Author Topic: St. Lawrence Jewry, London  (Read 11744 times)

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rh1306

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St. Lawrence Jewry, London
« on: March 04, 2012, 03:31:31 PM »
Hi,

My own personal 'in memoriam' would be the 1957 Mander, formerly in the Church of St. Lawrence Jewry-next-Guildhall, London, E.C.2., destroyed by 'enemy action' in 1999>:(  I will refrain from commenting on its replacement!!!

Regards,

Richard

AnOrganCornucopia

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Re: St. Lawrence Jewry, London
« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2012, 09:34:17 PM »
Oh YES! I never heard the old organ but the new one is LOATHSOME. And to have two consecutive organs destroyed by the Germans sixty years apart is just adding insult to injury...
« Last Edit: March 05, 2012, 10:10:00 AM by revtonynewnham »

makemoreandmore

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Re: St. Lawrence Jewry, London
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2012, 12:41:52 PM »
From the spec, I wish I could have played the HNB there- just my cup of tea  :D

rh1306

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Re: St. Lawrence Jewry, London
« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2012, 12:57:37 AM »
@AnOrganCornucopia: you have had the courage to say precisely what I meant!  The old organ was sublime, but the new one is more than LOATHSOME - it's an ABOMINATION!!! 
« Last Edit: March 09, 2012, 11:49:07 PM by pcnd5584 »

makemoreandmore

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Re: St. Lawrence Jewry, London
« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2012, 11:58:17 AM »
I've never heard this organ, but the Klais rebuild in Leeds RC Cathedral is superb. But then they had Norman and Beard pipework, and the added mixtures or whatever were severly restrained from their usual.

revtonynewnham

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Re: St. Lawrence Jewry, London
« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2012, 06:18:49 PM »
Hi

May I remind contributors that simply denigrating an organ isn't too helpful.  Criticism is fine - but please try and say why YOU think the organ is poor!  Quite often - as at Guildford Cathedral (mentioned in another post), the organ builder is constrained by the budget, the advisor, the architect and what the client thinks they want!

Every Blessing
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paultindall

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Re: St. Lawrence Jewry, London
« Reply #6 on: March 06, 2012, 09:46:26 PM »
Well, yes,

but if all those things are taken into account, it would be impossible to criticise any organ, surely?

Sometimes you just have to say what you think.

David Drinkell

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Re: St. Lawrence Jewry, London
« Reply #7 on: March 07, 2012, 12:56:21 AM »
I'd be interested to learn why correspondents dislike the new organ at St. Lawrence Jewry.  I haven't been in the church for (probably) about thirty years, so I've never heard it - and I must confess that I only heard the old one briefly and can't remember anything particular about it!

There are, or have been, a number of instances in recent years where it has been thought better musically, economically and for the sake of reliability to start afresh rather than recondition material that has already been retored and reprocessed several times.  The old St. Lawrence organ used as its basis the N&B organ from St. Paul's, Camden Square (Ivor Davies, who gave Noel Mander his first employment as an organ builder, was sacked by N&B for cleaning this on his own account), so was probably nearly a hundred years old in most of its parts and nearly fifty in its latest incarnation.  One could cite similar examples, although this path is by no means the one always chosen.

I suppose that the Mander organ, in some ways dated by NPM standards even when it was installed, may well have seemed decidedly out of fashion by 2000.  The present instrument is what the current incumbents wanted.  As Bernard Edmonds said about the St. Paul's rebuild, 'I, too , could have told them exactly what they should have done, but fortunately no one asked me'.

rh1306

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Re: St. Lawrence Jewry, London
« Reply #8 on: March 07, 2012, 01:03:51 PM »
Being someone who has regularly attended recitals at St. Lawrence for a period of over 40 years, I think that I am probably more qualified than most to make a reasoned comparison and judgement between the old and new organs.

I have always been under the impression that the organ from St. Paul's, Camden Square was actually a Willis, and that only the pipework was used in the construction of the 1957 organ for St. Lawrence Jewry.  In fact I was told this by no lesser a person than Ivor Davies himself, who apparently had somehow acquired the instrument and subsequently sold it on to Noel Mander.

By the end of the 20th century, the Mander organ was indeed showing signs of age, but could have easily been rebuilt for a fraction of the cost of the new Klais which, to my ears is a loud, raucous and most unmusical of intruments - a unappealing sound indeed. ...

« Last Edit: March 09, 2012, 11:59:21 PM by pcnd5584 »

AnOrganCornucopia

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Re: St. Lawrence Jewry, London
« Reply #9 on: March 07, 2012, 07:24:39 PM »
Yet Norman & Beard, as has been much discussed here lately, were extremely fine organ-builders: even if only the pipework was theirs, it would still have been worth saving. Recently, Klais seem to have done much work on Norman & Beard organs - first the scrapping of one at Haileybury to replace it with a thoroughly unpleasant, unmusical, shrieking neoclassical screecher, all but devoid of foundation tone and wholly unsuited to its role as a public school chapel organ (opinion of the correspondent - Moderator), then the wrecking of Bath Abbey - why did it have to lose a whole division of highly useful accompanimental stops and why did it have to get a reputedly very poor tracker action in place of a perfectly good electro-pneumatic action that would also have allowed another console to be placed downstairs, where you can actually see and hear what's going on?!

Then they did (probably not in this order) Leeds (under the careful watch of David Sanger and Simon Lindley, who loved the old organ as it was), then Auckland TH (basically undoing the Croft rebuild of the 1908 N&B, involving replacing most of the pipework AGAIN, using the unaltered once-twin of Auckland in Wellington TH as a model), then Dunedin TH (1919 HN&B, once to be found in Wembley Stadium!). Did you know that the Tuba at Leeds is actually a Compton cinema organ rank?! Jolly good it is too... but it seems that Klais have actually started learning from these old N&Bs! The spec of the Pedal, Great and Swell of their big new organ in the Royal Opera House in Oman (first organ I've ever seen with an Islamic Gothic case!) looks just like an English organ of the 1920s complete with three 8ft Open Diapasons on the Great!

Now, all that is needed is to destroy every organ Klais built between 1940 and 2005... abominations, the lot of 'em (from what I've heard and been told)! The pair in Köln Dom sound ghastly - though at least the old one has some character, a certain peculiar attractiveness if you like neoclassical organs (mostly I don't). That building BADLY needs a decent Romantic organ (and the new Mander Tubas sound atrocious, possibly through poor regulation and tuning on Klais' part).

Oh, and of course a copycat of the Bath wrecking has taken place at Marlborough College courtesy of Von Beckerath (though not the founder, he having died some years ago), perhaps to a rather higher standard, the blueprint arguably having been set in 1994 with the Mander at St John's Cambridge, which again skipped a lot of worthwhile material by Hill, by Norman & Beard, by the merged HN&B, and introduced a mechanical action (in place of EP, based as at Bath on the masterly N&B exhaust pneumatic) which was such a resounding success that it immediately had to be completely ripped out, redesigned and rebuilt and even now, I am told, is less than satisfactory... sad, because normally I like Mander organs (I even quite like SJCC tonally, though not as much as King's) and I think that the 1993 Mander in St Ignatius Loyola, NYC, is one of the ten greatest organs ever built (at least the ten greatest organs surviving in the world today) - I wish I could go over and hear it in the flesh. It looks simply stunning and I am told does not disappoint when you hear and play it. It certainly sounds from the recordings I have as though it does incredible justice to pretty much every area of the repertoire imaginable, and it has I think the second most beautiful console on the planet (behind that by James Jepson Binns which controls the Schulze at Armley). I'm struggling to think of  a challenger to its crown of best organ case on the planet (although I'm not sure the chair case is quite up to the standard of the rest of it - having said that, I have struggled in vain to think of how I'd improve it). John Mander and his team are quite clearly capable of true greatness which will preserve their names long after they have departed, so why are some of his organs such let-downs?

Having said that, if I was faced with a choice between Mander and Klais for a new/rebuilt organ, I'd go to Mander every time and not just for the sake of protecting British jobs. I'm sure Philip Klais is a lovely chap and his organs seem to be beautifully built, I just loathe them tonally!

Now, why is every new Willis going to export and why haven't we got a single Schoenstein in Europe, let alone the UK? Both firms are making stunning organs these days... and I've read that the new Schuke at Magdeburg Dom (commissioned by Mander board member Barry Jordan, a South African-born Norman & Beard fan!) is wonderful, doing justice to an awful lot of repertoire from the 1700s right through to today... Paul Derrett described it as the one organ on the continent he's played Howells on comfortably. If we must have new German organs arriving in this country, can we not have them by Schuke instead, please?

And what are the old firms of Sauer, Walcker and Steinmeyer (the last the oldest organ-builder in the world I believe, in business continuously since 1647, and still in some cases the only firm ever to have touched some of their earliest organs which survive today)? I know they're all still in business but we hear so little of these once hugely important companies.

Now, here's a Klais like wot they should build 'em today! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJfCUsdWOzU
« Last Edit: March 08, 2012, 11:14:28 AM by revtonynewnham »

AnOrganCornucopia

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Re: St. Lawrence Jewry, London
« Reply #10 on: March 07, 2012, 07:37:30 PM »
At least SLJ is a thoroughly well-constructed beast as far as I can tell - I can think of organs which are not only worse tonally but also of truly execrable build quality. There can be no denying that there are some true bodgers around (and have been for yonks).

Oh, with regard to SLJ, I should perhaps point out that the person responsible for the junking of the old organ (there are those who will know to whom I refer, though I shall not name the individual concerned) was also partly responsible for the junking of the wonderful Willis (says he, from the incredibly informed stand-point of having been born some 12 years after its scrapping!) in favour of that irredeemable heap of Austrian junk at Christ Church, Oxford... and I make no apologies for condemning that organ. It isn't the worst example of bodgery around by any means, it's basically solidly built (except for the reportedly fragile action and their ridiculous raising of the case, makes it look like it's gone on an African neck-stretching course) but tonally it has nothing to recommend it whatsoever: such foundation tone as it has is extremely weak and bland, wholly incapable of carrying the hymnody and choral singing which is that cathedral's staple diet. I have also never heard rougher, thinner, more poorly-voiced reeds in my life: they rip your head off with their savagery, yet have no sonority to back up the savagery. Overall, it is hopelessly lacking in both power and richness: it makes its neighbour up at Gloucester look like an ideal cathedral organ (at least Gloucester is a thrilling recital organ with some semblance of richness...).

The action and winding at CC has, I am told, been appallingly unreliable in recent times. Now, if they'd kept and restored the Willis (which would have cost less than the new organ), that would not only be much more suitable and satisfying but also a hang sight more reliable! Willis pneumatic actions, when properly maintained, are just about bombproof. That certain of them have survived as long as a century without becoming completely unplayable is testament to the quality of Vincent Willis' designs and the workmanship of the craftsmen who made them. Meanwhile, the instrument known by some Oxford organ scholars as the Austrobortion is falling apart completely and has been for several years, despite now being only 33 years old, and is costing CC a fortune to repair and maintain.

Imperatoris novum vestimenta percutere iterum...

...and thank God Rieger are building far better organs now. Bryn Mawr Welsh Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, sounds stunning on Nathan Laube's website...

NPOR turns up two churches called St Paul's Camden Square - one had an organ allegedly by Monk (to whom Willis sent clients for smaller projects when he was too busy with big ones), but Hill is also supposed to have had something to do with it. The spec looks like Hill reb. (H)N&B. The other SPCS has no survey.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2012, 02:55:31 PM by AnOrganCornucopia »

paultindall

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Re: St. Lawrence Jewry, London
« Reply #11 on: March 07, 2012, 11:46:05 PM »
Well, I'm dubious as to whether the Mander organ could have been rebuilt. Unfortunately, few of his mainly new-or-rebuilt/using lots of old stuff/ organs seem to have stood the test of time: Sheffield, Portsmouth RC, St Michael St Albans, St Lawrence Jewry, St Philip Earls Court. Maybe Canterbury now?

On the other hand, I think the new SLJ organ is crude and overloud. Also, considering Klais's reputation for engineering, it looks quite untidy in many ways, as does Smith Square.

AnOrganCornucopia

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Re: St. Lawrence Jewry, London
« Reply #12 on: March 08, 2012, 02:38:03 AM »
Ooh yeah, Smith Square. Ghastly, horrid organ, no warmth, no real power (as anyone who's heard it from the opposite end of the building when it's full can confirm), just thin, reed-and-upperwork-dominated scream and snarl - and seriously, 48 stops in that case?! I'm told it's a tuner's nightmare... it's just about big enough for 28, not 48! Another case of galleries wrecking acoustics, too. Considering the work involved in restoring the building, they should have pulled it (and every other bombed-out pseudo-Classical preaching box) down...

David Drinkell

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Re: St. Lawrence Jewry, London
« Reply #13 on: March 08, 2012, 06:56:32 AM »
I think Sheffield and Portsmouth at least employed soundboards, etc as well as pipes, which has been the downfall of a number of rebuilt organs - St. Edmundsbury, for example, or Tewkesbury - but didn't Canterbury follow the St. Paul's principle of being all new apart from the pipes?  I stand to be corrected on that if I'm wrong.  Canterbury is a very fine job indeed, but it's a shame they lost the Solo Organ - it's a bit short on quiet accompanimental stuff (that's not just my opinion - Allan Wicks told me so himself in the course of a consultation lesson many moons ago).

I am totally unqualified to form an opinion about St. lawrence, Jewry, but on paper it looks a bit fierce for that building.  Klais can handle large organs in small rooms - Caius College, Cambridge seems to work OK.

AnOrganCornucopia

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Re: St. Lawrence Jewry, London
« Reply #14 on: March 08, 2012, 09:34:19 AM »
Canterbury lost its Double Open Wood IIRC - and those who remember what the 32ft reed once sounded like say it's been neutered. One thing is for certain: what little sound makes it over the screen westwards then goes straight up the tower. By the time you're halfway down the nave it's very distant and, when the place is full, it's all but totally inaudible at the back. If ever a cathedral REALLY needed a nave organ (and I don't mean a diddy little 1-manual thing in a nasty, clashing classical-type case)...

I remember the old organ featuring in the Powell & Pressburger classic "A Canterbury Tale" (set during WW2). The actor whose character was supposed to play the organ actually did play (I think he learned the role). What's more, he was completely blind, and, during filming, a piece of organ music fell out of the loft down to the chancel aisle, floating down the steps into the transept where he was, and blow me down, he caught it! They couldn't have set that one up if they'd tried... I seem to recall that what he played was BWV565 but by God it sounded good on the big Willis/N&B! I seem to recall seeing (was it in the film or a photograph?) that it had a magnificently handsome console - another part of the organ junked needlessly...

Personally, I hope to see Willis called back in the not-too-distant future to rebuild that organ with a five-manual console controlling a minimum of seven manual divisions (4 in the chancel and 3 in the nave)... somewhere I've got a plan for what I was going to do with the place organ-wise. I seem to recall that it involved a 6-manual main organ (with Bombarde chorus and some pedal stops on the screen and an echo organ further east, a la Tewkesbury), a 5-manual nave organ (sharing the screen organ with that in the chancel), plus a 5-manual Aubertin in one of the east transepts and what did I have planned for the other eastern transept? I've honestly forgotten!

Ah, what one can do with a day stuck at home in the snow and an imagined budget of many millions...
« Last Edit: March 08, 2012, 09:44:53 AM by AnOrganCornucopia »

Robin Stalker

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Re: St. Lawrence Jewry, London
« Reply #15 on: March 08, 2012, 12:37:56 PM »
I recall reading part of an interview with David Flood the gist of which was that he hoped to have the main organ returned to 4m and returned to a more Willis sound, and to construct a new 4m to accompany services in the nave.

Work on the organ was supposed to be included in the multi-million fund raising drive currently going on

AnOrganCornucopia

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Re: St. Lawrence Jewry, London
« Reply #16 on: March 08, 2012, 02:52:07 PM »
Something to that effect was reported a few years ago on the Mander forum. David Titterington was said to have been appointed as consultant and was reportedly drawing up a specification. That is, until someone contacted a very bemused DT who knew nothing about his supposed appointment...

pcnd5584

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Re: St. Lawrence Jewry, London
« Reply #17 on: March 08, 2012, 10:53:24 PM »


Oh, with regard to SLJ, I should perhaps point out that the person responsible for the junking of the old organ (there are those who will know to whom I refer, though I shall not name the individual concerned) was also partly responsible for the junking of the wonderful Willis (says he, from the incredibly informed stand-point of having been born some 12 years after its scrapping!) in favour of that irredeemable heap of Austrian junk at Christ Church, Oxford... and I make no apologies for condemning that organ. It isn't the worst example of bodgery around by any means, it's basically solidly built (except for the reportedly fragile action and their ridiculous raising of the case, makes it look like it's gone on an African neck-stretching course) but tonally it has nothing to recommend it whatsoever: such foundation tone as it has is extremely weak and bland, wholly incapable of carrying the hymnody and choral singing which is that cathedral's staple diet. I have also never heard rougher, thinner, more poorly-voiced reeds in my life: they rip your head off with their savagery, yet have no sonority to back up the savagery. Overall, it is hopelessly lacking in both power and richness: it makes its neighbour up at Gloucester look like an ideal cathedral organ (at least Gloucester is a thrilling recital organ with some semblance of richness...).

The action and winding at CC has, I am told, been appallingly unreliable in recent times. Now, if they'd kept and restored the Willis (which would have cost less than the new organ), that would not only be much more suitable and satisfying but also a hang sight more reliable! Willis pneumatic actions, when properly maintained, are just about bombproof. That certain of them have survived as long as a century without becoming completely unplayable is testament to the quality of Vincent Willis' designs and the workmanship of the craftsmen who made them. Meanwhile, the instrument known by some Oxford organ scholars as the Austrobortion is falling apart completely and has been for several years, despite now being only 33 years old, and is costing CC a fortune to repair and maintain.


In order to provide a slightly more balanced view, Richard:

I have played the Rieger organ at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford on many occasions for a visiting choir. I have also had the privilege of being granted access at night, for practice.

Firstly, it is not an 'irredeemable heap of Austrian junk'. It was, in my opinion, well made by craftsmen. Yes, the voicing is bright and the reeds are not at all like those by FHW - or even Walker (at the turn of the previous century). However, if one uses the instrument intelligently, it can cope perfectly well with far more Anglican choral repertoire (for example) than you might suppose. And, yes, I did use the reeds - all of them at once, on occasion, for voluntaries. Many people stayed to listen and there were many kind comments (including during the prayers at the Sunday Mass, by one of the cathedral clergy) afterwards - and no complaints.

Whilst it is true that this small cathedral lacks the type of acoustic ambience with which Gloucester is blessed, nevertheless, this organ is capable of many beautiful etherial effects. It is, in addition, entirely able to lead a congregation in the singing of hymns and accompany a good ad hoc choir in the singing of 'cathedral' repertoire - psalms (Saint Paul's Psalter), canticles (ranging from Tudor, through Stanford to Kelly, in C) and anthems (again from Tudor to And I saw a new heaven - Bainton). Of course it depends on how it is played. This is not an organ that one can just switch on, sit down and make entirely beautiful sounds. It takes time and effort to get to know it. For example, my colleague still wants to know how I achieved the quiet 32ft. flue effect at the end of the Bainton. (Needless to say, I have no intention of sharing that little trick....)

You should know that the action was actually excellent and showed no signs whatsoever of undue wear or malfunction the last time I played it. However, two or three winters ago, during a spell of comparatively (for this country) severe weather, the cathedral authorities resorted to additional heating - which did cause some damage to the action. I suspect that it is this event which has precipitated the partial demise of the action of this instrument.

Two further points:

1) The raising of the case. Richard, obtain a copy of The Organs of Oxford (Positif Press), look at the monochrome photograph on p.22. Then explain to me how the present dignified composition, complete with its 'chaire' case is inferior to the previous dumpy case, with its disproportionate side-wings of rather uninspired design.

2) Lacking in power. I must admit that I am not sure how this instrument can be both 'lacking in power' and yet at the same time possess reeds which 'rip your head off with their savagery'. For the record, it is quite loud enough for the building. In addition, I found that the full fonds were a good, warm sound, with plenty of body; that is, unless one can only tolerate the type of opaque, oily phonon-quality of Diapason, which was popular in the first quarter of the twentieth century.


« Last Edit: March 08, 2012, 11:03:04 PM by pcnd5584 »
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David Drinkell

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Re: St. Lawrence Jewry, London
« Reply #18 on: March 09, 2012, 05:33:25 AM »
Canterbury lost its Double Open Wood IIRC - and those who remember what the 32ft reed once sounded like say it's been neutered. One thing is for certain: what little sound makes it over the screen westwards then goes straight up the tower. By the time you're halfway down the nave it's very distant and, when the place is full, it's all but totally inaudible at the back. If ever a cathedral REALLY needed a nave organ (and I don't mean a diddy little 1-manual thing in a nasty, clashing classical-type case)...

Ah, what one can do with a day stuck at home in the snow and an imagined budget of many millions...

Canterbury always was a 'quire' organ, and voiced as such.  I believe the idea behind the Mander rebuild was to allow optimum egress from a rather unfortunate position - hence the reduction in size.  There had been previous attempts at this , the last being by Willis 4 in the sixties.  Maybe they pruned it too much, but I like it.  For nave services, with the choir sitting on the steps west of the screen, it works very well, and the nave organ seems to draw the sound down the building (not a unique phenomenon - the big Positive at Belfast Cathedral does much the same thing to the older stuff behind it).  I think the nave case is an excellent piece of work and an ornament to the building.  I can remember the organ pre-Mander, and I wouldn't say that it has been drastically altered.  Rather, its character has been focussed and its personality re-established.  It was less clear and less easy to balance before the last rebuild.  I don't agree that the 32' reed has been gelded, although it's cleaner and more distinct.

All in all, I think the job works extremely well, and I've heard it down the nave on a Sunday morning, in the quire at weekday evensongs, directed a visiting choir at both ends and played it for various occasions.  I think a place like Canterbury needs at least 4 manuals though!

Snow????  Brother, come and live in Newfoundland and we'll show you what snow is!! :P

AnOrganCornucopia

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Re: St. Lawrence Jewry, London
« Reply #19 on: March 09, 2012, 07:44:59 AM »
There's a difference between power and loudness. Without the big reeds, CC Oxford REALLY lacks power. If you sit well up the nave when the cathedral is full, the organ REALLY struggles to carry the congregation in hymnody, despite what you say - let alone accompany the choir! I'm sorry, but an organ like that needs an acoustic ambience to work - Gloucester's organ would be equally miserable in the Oxford building. In an acoustic that dry, a warmer, more rounded sound is required, with MUCH more 16' and 8' tone. I'm not talking about Diapason Phonon type things, or even big leathered diapasons, just a reasonable body of sound, which the Rieger lacks. I wasn't going to mention Walkers of the early 1900s, but now you mention it, the 1920s 4/45 Walker which David helped save from destruction recently would be excellent in CCO. I wasn't going to campaign for Willis or Walker or HN&B reeds either, but I think that the free-tone reeds of a mid-C19 Hill would be good in that building, particularly with the very Classical choruses of the Rieger. The spitty, fiery, thin things it has now in no way balance the fluework, and are also extremely unpleasant in that dry acoustic. I'm sorry that I seem here to have slaughtered another sacred cow, but I honestly cannot think of another organ I hate so much.

Regarding the case - I've seen a number of photographs of the Willis and I agree, it was on the dumpy side. However, Rieger went too far in the opposite direction. Personally, I think the Smith case would have been best removed to the chancel, without the later and rather oversized chair case (these four-tower Smith cases almost never had chair case - I think Durham is the only example) and used to house a choir organ - or, alternatively, removed to another college - with an entirely new case (PERHAPS re-using the chair case) being used for the west end organ (which, ideally, would have re-used much of the Willis pipework).

At least when New College destroyed their 4m Willis, they replaced it with something visually and tonally quite wonderful, though in both respects entirely inappropriate to its surroundings...
« Last Edit: March 09, 2012, 10:31:40 AM by revtonynewnham »

 


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