The 'August Gern' Organ In the Old St. John's Masonic Temple
Anyone lucky enough to have had the opportunity to get a tour of the Masonic Temple on Cathedral street in Downtown St. John’s will be familiar with the old August Gern Musical Organ located in what used to be the meeting hall of the Free Masons. The organ was built in 1883 by August Gern Organ Builders in London. The August Gern organ is one of only two ever built of its kind with its counterpart being located in a cloistered convent in Notting Hill, London.
The keys of the organ are situated in between two large wooden cabinets which hold the organs pipes. The Agust Gern organ is fitted with two manuals, 10 stops, and mechanical/pneumatic action . As mention before it is of only two of its kind in the world and what makes it just a notable is that it is the only August Gern organ believed to be in North America.
The instrument was built for John B. Ayre in 1883. John B. Ayre was a well-known merchant and politician in the St. John’s area who had a love for music and more specifically the organ. During this time the organ was situated in the masonic hall in Harbour Grace known as Lodge Harbour Grace (#476). The organ was later purchased from Ayre by the Masonic hall Joint Stock Company who paid for the removal and installation of organ. Many members of the society contributed in purchasing the organ but it would not have been possible without a large contribution from Sir John C. Crosbie.
The organ was dedicated to the memory of George Graham Crosbie and officially presented to the Masonic Temple by his son Sir John Crosbie on April 19, 1916. Following this there was an organ recital and concert in celebration of the organs completion.
As of the writing of this article the organ remains silent, pushed up against a wall buried in tables, chairs, and a layer of dust. The organ is in desperate need of repair but because of the craftsmanship put into building it and the rarity of the instrument, restoring the instrument to its former glory will be very expensive. And with the organ next-to forgotten about it do not seem as though help is coming anytime soon.
Sources & Further Exploring
Goulding, L. & Vineer, W. (2013). The British Invasion Lives On! Pipe Organs of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Retrieved from The British Invasion Lives On! Pipe Organs of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada | The Diapason.
Heritage Newfoundland and Labrador (2016). Masonic Temple (Cathedral Street, St. John’s). Retrieved from Masonic Temple, St. John's, NL (heritage.nf.ca).
The History of Saint John's Lodge No.1 (2021). The History of Saint John's Lodge No.1. Retrieved from The History of Saint John's Lodge No.1 (historyofsaintjohnslodgeno1.blogspot.com).