The international church on Lake Como

The Anglican Church of the Ascension, Cadenabbia

The Organ in the history of the church

The current fine two manual pipe organ was built in about 1939 by Balbiani Vegezzi Bossi of Milan, shortly after the one in Como Cathedral. Indeed it seems to be a miniature replica of it, at least as regards the console. It was installed in the church that very same year and in this connection there is quite an interesting anecdote (if one can believe village gossip!). Apparently the Bishop of Gibraltar was visiting the area in the 1930s and was very impressed by the organ in the Roman Catholic Church of Griante (above Cadenabbia), saying that an instrument by the same builders must be installed in our church. After the works had terminated, the local parish priest demanded his commission (and was furious when he did not receive it!). This story was told by the former manager of the Hotel Victoria where Luigi and Celestino Balbiani stayed while actually installing the instrument).

We are very grateful for the interest shown by the Italian-Brazilian conductor Martinho Lutero Galati De Oliveira, Robert Michaels, organist and master of choristers, Lugano Cathedral, as well as Kathryn Armour and Terrence Gauss-Woolen, who have been running voice masterclasses on the lake for many years.

Ten years ago the organ was fully restored and renovated, thanks to donations from well-wishers and lovers of church music. With our regular master organist German Torre, it continues to be a spiritual inspiration in our Sunday worship and wedding blessings.  It needs specialised annual maintenance, and so we are grateful for any specific donations for the organ.

Organ connoisseurs can find a full specification of the instrument below.

 History of the Organ

The following are extracts from the brochure "Music and the Organ", written and published by the church organist.

An organ loft was incorporated in the original design of the church by the well-known architect Giorgio Brentano, so we can safely assume there was an instrument before 1939 (fees to the organ blowers were mentioned several times in the church registers from 1892 right up to 1929, while the presence or absence of the organist also received a mention, e.g. 29/04/1923 "collection for the organist". Other interesting entries are: 18/3/1906, a sum of 75 centimes was paid "for extra organ blower"; 12/6/1906 "electric current for organ fused"; September 1908 "for organ deficit after paying expenditure".

We have no records in the church archives concerning the builder of the original organ but it is more than likely that it was William George Trice of Genova (1848-1920), who studied under Aristide Cavaille Coll and established an organ building factory at Quarto al Mare, now Quarto dei Mille, part of Genova. Later he sold the factory to Carlo Vegezzi Bossi. He was appreciated for his diapason, eufonio and dulciana stops.

Since the first edition of the booklet further proof of this earlier instrument has emerged, after careful examination of the front principal pipes: two are stamped with "Davison Genova 1892". So the church indeed had a pipe organ very soon after its consecration in 1891 but what happened between 1929 and the consequent rebuilding in 1939 still remains a mystery. While church records show regular payments to the organist right up to 1938, there was no further mention of the organ blower after 1929 (there is a harmonium in the church ...)