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Knud Smenge

The Danish-born Australian organ builder Knud Smenge was born in Denmark on 12 December 1937.

From the late 1950s until the late 1970s, Smenge trained and worked for 21 years with the internationally-renowned organ building companies of Marcussen & Son and Bruno Christensen & Son, where he gained his widely-admired skills as a craftsman and voicer.

In 1979 Smenge, then in his early 40s, moved to Melbourne and took up the position of Tonal Director and Head Voicer for the long-established Australian organ building firm of George Fincham & Sons. After only two years with the Fincham firm, Smenge established his own organ building business.

As an independent organ builder in Australia during the 1980s and 1990s, Knud Smenge built over 40 new instruments, and rebuilt and restored many others, working first from a workshop in West Melbourne, where he rebuilt a German organ for St Mary’s Anglican Church in North Melbourne, then in larger premises in North Melbourne, where he constructed a number of new instruments and restored the earliest organ built in Australia, the 1840 instrument in St Matthew’s, Windsor, NSW. From 1991 Smenge’s factory was in the country town of Healesville, northeast of Melbourne.

Smenge was an exponent of the organ reform movement and championed clear-sounding, brightly-voiced instruments with mechanical action. Highly esteemed, his work was acclaimed for its great attention to design, detail and craftsmanship. For over 20 years, Knud Smenge was a leader in the Australian organ building industry.

In addition to several small portable continuo chamber organs for clients including The University of Melbourne, The University of Sydney and The University of Hong Kong, and several residence organs for private clients, Smenge built large new instruments for St George’s Anglican Cathedral, Perth, Western Australia as well as St Stephen's Catholic Cathedral, Brisbane, Queensland.

Other large new instruments were built for The University of Tasmania in Hobart, St John's Lutheran Church, Southgate, Melbourne, the Church of the Epiphany, Crafers, Adelaide and the Church of St Mary Immaculate, Manly, Sydney.

Knud Smenge retired from organ building in 2002 after over two decades working as an organ builder in Australia and over 40 years working an organ builder internationally.

Aged 80 years, Knud Smenge died in Alexandra, Victoria, on 4 May 2018. He is survived by three children in Denmark, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

A memorial service was held at St John’s Lutheran Church, Southgate, Melbourne on 25 May 2018.

From an article by Christopher Parsons