then it took another six years before, in October 2015, Cathedral Council made the decision to stop spending money patching and repairing, mothball the organ and begin fund-raising in earnest.

On Pentecost Sunday 2016, some two and a half years ago, Keith Stephens, then Registrar of the Diocese of Adelaide, and I signed the contract with Harrisons on the nave altar during the service. I am very pleased that Keith has been able to come across from Perth to be present tonight.

Later tonight we will acknowledge some of the individuals who made this project happen – but I want now to say thank you to all who got in behind the fund-raising effort and have raised, to date, just short of $1.5 million dollars. Donations large and small have come in over the months and years – and every one of them has been special and generous. If ever there was a project that has brought the Cathedral community together, and with it the music-loving community of Adelaide and beyond, the Organ Restoration Project is it. Cathedral congregations have been extraordinarily patient as work began in July last year. It is no easy thing to close a Cathedral. But we did – pushing back the pews, laying out organ pipes – all 3200 of them – on the floor before they were packaged and packed into a container for the long voyage back to England. In August this year work began on the reassembly and the meticulous task of voicing and tuning. It has been an absolute pleasure for us to get to know, as the master craftsmen that they are, the organ building team led by John Oliver; and I am delighted that organ voicer Andrew Fiddes will play a fanfare later tonight.

But it wasn’t only the organ that needed to be worked on. In January work began on the Pennington Terrace access – making it possible for a large crane to get close enough to the high level guttering and downpipes and thus enable them to be kept clear of pigeon and other debris. Scaffolding went up outside and roofers, masons, carpenters and plumbers, under the ever watchful eye of Cathedral Architect Andrew Klenke, went to work on the roofs above that part of the building which houses the organ. We are very grateful for the significant grant from the City of Adelaide, and the ownership and financial underpinning of the Synod of the Anglican Diocese of Adelaide in enabling much of this work to happen. Tonight we can say that Phase 1 of the long term Conservation Project of St Peter’s Cathedral is all but complete. All being well we look forward to starting Phase 2 of 7 in a few months’ time.

What have we got to show for all this effort? St Peter’s Cathedral now has one of the finest pipe organs in Australia, and certainly the finest in South Australia. Designated as the first and only City of Music in Australia, Adelaide is now a member of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. As such the Cathedral Organ, like the building itself, must surely rank as one of the outstanding iconic features of city and state. It is our hope, dream and conviction that music will continue to draw people into the sacred, enriching the lives of many, bringing joy, peace and upliftment to all, whether they be people of faith or of none.

At Easter I articulated a dream that, at the time, seemed just that – a dream. That we would bring the Organ home by Christmas debt free. We are not quite there yet. But I continue to hold to that dream and encourage you to make it a reality by contributing to the final $200,000 needed before Christmas. Tonight’s offertory to be taken during the final hymn will go towards making the dream a reality. After the service, when we enjoy a drink together outside, there will be opportunity for people to make further donations – and perhaps even to buy a truly magnificent piece of Adelaide history – a beautifully mounted organ pipe.

Enough from me. It is time to enjoy the music of Parry and his magnificent setting of Psalm 122: “I was glad when they said unto me, we will go into the house of the Lord.”