There are four choirs that regularly contribute to worship at St. Peter's Cathedral:
The Cathedral Choir is an auditioned adult choir of 28 singers who sing most Sunday mornings of the year, Holy Week and Advent & Christmas special services, all Diocesan services, and Choral Evensong on the 4th Sunday of the month.
Vox Baroque is a pool of singers and players from the Cathedral choir and the community who perform baroque cantatas once a month for the Cantata Vespers service. The choir members sing solo roles and in the chorus as required.
The Cathedral Singers currently have around 40 singers of all ages on the books and are largely former Cathedral choir, congregation members and community choir singers who lead the worship once a term. This choir rehearses for the 6 weeks leading up to a service, and are directed by Koli Jayatunge.
Junior Choir is our children's choir, welcoming singers from age 7-13. They meet together on a Friday at 3:45pm, and aim to lead the worship 3 times a year, including the Christmas Eve Christingle service. The RSCM Voice for Life resources is used for this group. This choir is directed by Cecily Shaw and assisted by Ruth Reji. Junior choir is currently rebuilding and would welcome enquiries from prospective members.
The St Peter’s pipe organ was built in England in 1874 and originally installed in the Wesleyan Church, more recently known as the Durham Street Methodist Church, in Christchurch, which subsequently collapsed in the February 2011 earthquake. It had been decided that a harmonium was too small for the interior of the church and an instrument made by Messrs Bishop and Starr of London, a major London organ building company, was chosen. To keep within the financial limit of 500 pounds, they had to leave out two stops, to be added as soon as funds allowed. A Bourdon stop was later added to the pedal, it is assumed when it was repaired in 1900. It arrived by ship on June 1 1874, and although quite small, it contained essential foundation stops, all of good quality.The organ had tracker (mechanical) action, two manuals and pedals.
The organ was sold to Knox Church in Auckland for three hundred and twenty pounds in 1907. A search of the diocesan archives reveals that St Peter’s purchased the organ in 1916. The foundation stone for the current church had been laid in 1915.
George Croft, a New Zealand builder, proposed changes to the organ at this time as he was probably engaged to oversee the transfer of the organ to the new church. The vestry minutes dated 21 February 1917 show that an organ committee was “given power to accept Mr Croft’s offer to add to the organ”. The organ lasted until the next rebuild in 1952, and it is probable that Croft did restoration work at this time and added the choir manual. In 1926 the cathedra of the first Bishop of Waikato was installed and thus St Peter’s became a cathedral church.
The organ was now in a cathedral and in its present position, tucked into a chamber within the north transept where the sound has some difficulty getting past pillars down into the nave. It was now considered too small. In 1951 Lawton and Osborne were contracted to rebuild the organ replacing the tracker action with pneumatic, allowing increased wind pressure, which means increased volume, but it is not certain that wind pressure was increased at this time.
The rebuild was probably a reflection of the unimaginative and heavy British instruments of the 1920s to 1940s full of bombast and muddy sounds with little attention to chorus work or clarity. They added 720 new pipes making the total about 1800. The compass was increased to 61 notes on the manuals (previously 58). The organ was shifted forward 9 inches presumably to enable it to be seen more easily from the nave. The new rebuild resulted in a grand pipe organ able to fill the cathedral quite well with the accompaniment of congregational singing. However, the choir division was although pleasant, weak and ineffective, partly due to its being enclosed and in a poor position inside the case. The next major work on the organ was done in the 1970s and reflected popular trends in the pipe organ world of the time. By the 1970s there had become a full-blown attempt at a neo-baroque sound to match world trends and meeting the needs of choral accompaniment . The modern British pipe organ is looked upon as an eclectic instrument, embracing the essentials of all important organ-building periods, yet retaining a unique national character with higher pitched sounds replacing the solid traditional ones.
A fundraising brochure was printed in 1973 advising parishioners and the general public that the need to rebuild the organ had been apparent for the past ten years. An electronic instrument was proposed. The merits of this idea were that costs of maintenance and tuning would be almost eliminated and the pipe organ could be sold to raise funds towards the purchase, but thankfully a former organist, at the time, persuaded the vestry otherwise.
The director of music wanted the organ modernised and desired a “neo-baroque” organ; an organ that was suitable for playing Baroque music, French music and accompanying congregations; in other words a pipe organ suitable for everything. When the 1976 rebuild was completed, he said, “very little of the old cathedral instrument remains.”
In 1999, tonal work was carried out, as the pipes offered slow speech. Action repairs were also carried out and a new trumpet stop was added to the great, which enabled the enchamade trumpet to be on the choir and played as a solo stop.
More recently a piston capture system and a sub octave coupler have been added.
The current specification is:
Stopped Diapason 8’
Nason Flute 4’
Block Flute 2’
Open Diapason 8’
Lieblich Gedackt 8’
Voix Celeste (TenC) 8’
Contra Hautboy 16’
Spitz Flute 4’
Larigot 1 1/3 ‘
Open Diapason 16’
Bass Flute 8’
Quint 5 1/3’
Choral Bass 4’
Open Flute 2’
Swell Unison Off
Swell to Choir
Swell to Great
Choir to Great
Swell to Pedal
Great to Pedal
Choir to Pedal
The Donald Barriball Memorial Chamber Organ was gifted to St. Peter's Cathedral by the Musica Sacra Trust in September 2020.
The organ was built in 1981 in London by Noel Mander and was played at the wedding ceremony of HRH Prince Charles and Princess Diana. It then spent some years in its intended home, St. John's, Smith Square, a classical music venue in central London. The organ was later used by Princeton University while the Mander Organ company was working on the main instrument there. Once the repairs were completed, the organ was sold and moved to New Zealand in 2006. It was purchased by Musica Sacra, an Auckland-based choir directed by Dr Indra Hughes, which performed sacred choral music in both liturgical and concert settings. A bequest from Donald Barriball helped purchase it.
Musica Sacra is no longer active, and the Trust looked for a new home for the organ; they wanted to ensure it was used and would be maintained. As St. Peter's Cathedral ensemble Vox Baroque perform sacred cantatas each month with a choir and instrumental group, this seemed like a good fit. Also, Donald Barriball was a parishioner at St. Peter's for many years when he lived in Hamilton.
The organ has a clear and sweet tone, but its four stops ensure there is enough volume to accompany congregational singing and to be heard with a reasonably large choir and ensemble.