Watson Chapel gets an organ transplant

This article has photo gallery Published on ABML-C Steven Bruni (author), SMNML-SC Craig Walton (photographer), ABIS Bonny Gassner (photographer)

Location(s): HMAS Watson, NSW

Topic(s): HMAS Watson

The new organ at the HMAS Watson Memorial Naval Chapel of St George the Martyr, replacing the old organ that had blessed the chapel with its music for the previous decade. (photo: SMNML-SC Craig Walton)
The new organ at the HMAS Watson Memorial Naval Chapel of St George the Martyr, replacing the old organ that had blessed the chapel with its music for the previous decade.

The electronic organ at HMAS Watson Chapel has played at many of the 3000 weddings, baptisms and funerals held at the historic building, but it played its final note this month.

After three decades of service, the instrument was replaced with a newer model.

Watson’s Chaplain Collin Tett said the chapel held an important place in the Royal Australian Navy, acting as a memorial to all members who had died in service to their country.

For that reason it was important all aspects of the chapel represent their memories in the best possible light, he said.

“The new organ will add a great deal to the quality of the music we enjoy,” Chaplain Tett said.

“It is also a connection with the past as it is a gift from Mr Otto Albert, a member of the Chapel Trust who has been associated with Watson and the Naval Chapel since before the first stone was set in place.”

Local resident Rosalie Forsyth-Grant has played the organ at Watson for almost a decade. She said the replacement was music to her ears.

“The old organ has been the musical background for many of the 3000 weddings, hundreds of baptisms and many funerals held since the Chapel was consecrated,” she said.

“Although the old organ had a lot of sentimental value, it was time for an upgrade.

“To be the only organist at Watson is an honour and a privilege. I am looking forward to performing at all of Watson’s services.”

The Watson Memorial Naval Chapel of St George Martyr is located on the seaward brink of South Head.

The chapel was built in 1960 with the foundation stone laid on 30 April by a ward of Legacy, who remains anonymous.

The boy’s father was a naval sailor who lost his life in service at sea in World War II, three months before his son was born.

Stones from shrines around the world - some dating back to the fifth century AD - can be found in the Chapel’s altar, including stones from the United States, England, India, South Africa, Scotland, Ireland, Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore, Israel, and Zanzibar.

The altar also contains stones from cathedrals in Sydney, Bathurst, Melbourne, Perth and Rockhampton.

The wood-carved pulpit features a New Zealand kea bird and was donated by the Royal New Zealand Navy, while items such as the stone carvings and altar cloths were gifts from many different nations including the Netherlands and Malta.