Author Topic: Walker organ S.H. Wimbledon (1912)  (Read 6842 times)

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Pierre Lauwers

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Walker organ S.H. Wimbledon (1912)
« on: January 12, 2012, 07:03:28 PM »
I found this article today with a great pleasure:

http://www.mander-organs.com/portfolio/sacred-heart-wimbledon.html

It deserves a carefull reading ! needless to say, I am eager to find sound files.

Best wishes,

Pierre

AnOrganCornucopia

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Re: Walker organ S.H. Wimbledon (1912)
« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2012, 12:48:31 AM »
Or, better, come and hear it yourself. It's nothing short of stupendous. I just LOVE it - as does everyone who's come into contact with it. Olivier Latry is coming to play a recital on it in March for its centenary... tickets have just been opened up to booking through the Sacred Heart Music Facebook page. To all those in the South of England with Facebook, get in there before they all sell out!

It was also associated with some quite famous people, namely Guy Weitz and Fernand Laloux. It is also believed that Marcel Dupré played it - he was certainly a friend of Weitz and played a recital in Wimbledon (on the no-longer-extant Compton theatre organ in the Town Hall!) and, I think, is recorded as having visited the organ loft one Sunday.
« Last Edit: April 18, 2012, 07:53:37 PM by AnOrganCornucopia »

David Pinnegar

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Re: Walker organ S.H. Wimbledon (1912)
« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2012, 12:11:45 PM »
Dear Pierre

Yes - an interesting article indeed particularly in the light elsewhere on this forum about the possible longevity of pneumatic actions. With my interest in speakers and particularly where light paper cones are mounted on foam mountings, which rot, I have a suspicion that the rot happens when either the material is too damp and falls apart or too dry for flexibility and becomes brittle: likewise leather I suspect.

Modern central heating has a lot to answer for, likewise, with historic buildings where the installation of heating can cause condensation in roofs, particularly under lead or other metal coverings, and set up perfect conditions for dry rot.

Has there been any research done on the best humidity levels to keep leather for actions supple and if so perhaps humidity control should be a priority for instrument curators . . .

Best wishes

David P
David Pinnegar, BSc ARCS

Pierre Lauwers

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Re: Walker organ S.H. Wimbledon (1912)
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2012, 03:48:31 PM »
With the experience we have in Belgium with pneumatic actions, it seems the critical factor
is above all to have the organ played daily, so that the conditions within the soundboards remain
the same as they are outside, while this keeps the leather supple.
A pneumatic organ which is played daily lasts even longer than a tracker (I had to leave another forum
for having written this. But the organs (more than 100 years without releathering! are there to testify....)

Best wishes,
Pierre

AnOrganCornucopia

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Re: Walker organ S.H. Wimbledon (1912)
« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2012, 04:34:49 PM »
Hmm, but the Walker design of tubular pneumatic action is known to be troublesome. It was leaking from this action which caused Latry's original recital to be cancelled, it was the action which largely made the instrument near-unplayable before its restoration. Even during David Briggs' recital it was giving some problems, mostly on the Choir manual. It would have been far better, from the point of view of the organ's functionality, to have electrified it.

Pierre Lauwers

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Re: Walker organ S.H. Wimbledon (1912)
« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2012, 07:59:12 PM »
Well, may I suggest you read the article by John Pike Mander again ?

David Drinkell

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Re: Walker organ S.H. Wimbledon (1912)
« Reply #6 on: January 15, 2012, 06:33:03 AM »
Walker pneumatics could certainly be a little sensitive and need a lot of re-adjusting - I used to play on one - but nice enough when they were in good shape.

AnOrganCornucopia

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Re: Walker organ S.H. Wimbledon (1912)
« Reply #7 on: January 15, 2012, 06:34:24 AM »
I have read it. I defer to JPM's greater technical expertise but, given that a simple tubular pneumatic action offers no direct contact between key and pallet, surely the key simply acts as a switch and so the feedback and sensitivity of touch he talks about is absent?

The organ is there for the purpose of providing musical accompaniment to concerts and services in a large, busy Jesuit-run Roman Catholic church in as flexible and reliable a manner as possible. The former is compromised by the lack of general pistons or even adjustable departmentals - you have to go inside the organ to sort all that out. The latter is compromised by the design of the action - and is the new tubing all lead? I saw what was coming out and it wasn't pretty. A really good electropneumatic action would have been no less responsive but would have been a hang sight more reliable and would have allowed for the provision of all the usual mod cons. As for the reliability, this is what JPM himself has to say:
Quote
The restoration of pneumatic actions has its problems. It is certainly not as simple as electrification. It also requires more regular attention and adjustment, not least because the instruments are subjected to much more damaging heating today than they would have experienced when they were built. Setting up a pneumatic action is also more demanding than an electric or electro-pneumatic action.

This might be acceptable in a museum or a private home or somewhere where the organ would not live such a demanding life - but I fear that restoring this particular design of tubular pneumatic action may prove something of a problem (indeed, a burden on the shoulders of this admittedly VERY wealthy parish) in the future.

Now, H&H have become well-known for installing modern registrational aids (general pistons, steppers, sequencers etc) alongside tubular pneumatic actions (I can think of one vintage H&H in Dundee and two Binns actions, one underneath the Armley Schulze, where this has happened) - why could Manders not have done the same? Frankly, I smell the meddling of the Heritage Lottery Fund...

Mr Mander's analogy with the world of heritage railways (a subject close to my heart), regarding replacing a steam locomotive boiler with a diesel engine, is rather unhelpful here. What would be comparable would be if the Walker case contained a digital sampling of the old pipe organ, played through the Walker console but without 'real' sound. Electrifying the action is no different, really, to some of what DOES go on - like steel fireboxes in place of copper, welded boilers (often working at higher-than-original pressures) and tender tanks in place of riveted ones, redesigned tender internals (swapping coal capacity for water capacity or vice versa, improving the design of baffles in the water tank to stop the water sloshing around too much), installing roller bearings in place of plain bearings... simple, unobtrusive but nevertheless helpful modernisations that just make them that bit easier to live with. Oh, and that's before we get on to main line locomotives having to be fitted with additional lighting, plus AWS, TPWS, OTMR, etc... and there are some designs which have only ever really become successful in preservation. The continual fettling of the once-troublesome Duke of Gloucester since its rescue from the scrapyard has resulted in a vastly more capable and reliable engine. The fitting - shock horror! - of London & North Eastern Railway-pattern Kylala-Chapelon exhausts to the Great Western Railway's King class means that those engines can at last allow their enormous boilers to breathe properly! I could go on, but I won't.
« Last Edit: January 15, 2012, 10:17:40 AM by organforumadmin »

Pierre Lauwers

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Re: Walker organ S.H. Wimbledon (1912)
« Reply #8 on: January 15, 2012, 11:50:37 AM »
1) About the touch of the pneumatic action:

Mr Mander is not alone about the difference between EP and pneumatic action.
This is recognized since many decades, and, in continental Europe, there are many
organs that have already been reverted to the pneumatic action (when they were originally
built so of course)
Did you ever try them ?
If the touch of the pneumatic action was the same as with EP, then it would be the case
with Barker levers as well (there, too, there is no mechanical link between the note and
the soundboard pallet, and one could speak of an "ON-OFF" action. But any organist
knows this is not the case.)
Again, if so, we should rebuild Cavaillé-Coll organs with EP action instead of painstakingly
preserving them.

2)About the very purpose of the organ.

If we adopt a "managerial" view -and I have been paid for 27 years to do so-, an utilitarian,
value-for-money, would-be-"rational" one (a rationale which in fact never exists!), you are right.
But then, why still have pipe organs in the first place ? If the organ is a tool like, say, a fridge,
a toaster is all we need.

Best wishes,
Pierre
« Last Edit: January 15, 2012, 11:58:31 AM by Pierre Lauwers »

AnOrganCornucopia

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Re: Walker organ S.H. Wimbledon (1912)
« Reply #9 on: January 15, 2012, 04:58:27 PM »
Well, I'm not really an organist but I have tinkered around on organs of all action types, backfall trackers, suspended trackers, Barker lever, Willis floating lever, pressure and exhaust pneumatics, electro-pneumatic and pure electric. I can't say that I've ever really noticed a tubular pneumatic action giving any more 'feel' than an electro-pneumatic action.

As for all we really 'need' being a toaster, I disagree wholeheartedly. Electronic organs are so inferior to pipe organs that they will never offer a realistic solution giving value for money as a good pipe organ. To get near equally good sound you end up spending as much as you would have done on an equivalent pipe organ - then the electronics all pack in inside twenty years. The Wimbledon Walker, whatever its foibles and weaknesses, has lasted pretty well into this, its centenary year. I'm sure that anyone who contributed money to its original construction would have continued to marvel at its tonal qualities long after the cost had been forgotten. Can the same ever be said of an electronic?

David Drinkell

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Re: Walker organ S.H. Wimbledon (1912)
« Reply #10 on: January 16, 2012, 05:44:44 AM »
Well, I'm not really an organist but I have tinkered around on organs of all action types, backfall trackers, suspended trackers, Barker lever, Willis floating lever, pressure and exhaust pneumatics, electro-pneumatic and pure electric. I can't say that I've ever really noticed a tubular pneumatic action giving any more 'feel' than an electro-pneumatic action.

I dunno - I reckon the feel of various pneumatic actions is part of the atmosphere of playing different instruments, along with the console style, the keys (old Walkers have lovely long keys with black undersides) and so on.  Harrisons' reconised this at Westminster Cathedral when they kept the pneumatic touch-boxes on the west end console but electrified from there on in.  Proposals to do the same to a Lewis (& Co) in Belfast were vetoed by the Lottery people and the action continued to be troublesome.

AnOrganCornucopia

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Re: Walker organ S.H. Wimbledon (1912)
« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2012, 10:55:48 AM »
There are some interesting hi-res pre-restoration photos here: http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/jleadbeater/pictures.htm

Also, the next recital is this coming Saturday at 7:45 PM - full details here: http://www.sacredheartwimbledon.org.uk/event/organ_recital_by_david_gammie - very interesting programme!

and

http://www.sacredheartwimbledon.org.uk/event/celebrity_centenary_organ_concert_by_olivier_latry

This should be most exciting. To reserve tickets, go to http://www.facebook.com/SacredHeartOrgan and click on the 'Contact' link to the left, beneath the photo of the front-pipes.

You really MUST come and hear this truly magnificent instrument - it's out of this world. David Briggs says he "fell in love with the high-Romantic power, brilliance, opulence and extreme subtlety of this instrument, excellently restored by Manders".
« Last Edit: January 16, 2012, 11:08:55 AM by AnOrganCornucopia »

 


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