The organ was made by Peter Conacher & Co. of Springwood, Huddersfield, a Scot who established a very successful company making organs of medium to large size and of a fairly standardized specification and style, for churches and chapels throughout these islands and overseas. His organs were particularly popular with nonconformist chapels, in this case the Welsh-speaking Congregational Chapel Capel Zoar. They are comparatively classical and straightforward for their date, with a robust sound. It is surprising that the history of the two Conacher firms has never been properly researched and published, apart from Laurence Elvin’s somewhat unreliable account. This organ was made in 1890, according to an inscription in the organ and the chapel archives. It has Conacher’s no. 805.
|Double Diapason||16||Violin Diapason||8||Open Diapason||16|
|Open Diapason||8||Rohr Gedact||8||Bourdon||16|
|Stopped Diapason||8||Voix Celestes||8|
|Fifteenth||2||Sesquialtera||III||Swell to Pedal|
|Mixture||III||Cornopean||8||Swell to Great|
|Trumpet||8||Oboe||8||Great to Pedal|
The manual key compass is C – g³, and the Pedal C – f¹.
3 combination pedals to Great
2 combination pedals to Swell
Hitch-down swell pedal
The pitch is slightly flat to A440 (a¹ = 437.7Hz @ 17.3ºC).
The tuning is equal temperament.
The wind pressure is 75.5mm. The wind is supplied by hand pump, water engine and electric blower.
The organ is essentially in original condition. The only changes to the specification were made in 1935, with the addition of two stops (Violone 8ft and Bass Flute 8ft) to the Pedal organ, partly by extension. Also a Tremulant in the Swell. The original mechanical key and stop action for the Pedal were replaced with pneumatic action, and a new pedalboard provided. The original hitch-down swell pedal was replaced with a balanced pedal in 1935. The water engine was disconnected and the electric blower provided in 1959. In fairly recent years tuning slides were provided. The chapel closed in 2009, but was bought in 2011 by Canolfan a Menter Gymraeg Merthyr Tudful and developed as a centre for performing arts and community activities.
In 2020-21 the organ was completely restored with new leather throughout, and the organ was returned to its 1890 state. The water engine was still in position on the floor of the bellows room. The one alteration which could not be reversed was the insertion of a floor between the galleries of the chapel, to make a room on the ground floor, and a performance space at gallery level, which affects both the view and the acoustics. Originally the console was behind the elevated reading desk, now a landing.
The organ is unusual for being on three if not four levels, bellows room at ground level, mechanism at console level, Great and Pedal organs above and the Swell organ above that. The corner posts for the support frame are 20ft 2ins (615cm) long, so it was decided to leave the structure in place and remove the bellows, wind chests, key and stop actions, swell box and mechanism, etc. for restoration in the workshop.
The main interventions of the restoration were to the Pedal organ mechanism, the console and the wind system. For the Pedal organ the mechanical key action was restored, with new pallets, pulldowns and rollerboards, a turning machine to take the action through 90º, and a new straight but concave pedalboard in the Peter Conacher style. There were traces of the original mechanism on the support structure, and some of the original parts of the pedal key and stop actions had been left under the console floor. The Pedal stops operate ventils inside the upper reservoir. The changes to the Pedal organ had meant changes to the console, which were reversed to accommodate the new pedalboard, the new hitchdown swell pedal on the treble side of the recess, and the combination action. The water engine was restored by James Richardson-Jones of the Duplex Pipe Organ and Blowing Co. The electric blower was restored, the hand blowing mechanism was reconstructed using original parts found under the console, and the two reservoirs restored to their original condition.
The organ was opened on September 23rd 2023 with a varied concert. The organ was played by the musical advisor, Dr William Reynolds. Management for the project was delivered by David Jones https://djassociates.org.uk/#home, and the project was inspired by the Chief Officer Lisbeth McLean https://www.theatrsoar.cymru/index.php.