Denis Rattenbury and the Pipe Organ

Denis Rattenbury was welcomed back to our Club to speak about the pipe organ which is a musical instrument that produces sound by driving pressurized air (called wind) through the organ pipes selected from a keyboard. Because each pipe produces a single pitch, the pipes are provided in sets called ranks, which has a common timbre and volume throughout the keyboard compass. Most organs have many ranks of pipes of differing timbre, pitch, and volume that the player can employ singly or in combination through the use of controls called stops.

The origins of the pipe organ continued Denis can be traced back to the hydraulis in Ancient Greece, in the 3rd century BC,[5] in which the wind supply was created by the weight of displaced water in an airtight container. By the 6th or 7th century AD, bellows were used to supply Byzantine organs with wind. In England, the first organ of which any detailed record exists was built in Winchester Cathedral in the 10th century. It was a huge machine with 400 pipes, which needed two men to play it and 70 men to blow it, and its sound could be heard throughout the city. Beginning in the 12th century, the organ began to evolve into a complex instrument capable of producing different timbres and the medieval mind thought that the organ was the sound of heaven and later singing was by angels. By the 17th century, most of the sounds available on the modern classical organ had been developed.


Then Denis talked about his great admiration of Ian Tracey, with whom he has played and who was born in Liverpool in 1955, initially studying the organ under the then Organist of Liverpool Cathedral, Noel Rawsthorne. In 1980, he succeeded Noel Rawsthorne and, in doing so, became the youngest cathedral organist in the United Kingdom at that time. He was later appointed Master of the Choristers, in addition to the position of organist, at Liverpool Cathedral. Ian designed the Alloway Church organ.

In addition to his Cathedral duties, Ian Tracey is also Organist (since 1986) to the City of Liverpool at St. George’s Hall, Chorus Master (since 1985) to the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society, Guest Music Director (since 1991) for the BBC‘s Daily ServiceProfessorFellow and Organist (since 1988) at Liverpool John Moores University and a past President (2001–2003) of the Incorporated Association of Organists.

In July 2006, he was admitted to the degree of Doctor of Music (honoris causa) in the University of Liverpool. This honorary doctorate was awarded for “his contribution to music” In 2015 he was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of Merseyside.

Neil Beattie gave a heart-warming vote of thanks