Saturday was the Bradford Organists' association's annual trip (and organ crawl!) This year, at my suggestion, we went to Chester and North Wales - and saw, heard and played three very different organs - but all interesting and inspiring in their own way.
First stop was St. Mary, Mold, http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi?Fn=Rsearch&rec_index=N08865
This is one of Rushworth & Dreaper's rare excursions into neo-baroque territory - not a style of organ that some of our members like! However, this was an interesting instrument to hear and play (and see - the casework is nice - and the Brustwerk enclosure is sliding/folding doors - operated by the swell pedal! A surprisingly effective arrangement. The choruses were clear and bright - and solo tone colours could be found. As usual on these trips, no-one gets to play for very long - but as President, our "tradition" is that the president gets first crack at the open console sessions. I played the Bacj Chorale prelude "O Mensch, Bewein dein Sunde Grosb" - Solo on the Swell Stopped Flute & Larigot, with Great Flutes 8 & 4 and Pedal 16 for the other parts. The Brustwerk arrangement made it easy to balance the voices. This organ is the typical neo-Baroque "screamer" - although undoubtedly brightly voiced.
Next stop (after lunch in a local hotel) was St Peter, Ruthin. http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi?Fn=Rsearch&rec_index=R00063
. This is an absolutely unique organ - the details are on NPOR, so I won't waste space here - suffice to say that it's an English Victorian "take" on a French romantic organ. Does it sound French? No - although a couple of the reeds do have a French flavour to my ears. Does it sound typically English? Again, not really - although all the sounds are there for the Anglican repertoire - and solo organ repertoire - but sometimes not where you expect them. One quirk is that there is no coupler from the choir to any other manuals - due to the fact that Pyne (the designer) used the "thumbing down" te3chnique heavily, so he specified a closer than normal spacing for the manuals. For the same reason, there are only general pistons (16 under the choir manual, duplicated by toe levers - with a ridiculous number of memory levels. I had played this organ a few years ago - I had a morning on it when we were on holiday in the area. It's not the sort of organ that you can just sit down and play - it takes some time to get used to its idiosyncratic layout - but there are some absolutely beautiful solo voices, as well as good choruses on Great & Swell. I played the Daquin Noel (the famous one) - but I did chicken out of the variation with all the semiquavers! Lack of practice! The Choir Cor Anglais (an unusual stop - one of Wadsworth's specialities) with the Choir Oboe made a fair substitute for the Cromhorne - and everythingelse was there with no problems - I'm told that the echo passages in the finale came of extremely well down in the church. If you're going to be in this area of Wales, I would recommend any organist contacting the church and arranging a visit - but give yourself plenty of time!
The final call was St Werburgh Catholic Church in Chester. http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi?Fn=Rsearch&rec_index=E00905
. A rescued Binns - and again a very interesting installation - although it did serve to remind me why I hate detached consoles at the other end of the church to the pipes! Very much a typical English church organ - and none the worse for that. My contribution here was a hymn prelude on Diadem by Rosalie Bonighton. The parish priest here - who called in briefly to say "hello" before rushing off to take a Mass in another church - had previously been at St Cuthbert's, Bradford - the Catholic church just round the corner from where I live. It's a small world!
Altogether, Saturday was an interesting and inspiring day.