Limerick Pipe Organ Festival was founded in 2014 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the organ in St. John’s Cathedral. The organ, which was built by the esteemed organ building firm of William Hill & Son, was a gift to the cathedral from the 3rd Earl of Dunraven, Edwin Richard Wyndham-Quin of Adare Co. Limerick. It was inaugurated on 17 May 1864 by William Thomas Best, organist of St. George’s Hall Liverpool, one of the outstanding organists of his time. It was a timely coincidence that this significant anniversary fell during the year of Limerick’s designation as City of Culture.
The festival aims to raise awareness of the rich heritage of pipe organs in the city of Limerick and surrounding area. From mighty Cathedral organs to delightful smaller and more intimate instruments, Limerick churches are amply supplied with organs, some dating back to the nineteenth century. Traditionally these instruments have accompanied hymn-singing, choral offerings and have played solos. Their sound has often been found evocative and uplifting and they have added a distinctive ambience to the liturgy.
Mozart famously described the organ as the King of Instruments. It has a large dynamic range, and a rich and varied palette of tonal colours. The nineteenth century organist and composer Cesar Franck described the organ as being his orchestra, and indeed this is an apt analogy. The orchestral potential of the organ can be most particularly heard in the large-scale organ music of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Moreover, in recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in playing transcriptions of orchestral music on the organ.
The festival provides opportunities to hear Limerick’s pipe organs being played by both resident and visiting performers. There are master-classes by an organist with an international profile, and a particularly interesting feature of this Festival is the attention paid to the exciting art of improvisation.
LPOF’s founding committee members were Bernadette Kiely, Peter Barley, Br. Cyprian Love, Adrian Liston, Dolores Doyle and Bishop Emeritus Donal Murray. The festival was an initiative of the diocese of Limerick City of Culture committee under the chairmanship of Bishop Emeritus Donal Murray.
The current committee members are: Bernadette Kiely, Peter Barley, Carolann Guinee, Adrian Liston, Ríona Ní Churtáin, and Bishop Emeritus Donal Murray (Chair).