The Organ

It is hard to miss the presence of the organ, gloriously displayed as it is in the chamber immediately behind the Ark (which also houses the Choir and the organ console). The organ is a large 4-manual instrument built by Harrison and Harrison. It was beautifully restored in 2008 (thanks to a very generous benefactor from the congregation). Its Edwardian but bright sound is unusually perfect both as an accompanying as well as a solo instrument.

History: An organ was installed in our previous synagogue in Margaret Street in 1859 (the first organ to be installed in any synagogue), where Dr Charles Verrinder became organist and choirmaster. Verrinder was a remarkable man and a distinguished organist and composer.  Among his most loved settings of the prayers is Esah enai (Psalm 121).

Verrinder died in 1904, and was succeeded by Dr Percy Rideout, a professor of piano, organ and composition. Soon after Rideout’s appointment, the organ, originally built by Gray & Davison, was thoroughly re-built by Harrison & Harrison in 1908. Rideout continued the tradition of composing prayer settings, the Festival setting of ‘Vayehi’ being one of his most brilliant. The congregation celebrated his 50 year’s service in 1954, by which time Arnold Richardson, who had been his assistant, took over as organist.

Richardson, being a first-rate recitalist (he was one of the 4 organists to preside at the opening of the Royal Festival Hall in 1951), did not wish to be also choirmaster, so Mark Raphael was appointed to that post, to be succeeded by Sidney Fixman in 1968. Richardson suffered a heart-attack in 1970, and Chris Bowers-Broadbent (who had already been having lessons on this organ from Richardson, his Academy professor) took over for a short time, that year playing his first Yom Kippur, and finally succeeded to the post of organist when Richardson died in 1973. Chris was the synagogue organist for as long as each of his predecessors, retiring at the end of 2021 after over 50 years. 

Richard Hills was appointed Director of Music and Organist in January 2022, and is only the fifth holder of that post since 1859.