The Cathedral organ was built in 1962 to a design by Peter Hurford (then Master of the Music) and Ralph Downes.
The present Cathedral organ replaced an instrument that, although of excellent pedigree, was originally built to lead the music in only one third of the building. It had been relocated to the present organ loft and the pipes were forced to work much harder to overcome a very bad layout. The late 1950s, restoration of the Nave wall paintings necessitated the removal of the old organ and this created the opportunity to start afresh, albeit using some of the old material. The design of the 1963 Harrison and Harrison organ was revolutionary, being the first cathedral instrument in Britain to be voiced and built on 'neo-classical’ lines, where the layout of the various sections of the organ is clear, logical and more concise than most traditional English Cathedral organs. The sounds created by the pipes are likewise clearer and more flexible for the music of the different periods of composition. Therefore it is possible to achieve a good balance between stops in all schools of organ repertoire, for example, in the Trio Sonatas of J.S. Bach, yet find all the power, fire and rich colour of the eighteenth and nineteenth century organs of France whilst also being flexible and subtle enough for its daily work of accompanying the traditional English cathedral repertoire.
In 2007-9 the organ was comprehensively refurbished by Harrison & Harrison of Durham (the original builders), under the guidance of the current Master of the Music, Andrew Lucas and organ adviser Ian Bell. New ranks of pipes were added to complete the ensemble, especially new Great 8’ and 4' reeds and a 32' pedal reed. The very high pitches of Mixture stops, which had been altered in the 1970s, were rationalised and the console was enlarged to four manual keyboards to assist in the control of some of the solo colours and a proposed Nave Organ section to assist congregational singing. It is hoped that the Nave section will be added in the near future.
The organ is the centerpiece of the biennial St Albans International Organ Festival and Competitions, founded by Peter Hurford in 1963.