The organ in Fort Massey was built in 1913 by Casavant Frères of Ste Hyacinthe, Quebec, a world-famous organ building company. It was voiced by Claver Casavant (one of two brothers who founded the world famous firm) in the “Romantic-Symphonic” style favoured at the time, and kept these characteristics when a new console with electric action was installed in 1951. It retains the original layout, pipes and windchests, and unlike many other instruments of its type it was not later modified to comply with a prevailing fashion for baroque sounds. Significant restoration was recently completed in 2014 by Jean-François Mailhot, a builder sympathetic to the original style.
The organ contains about 2000 pipes, distributed over 3 keyboards (or manuals) plus a pedalboard of 32 notes. The pipes range in length from over 16ft to 3/4 inch (5m to 20mm). Pipes for two of the four divisions are in “swell” boxes with shutters to control the volume, but those of the Pedal and “Great” divisions are in the open and produce bolder sound.
The tone of the instrument is “foundational,” emphasizing gravity and lower pitches. It contains nearly all the colours required for organ music of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, although it will cope effectively with music of other periods up to the present.
Choir Organ: Melodia 8’, Viol d’Orchestre 8’, Dulciana 8’, Wald Flute 4‘, Piccolo 2’, Clarinet 8’*, Chimes, Super- and Sub-Octave Couplers, Unison Off, Tremulant.
Great Organ: Open Diapason 8’, Violon Diapason 8’, Hohl Flute 8’, Dolce 8’, Octave 4’, Harmonic Flute 4’, Superoctave 2’, Trumpet 8’*, Chimes, Super- and Sub-Octave Couplers, Unison Off.
Swell Organ: Bourdon 16’, Open diapason 8’, Stopped Diapason 8’, Viola da Gamba 8’, Voix Celeste 8’, Aeoline 8’, Flauto Traverso 4’, Flautina 2’, Cornet 3 ranks (2 2/3’, 2’, 1 3/5’), Cornopean 8’*, Oboe 8’*, Vox Humana 8’*, Super- and Sub-Octave Couplers, Unison Off, Tremulant.
Pedal Organ: Open Diapason 16’, Bourdon 16’, Gedeckt 16’, Octave 8’, Bass Flute 8’, Trombone 16’*, Chimes.! ! Couplers: Swell to Great, Choir to Great and Swell to Choir, all at Unison, Sub- and Super- Octave; Swell to Pedal, Great to Pedal, Choir to Pedal, all at Unison and Super-Octave.
* Denotes reed stops.
Harry Dean (1879-1955) was born in Yorkshire and studied music in England, and at the Leipzig Conservatory in Germany before coming to Canada. He was the choir director and organist at Fort Massey for almost 50 years, from 1906 to 1953, and he oversaw the installation of the new organ. He worked as professor at Dalhousie University, held many conducting positions, and founded the Maritime Academy of Music, which later merged with the Halifax Conservatory of Music to form the Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts.