THE painstaking process of “voicing” the Grand Organ at York Minster has begun as a once-in-a-century £2 million refurbishment project enters its final phase.

The organ, one of the largest in the country – weighing around 20,000kg and containing 5,403 pipes – was removed from the cathedral in October 2018 for cleaning, repair and replacement of its parts.

It is hoped the fully refurbished instrument will be back in use by next spring.

Voicing is a process to ensure all the organ’s 5,000-plus pipes are playing the correct pitch, tone and volume. The work is being carried out by specialists from Durham-based organ builders Harrison and Harrison and will take several weeks.

The process is done entirely by ear. Each pipe, ranging from the size of a pencil to 10m long, plays an individual note, and the voicer’s job is to ensure all the pipes in each stop are playing the right pitch, tone and volume.

Andrew Scott, of Harrison and Harrison, said voicing gave an organ its musical personality. “In many ways, it is a similar sounding process to regular tuning, but whereas tuning is the correction of pitch, voicing alters the physical parameters of each pipe, such as the tone and volume.”

Another part of the final stage of the project is the cleaning of the newly revealed Pulpitum, known as the Kings’ Screen – the 15th century stone screen which separates the cathedral’s Quire from its Nave.

The Pulpitum features 15 stone statues of medieval monarchs, and conservation experts are using museum grade vacuum cleaners and brushes to clean years of dirt and dust from the detailed carvings. The screen was revealed again last month after it was surrounded by scaffolding for two years.

Alex McCallion, York Minster’s director of works and precinct, said he was thrilled the once-a-century project was entering its final stages.