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Messages - pcnd5584

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Restoring pipe organs / Re: Pedal Acoustic Bass 32
« on: July 29, 2019, 09:59:11 AM »
The instrument at Wimborne Minster has no 32ft. register at all. It is necessary to resort to subterfuge to obtain any type of 32ft. effect. One such (perhaps surprisingly) was - for a piece which ended quietly in A major - Pedal Bourdon, play low A, and the C# below, with no couplers, and under the Swell strings, box mostly closed. The same was true in B-flat major, except that one would play the D below, and low B-flat.

Another possibility, for rather louder effects, was to use full Swell (without the Mixture), coupled to G.O. 16ft., 8ft. and 4ft. flues (without Open Diapason I), with Pedal full 16ft. and 8ft. flues (coupled), and then play the first few harmonics of 32ft. on the Positive Gedeckt (8ft.), but without Swell to Positive. This worked surprisingly well in C major, E-flat major, F major, G major and A major.

Miscellaneous & Suggestions / Re: Is this forum dead? Is the organ dead?
« on: January 13, 2018, 09:53:06 PM »
I have had no problems logging-in this evening. Later (or, perhaps tomorrow), I hope to have a good read through as many new posts as possible.

Best wishes to all our readers, posters and lurkers....

That's my point really - it's listed as having thumb pistons in the survey (1975) but the pictures on ebay don't show any.

It occurs to me that there is a further possibility: dare I suggest that the good people at the NPOR may have mixed the main stop-list and the couplers and accessories. Is it conceivable that the latter belong to a different instrument?

Excuse the straying from topic, but when looking in NPOR I tried "Anne's" and found this rather remarkable residence organ in Queen Anne's Mansions, St. James, London:

Four manuals, 61 speaking stops, no mixtures but Pedal chorus to 2' and oddities including a Musette 2' on the Solo.  Built by Wedlake - it must have been his magnum opus.  Charles Pierce, the organ writer, scholar and composer was quite keen on him and his organ at St. Clement's, Eastcheap was rebuilt by the firm.

Thank you for including this one, David - it's most interesting. In fact, I don't think that I have ever seen anything on paper remotely like this. It would have been informative to hear how it sounded in this building. For this date, aside from the lack of compound stops and mutations, it is a very comprehensive tonal scheme, although I note that there is no undulating rank, either.

Presumably the couplers and accessories date from a later rebuilding (i.e.: later than 1875). This would be  not only extremely unusual for this date, but also somewhat costly, at that time.

A report has been received asking for this topic to be removed.

It is a matter of interest relating to an instrument worthy of preservation and about which the future appears to hold question marks and has spawned a balanced discussion.

What might be the reasons?

Forum Admin

I also wondered this - and have therefore not taken any action. I can see no problem with this thread remaining. it is clearly of interest and David's thoughtful and informed posts are both interesting and thought-provoking - as always.

Thank you, Ian, for a fascinating post.  I wish you would go on all day!  The biggest gap in my organ education is that I have no first-hand experience of instruments in Holland or North Germany - although I conducted a concert in the Grote Kerk at Breda a few years ago, it didn't include the use of the organ.  One day, I hope to put that right.

One aspect of this thread that we haven't mentioned is the ability to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.  An example which comes to mind is at the First Presbyterian Church in Dromore, Co. Down.  The organ was a completely predictable 1937 two manual by Evans & Barr of Belfast - Great to Fifteenth, Swell to 4' and two reeds, two extended woody pedal stops.  Honest and competent, but nothing exciting, even by E&B standards.  In 1998, Wells Kennedy restored and rebuilt it, adding a Twelfth to the Great, a Mixture to the Swell and a couple of 4' stops to the Pedal.  Most importantly, though, they revoiced and rebalanced all the pipe-work. I was consultant on this job (not an onerous task, merely confirming that the proposals were sensible and that the firm would do a good job) and played at the re-opening.  The difference was incredible.  A tired old nonentity had become a beautiful and impressive musical instrument.  For its size and disposition, I can think of few others to match it.

I have kept quiet about Coventry because I have neither played it nor heard it do more than accompany a week-day Evensong.  It seems to be universally admired, though, although Rupert Jeffcoat used to reckon that the positioning made for an amount of stereophony which had to be taken into account. The same, of course, applies to a number of instruments, one way or another.

Blackburn - I was interesting to read pcnd's proviso about liking it before the enlargement of 2001/2002.  I think Blackburn is the only CofE cathedral that I've never visited, so I'm completely ignorant of the organ, the acoustic or anything else.  Looking at it, one would imagine that the additions would have increased its scope, particularly in accompaniment (this is not to criticize what was there already - some of those allegedly neo-classical jobs were a lot better at accompaniment and Romantic music than is often admitted).  Do the additions not chime in very well, or did they alter the original stuff to its disadvantage?

I've just remembered - I haven't been in Birmingham Cathedral, either.....

Firstly - I must concur with David - Ian, please give us more of this, it's absolutely fascinating.

David (in haste, since I need to be at the Minster shortly), with regard to Blackburn - it is simply that I have not played it since the additions, so I cannot comment on thses, although many of them appear quite sensible on paper.

More later....


...I would guess Wimborne Minster is another and, some day, with pcnd's permission, I hope to find out for myself. ...

David, you would be most welcome, although an evening would be best, since the building is often quite busy during the daytime.

Probably the superb Harrison instrument in Coventry Cathedral - this, in its inspiring and actually quite beautiful setting, is a perfect combination.

I have also been fortunate enough to have played many cathedral organs, both in this country and in Europe. Amongst those, I would mention the following - in no particular order -  as being very special instruments (usually in a wonderful building, with a good acoustic ambiance):

Blackburn Cathedral (Prior to the additions and alterations in 2001-02)
Bristol Cathedral
Exeter Cathedral (Prior to 2000 - I have played it since, on several occasions, but regret many of the tonal changes which have been carried out)
Chester Cathedral
Chichester Cathedral
Gloucester Cathedral (Many times, having received regular lessons on this instrument from David Briggs, over a few years)
Norwich Cathedral
Saint George's Chapel, Windsor
Saint Paul's Cathedral, London
Southwark Cathedral
Ripon Cathedral (Again, prior to the recent tonal alterations)
Worcester Cathedral (No - the former H-J / H&H instrument. Don't get me started on this one....)

I have also played the organs in the cathedrals of Truro and Winchester, but I have to confess that they did not please me as much, for various reasons. (Yes, I know that everyone is supposed to like Truro, as it is a virtually tonally untouched FHW - but I happen not to - or at least, not nearly as much as some others.... Winchester, I felt was somewhat colourless, particularly when compared to Salisbury.)

Miscellaneous & Suggestions / Re: Worst Organ played
« on: July 06, 2015, 09:13:26 AM »
Although it is perhaps not quite deserving of the epithet 'worst organ ever played', nevertheless the instrument in Launceston Methodist Church was (before the work by Lance Foy) both a little odd and not particularly good. This organ has no survey listed on the NPOR. However, I do recall that It was rebuilt by the John Compton Organ Co. around the 1930s and had an example of a 32ft. polyphone on the Pedal Organ. It received a further rebuild by 'a builder from Plymouth', at some point during the late 1970s, which included some 'straight' upper-work to the G.O. on a new chest (which subsequently leaked) and a home-made detached console. The organ was restored by Lance Foy, of Truro, in the late 1990s. In addition to a new action and sorting-out the problems with the 1970s G.O. chest, the console received the type of serious cosmetic attention which was lavished upon Joan Collins a few decades ago. That is, apart from the breast implants.

Miscellaneous & Suggestions / Re: Worst Organ played
« on: July 02, 2015, 10:05:48 PM »
I, too, was surprised that pcnd hadn't mentioned Calne, which seems to haunt his bad dreams!  Being that way last September (nostalgia trip to Bristol), I made a diversion via Calne, but the church was locked.  Frustration made more acute by the fact that someone was in there playing the organ.  It sounded decent enough to me, but possibly audition through the key-hole of an oak door would make a fluty rendition of a quiet Bach chorale prelude sound ok on any organ.  It's nearly forty years since I played there as a student, so I might think differently now, but at the time I thought it was a fine enough example of Conachers' work of the period.  The three manual at Holy Trinity, Windsor, has a similar character.  Not up there with the Willis IIIs and Harrisons (no Manders in those days), or even the best of Rushworth, but still impressive.  I don't think this impression was totally down to the train-spotting-like habit of notching up another four-manual....

I will try to get on it again one day.  I find pcdn's judgement on organs to be reliable and knowledgeable, even if (thank God) we don't agree all the time!

Thank you, David.

I think that you would indeed find that this instrument had deteriorated over the last forty years. When I last played it, there were a few stops which were not quite working, so it seemed - for example the Pedal 32ft., which would have been useful; I believe that it was either silent, or largely so (water in the chest, at some point?). In addition, the Swell so-called Sharp Mixture was anything but - it was in fact virtually inaudible - unless one chose to combine it with the strings only. The combination pistons, in addition to being somewhat sparse, were so slow as to be useless. I do hope that you are successful in playing it in the near future, David - I also value your sound judgement - even if (as you say, thank God), we do not agree all of the time.

Miscellaneous & Suggestions / Re: Worst Organ played
« on: July 02, 2015, 01:35:09 PM »
Actually, I would have nominated the Conacher at Saint Mary's Church, Calne, Wiltshire as the worst organ which I have ever played; but for one thing the instrument at Chartres is even worse - and for another thing, I know that David Drinkell will rush to its defence....!

So I shall not even mention it.

Miscellaneous & Suggestions / Re: Worst Organ played
« on: June 29, 2015, 03:53:26 PM »

Just for a little fun would members like to tell about the worst organ they have ever played. Mine is St Philips Smethwick which is a 2 manual Bevington reduced to Swell only due to water damage, there are no pedal stops, but you can couple the Swell to Pedat.

Best wishes,

Mine would be the orgue du chœur at Chartres Cathedral. This is, without doubt, the worst organ I have ever encountered. For a start, the pipes appear to be stored in what look like coal bins (painted roughly stone colour), on the north side of the Quire. Then the console is a bit of a wreck; but the sound - I can barely describe it....

Several years ago, I had to play a concert on this instrument (including a series of improvised variations as an organ solo) and the entire experience was, well, interesting.

New Pipe Organs / Re: Buckfast Abbey - Ruffatti
« on: June 20, 2015, 09:57:42 AM »
I am wondering what the fate of the Walker/Downes will  be.

As has been stated on a related thread, it has been removed entirely. It has been purchased by a local organ builder. It is unlikely that the instrument will ever be reconstructed as a single entity. (In other words, the likelihood is that ht econstituent parts will be used for repairs and the pipe-work used in other instruments, as ranks are found to be suitable; the remainder will probably be discarded.)

pcnd5584 - I read your posting about Buckfast Abbey's forthcoming new organ, and nearly replied but didn't. Sorry.  Anyway,  I'll reply here, although it's not the right thread - but simply to say that the current organ (the one designed by Ralph Downes) at the Royal Festival Hall divided opinion when it was new and I think this one may do the same.   

Nicolette - thank you for your reply.

Sadly, the current organ has not been in the abbey for months. It has been removed. The services are being accompanied by an electronic organ.

Whilst the instrument in the RFH certainly did polarise opinion (and still does, to an extent), I am not sure that the same is true of the former organ in Buckfast Abbey. For one thing, Buckfast, in 1948 (and even in 1963) was a quiet backwater of Devonshire, and neither the abbey nor the organ were particularly well-known. In addition, from its inception, this instrument was always slightly odd - from the Hele incarnation (with most of it prepared-for) to the odd collection of pipe-work up in the tower which was intended for, as Ralph Downes put it, 'a well-intentioned Echo Organ'.

There was a story that the Great and Pedal reeds of the (partly very old) instrument in Holsworthy Parish Church, North Devon (where I lived for a few years) were removed by Hele (apparently in part-payment for a rebuild or restoration), and later inserted into the organ at Buckfast Abbey. Whilst it was certainly the case that these ranks were removed, I can find no record of them ever appearing in the abbey organ - nor do these ranks accord with any version of the stop-list.

The plot thickens....

Perhaps I shall start an outrageous thread, simply to see if I can provoke a response....[/font]

Phew! Do you mean that your Buckfast thread wasn't outrageous enough?! ;D

It was certainly fun to read but so extensive that perhaps none of us knew quite where to start in reply, or how! It was actually excellent and very much appreciated I'm sure by all and only greeted with silence by all for similar reasons. So please keep going

Best wishes

David P

Ha! Thank you, David.

In which case, I might try a different one - which will be perhaps a touch less outrageous.

Paul Duffy  - I think that it depends what type of church one is talking about. Many cathedrals currently report a fairly healthy number of congregants at the majority of services (according to a survey last year in the Church Times).

It is true that there are also a lot of other churches (of varying sizes) which are half-empty - or which generally attract the vicar, the churchwardens, two old people and a dog at some services - and, to be honest, if it is raining, the dog stays at home.

However, I do not think that all is doom and gloom, just yet. There is still a fair amount of interest here in my own church for the organ - and choral music. People still listen to the voluntaries and, most weeks, one or two people will thank those of us involved in the musical life of our church for our contribution. It may not be earth-shattering, it may not be hordes of people who are aware and appreciative of the music; however, neither do I think that your rather negative pronouncements are necessarily true in every part of the country.

I have tried starting new threads - but received no replies to either of my postings. This could of course be that the thread did not interest anyone.

Considering some of the nonsense and guesswork which is promulgated on Facebook, I am surprised that people bother with it. Whilst I have added a few thoughts to some threads of late, this is largely due to the fact that no-one seems to take up on new threads here, at present.

Not really sure what the answer is. I too check this board (and one or two others) most days.

Perhaps I shall start an outrageous thread, simply to see if I can provoke a response....

New Pipe Organs / Re: Buckfast Abbey - Ruffatti
« on: May 16, 2015, 12:28:57 AM »
Having read the scheme, I am concerned that it appears to be wasteful, badly thought-out and, in places, gimmicky.

Buckfast Abbey is not a large building; yet there are two 32ft. reeds, two big solo reeds - but no chorus reeds on the Gallery G.O. Perhaps more inexplicable, is the apparent lack of any kind of 32ft. flue stop - which is of great use liturgically. I believe that there would be room for at least a 32ft. Sub Bass, since there was such a stop on the Walker/Downes instrument - although the lowest four notes were resultant. Even so, it was a reasonably good stop and sounded effective in the sensitive acoustics of the abbey. However, with regard to the two 32ft. reeds and the two fanfare-type reeds, I should have thought that, in this building, this was somewhat unnecessary.

There is also a certain amount of duplication in the mutation scheme, yet the Quire Swell Organ has no 8ft. Open Diapason (which is invaluable for choral accompaniment) and only a half-length bass to the 16ft. reed. I note also that this scheme perpetuates one of the few flaws of the previous instrument: there is no proper 16ft. chorus reed anywhere. Surely if the G.O. is not to have a stop at this pitch, then it is imperative that the Swell sub-unison reed is of trumpet scale, voicing and power. A Basson with a half-length bass is unlikely to provide enough sub-unison reed tone. Whilst lack of height in the Triforium may have been a factor, surely having the lowest few pipes mitred, with the resonators suspended from the roof of the box would have been possible. I have seen this expedient carried-out in a number of other places.

 A further point about the mutation scheme is that, with the exception of the Positive 1 1/3ft., all of the solo mutations are under expression.

I realise that I am not the organist here, but I do wonder about the inclusion of the Glockenspiel, Nightingale, Drum and Bagpipes; I wonder how much use these fripperies will get during services.

It would be interesting to know which of the Pedal 16ft. flue stops are to be constructed of metal - or are they all to be of wood?

The Gallery Expressif division is somewhat small in comparison to the other divisions, with nothing above 4ft. pitch, no 16ft. register - either flue or reed. In fact, the exact purpose of this division is puzzling. Again there is no unison Open Diapason (so nothing to partner with the Prestant - either above or below). However, there are two undulants, with their attendant unison ranks. Surely at least one pair of these (perhaps the Violoncelli) would be of greater use in the Quire Organ? There are two chorus reeds here - but both under expression. Thus, with the lack of a chorus reed (even if only at unison pitch) on an open soundboard, there is likely to be a huge jump between these reeds and the fanfare-type Pontifical Trumpet. Neither does this division bear any particular resemblance to the schemes of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. Nor, for that matter, does that of the other two departments, other than the nomenclature of three of the G.O. foundation stops.

 The Solo Organ has six unison pitch ranks (including two undulants), but one solitary 4ft. stop. There are also only two quiet solo reeds. The Vox Humana might have been better placed in the Swell Organ and its place taken by something more generally useful; if one did not wish for a Romantic voice, such as an Orchestral Hautboy, surely there are other choices which could have been included. There is no quiet 16ft. reed, for example. (If the Swell Basson is intended to fill this role, then it will be even more unsuitable to form the basis for the Swell reed chorus.)

Again the Pédale Orgue looks to be rather 'woody', with a distinct lack of metal stops at any pitch. (If the Soubasse is to be of metal, why call it that?) For that matter, I note that all the clavier flue doubles are Bourdons - not even a Quintatön. The lack of at least one metal flue double again suggests that the instrument is likely to be lacking in gravitas (until the 32ft. reeds are drawn).

There are also a surprising number of sub and octave couplers. I wonder if these are intended to act as substitutes for some of the perceived deficiencies in this scheme? If so, then this thinking is at best unrealistic.

Clearly the time to judge it will be when it is finished. No doubt the incumbent musicians have thought carefully about the scheme, and this is what they want. Apparently.

Organ registration / Re: Minimum specification of small organ
« on: February 13, 2015, 11:30:06 PM »
Thanks David -  I'll have to keep this in mind for the future, but it sounds like an interesting option.

David makes a good point regarding the Mixture. However, I must admit that I should be loath to lose a 4ft. Flute, in order to have a quasi-Nazard effect; particularly since, in the absence of a correctly-scaled Tierce, a Nazard needs a 4ft. Flute (in addition to the 8ft.), in order to be really effective. Since both flutes are probably fairly romantic in their voicing, you may be better leaving well alone - and, as David suggests, simply coupling the Swell Mixture down.

I would guess that the overall sound of the instrument could be described as 'full-toned', given the stop-list, the builders and the vintage. Not that there is anything wrong with this; however, as David suggests, the introduction of a compound stop is likely to upset the tonal balance. It may be a question of playing music which suits this particular instrument and not trying to make it do something for which it was not designed. My 'own' church instrument is not particularly good at Elgar or any Edwardian music which needs the type of sound quality which your instrument probably possesses in abundance. Therefore, despite my admiration for the first and fourth movements of Elgar's sonata, I tend to avoid playing it.

Out of interest, is the Tromba also playable on the Choir Organ?

Organ registration / Re: Minimum specification of small organ
« on: February 12, 2015, 09:48:38 PM »
I think a Great Mixture would certainly have to be in the specification.   Since its renovation last year, our 29-stop Rushworth and Dreaper (Inverleith St. Serf's, Edinburgh) has been attracting acclaim for its beauty of tone and the church's beneficial acoustic.    The Great 8ft Flute and Tromba, Swell reeds and Stopped Diapason, and the Choir Clarinet add a lot of colour and versatility to the organ's strong foundation.   We also have a meaty 16ft fagotto and a helpful 32ft Acoustic Bass in the pedal department.   However, while there is a Mixture on the Swell, there isn't one on the Great.   The inclusion of a Great Mixture would, I feel, have made an already-versatile-and-attractive instrument even more so.

Granted - although the instrument you mention is somewhat larger than the parameters for this thread.

Out of interest, what is the stop-list for your G.O., please? (I wondered if there was anything which could be ditched - preferably near the tuner's passage-board - in order to accommodate a compound stop?)

Hi Nicollette

Welcome to the forum.

Every Blessing

Tony (one of the moderators - not that I've had a lot to do for a very long time)

Welcome, too, from me - another of the moderators.

(Actually, I am quite pleased that there has been little in the way of admonishing to do lately - so much more civilised.)


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