The cathedral’s Grand Organ was designed and made in 1984 by Kenneth Jones and Associates of Bray, county Wicklow, Ireland. It was commissioned to complement the major restoration of the building, which had been completed in 1982.
Seeming to float in space, the organ stands on a compact base on the floor of the north transept under the arch of the central tower. It is nearly 45ft/14m tall. At a height of 15 feet the organist’s gallery, faceted, projects from the front of the organ-case and out over the north side Canons’ stalls. The organ case, designed and sited in such a way that it is also visible from the nave, is of solid oak throughout. The key action is exclusively tracker, including a separate action to the soundboard of the large scale Open Wood 16ft, which is housed within the base. The stop action is mechanical throughout but there is also an electric combination system in parallel with and driving the mechanical stop-action. The comprehensive range of pistons can be set on sixteen separate levels of memory – a very useful facility for the player. The organ has three 56-note manual departments and a pedal department of 30 notes. There are 40 speaking stops. There is key-tensioned or suspended action and the soundboards are of the slider type. The wind is fed through wooden wind-trunks from traditional ribbed reservoirs or bellows. The stop action uses steel trundles and oak traces. The elegant console uses inlay and stringing in precious woods, with hand-scripted stop-labels. The instrument was voiced entirely in the cathedral, a process taking some three and a half months. Between October 2003 and September 2004, after 20 years of distinguished service, the organ was dismantled, thoroughly cleaned, and overhauled. Some of the pipe work was re-voiced at the same time in order to give a greater tonal spectrum and presence of sound throughout the cathedral. The specification of the organ was revised, most significantly by the provision of the 32’ Contra Trombone and, in addition, the piston system was radically updated and improved.
This instrument has been described as the most significant new Irish cathedral organ in history, and it has gained an impressive international reputation particularly through its central role in the Dublin International Choral and Organ Festival. Its flexibility and comprehensive specification enable the performance of a wide range of repertoire as well as the fulfilment of an active role within the cathedral liturgy. One of its major achievements is its competence in the music of different periods and styles of the past 500 years without any sense of compromise – not because it represents a conglomeration of styles but because it has its own character, strength and musical logic.