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St Nicholas, Blakeney, Norfolk - Norman & Beard


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#1 Colin Pykett

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Posted 28 May 2015 - 09:17 AM

Recent threads have taken in some eastern towns (Colchester, Thaxted and other places), and for some reason they reminded me of an interesting little organ I played many years ago at St Nicholas with St Mary and St Thomas church further north in Blakeney, Norfolk.  It was built by Norman and Beard around 1910 (Wikipedia) or 1913 (NPOR) using tubular pneumatic action from a neat detached 2M&P console to two cases facing north and south.  I found it an attractive instrument, with its N&B speciality - the Coroboe on the swell - though I can't recall anything particularly striking about its tone to warrant such a name.  Maybe a little louder and close-toned than an ordinary oboe, but that was all.  Maybe that was all a Coroboe was supposed to be.

 

The NPOR says it was "rebuilt" in 1983 by HN&B, implying a substantial intervention, but Wikipedia says that only "minor" work was done.  The NPOR listing implies that it still retains its original stop list and pneumatic action.  This is most gratifying (and unusual).  How refreshing to find a worthy instrument that has apparently not been messed about with and, presumably, well maintained and sympathetically restored over a long period.  If this is so, then this is yet another example of the longevity of a good quality pipe organ compared to their electronic counterparts (another topic we've been discussing recently).

 

Can anyone confirm this history, and does it still merit my personal approval rating from long ago?  I think I'm probably directing these questions to members such as David Drinkell and Firstrees in view of their detailed local knowledge!

 

CEP



#2 MusingMuso

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Posted 28 May 2015 - 06:44 PM

While Norman & Beard seem to be the current hot topic, board members might be interest to know that a very typical instrument from 1916, still exists in the lovely Georgian church of St John's, Bierley, Bradford.

It still has the original console, with a single row of stops running horizontally above the top (swell) manual, which one does not pull out. nstead, they are brought into play by a small button, which obviously has some sort of attached rocker, which makes the stops pop out. The stops are cancelled via the stop heads....a curious and slightly disconcerting method of stop control.

However, this organ is interesting in having a swell Mixture complete with the Casson inspired Mixture on the Swell, which includes both the Tierce and the b21st.

The tonal quality, in typically orchestral style, (but with some concession to upperwork and an attempt at proper choruses), owes a lot to Hope-Jones, but without the drawbacks of that style. In the modest but lively acoustic of the church, the overall effect is really quite magnificent.

The reeds are especially fine, and for that reason, I know exactly what Dr Colin Pykett means about the Norfolk organ.

There can be no doubt that, whatever the prevailing fashion may now  be, Norman & Beard were extremely able organ-builders.

MM



#3 Tony Newnham

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Posted 29 May 2015 - 09:07 AM

Hi

 

The Blakeney organ is definitely 1913, as can be seen on the NPOR entry by clicking on the BOA link, which gives a brief transcript from the Norman & Beard records - a primary source.  Wikipedia is clearly wrong on that score (and is always a source to be treated with great caution!).

 

I don't know how extensive the rebuild was.

 

I agree that Norman & Beard organs are well built (aside from a layout issue that I've come across) and have a good sound.  I used to get to play the pre-1900 rebult 1908 example in St Leaonard, Southminster (NPOR E00428).  The only problem with it being the strange layout, with the front pipes on the Chancel front being mounted on a rail slightly behind the organist at the attached console, and the off note chest's faceboard for the Small Open being behind the pipes of the Pedal 16ft Open - making access for maintenance all but impossible!  (There were a number of notes off on that rank in the jid-'90's when I lived in Southminster).

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony



#4 Colin Pykett

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Posted 29 May 2015 - 09:47 AM

Another comparable organ by Norman & Beard is at St James's Shaftesbury.  Again, a small 2M&P with TP action, dating in this case from 1906.  There have been a couple of restorations by Osmond.  However this organ has a most unattractive 'case', consisting of little more than tongued and grooved planks.

 

The swell Horn was rather overbearing as I recall but smooth and well regulated.  So, yet again apparently, here is more evidence of the worthiness of this firm's work of this vintage, at least as far as mechanical aspects go.  It's no wonder our hosts still find it worthwhile to have developed their speciality in restoring pneumatic actions.

 

CEP



#5 Contrabombarde

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Posted 02 June 2015 - 03:45 PM

Twenty years ago I was organist and choirmaster at st Paul's Herne Hill which had a modest three manual Normand and Beard. Tonally it wasn't the most exciting instrument (nothing above 4 foot except an insipd Swell III rank mixture) but it was pretty bulletproof, having survived with almost no maintenance against all the odds. Many years before I came the Choir soundboard suffered rain damage resulting in most of the notes not working. We got in a few companies to quote us for the work, and one company took the front panel off the soundboard to inspect the pneumatic motors beneath the palletts. To my surprise, just by tapping his finger on each motor in turn, when the panel was put back we found nearly all the notes started to work again! The biggest issue for any restoration was that the reservoirs were leaking and were built into the building frame, so the urgently overdue releathering of the reservoirs could only really be done by completely dismantling the organ which obviously pumped up the price very considerably. Not sure with hindsight that was a great way to design an organ (I seem to remember some years ago a Japanese car manufacturer welding the engine inside the floorpan of one of their models on the grounds it was so reliable it would never need to be exposed for maintenance). But it must have outlived many of its contemporaries and from the church's website it seems that it is still going.

 

Just down the road in Tulse Hill (Holy Trinity) was an almost identical three manual NHB which Harrisons electrified and reduced to two manuals during the time that a vicar by the name of John Sentamu was serving there. I played it just after the rebuild and it was a really lovely instrument (with a lot more upperwork courtesy of Harrisons!).



#6 firstrees

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Posted 05 June 2015 - 04:41 PM

I have been unable to access Blakeney Church, owing to more important matters, until now.

 

I had forgotten how sumptuous was the carving on the side panels (?) of the console, matching that of the screen behind.

 

A series of shots of the console, with one facing east from the Nave, would be attached, were I able to do so !

 

Unfortunately, the acoustic in the church is nowhere near as attractive as the organ’s appearance. 



#7 Colin Pykett

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Posted 06 June 2015 - 07:56 AM

Thank you for this firstrees.  I hadn't intended to put you to so much trouble!  As it's so long ago I do not recall the acoustic at all, but (as you didn't say otherwise) you confirmed that an attractive little instrument built over a century ago is still alive and well.

 

It would be good to see your photos though, but like you I find doing things like that on most forums is quite difficult.  (On this one, I think one can only attach pictures by having them somewhere else - such as a cloud drive - and inserting a link in the text.  But I might be wrong).

 

CEP



#8 firstrees

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Posted 06 June 2015 - 06:03 PM

You didn't discommode me in the slightest, Colin.

 

I was just simultaneously juggling lotsa things.

 

I refuse to use The Cloud. Is there no other way to display the photos I took, therefore ? (On another forum I use, one can attach photos/mp3s/etc., to a post.)



#9 bam

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Posted 08 June 2015 - 07:32 AM

For posting photos (here as in some other Forums) I use photobucket:

 

1.  Open a free account at photobucket.com
2.  Upload your photo - you may need to resize it first.  800 x 600 is a good size ("Document Small" in some descriptions).
3.  Open the photo in your photobucket library and on the right are 4 links.  Click on the bottom one (IMG) and it will flash Copied
4.  Paste the link into your Forum post where you want the photo to appear
5.  You don't have to do the next step but if you don't the link as well as the photo will appear.  If you do this you only get the photo: edit the link to delete the part that is before and after the [IMG] tags, so the link starts and ends with [IMG]
 

Hope this helps and looking forward to seeing the photos!



#10 firstrees

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Posted 10 June 2015 - 09:32 AM

I hope all of this works (!). Far more cumbersome than I’d hoped; but, thanks, bam.

 

I have a feeling someone will have to tell me what I'm doing wrong.

 

[url=http://s296.photobuc...chzi0h.jpg.html][img]



#11 madorganist

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Posted 10 June 2015 - 10:05 AM

Great pictures !



#12 John Robinson

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Posted 10 June 2015 - 09:17 PM



I hope all of this works (!). Far more cumbersome than I’d hoped; but, thanks, bam.

 

I have a feeling someone will have to tell me what I'm doing wrong.

 

[url=http://s296.photobuc...chzi0h.jpg.html][img]

Well, it seems to have worked just fine.  Nice console.



#13 bam

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Posted 12 June 2015 - 08:12 AM

Great pictures!  What a beautifully decorated console.  You're almost there with the posting: you just need to leave the first [img] at the start of the link as well as the [img] at the end (for some reason my capitals in IMG are changing to lower case).  I've taken the liberty of putting one here as a demo.....

 

St%20Nicholas%20Blakeney%20console%20fro



#14 firstrees

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Posted 25 August 2015 - 04:03 PM

I was able to hear the instrument again (after some fifty years), last weekend. A recital was given by a remarkable boy: David Bryson, who is twelve ! I’m sure we will soon encounter his exceptional talent in even more illustrious venues.

 

A brief biog gives him as currently a chorister at St John’s, Cambridge. He has had obvious and expert support from his parents and previous and present teachers and has played several  cathedral and similar instruments. He owns (!) a two-manual pipe organ, which occupies the family dining room.

 

With another engagement pressing, I had to leave at half-time.

 

He began with Leighton’s Fanfare, followed by Bach’s ‘Little’ Fugue (BWV 578) and “Wachet auf”. Ireland’s Villanella preceded his move to the piano and Mozart’s (‘Twinkle’) Variations K. 265.   I felt these and the Ireland exhibited his skills to their best, with some playing of high-level sensitivity and delicacy.  

 

As for the organ itself, a brief synopsis, which I hope to follow up with a personal visit. The Coroboe was big and with a bit of a rasp- but not in an unpleasant way. It easily could have been a Great reed: even more impressive, therefore, with its being enclosed. The Great chorus was smooth, the 15th  quite large and bright. Nice flutes. The Swell strings could have been ‘lifted’ from the Solo of a much larger instrument. The Pedal Violone was a tad boomy. The whole spoke out into a quickly ‘dead’ acoustic. I could not discern any audible problems with its upkeep and it has lasted very well: a good, well-built and well-balanced instrument.



#15 Colin Pykett

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Posted 27 August 2015 - 07:42 AM

As the instigator of this topic in which I cheekily suggested that firstrees might go and have a look at this organ, I must thank him for all his efforts in providing the pictures of the instrument and now for having gone to the church again to hear it.  His remarks accord with what I can remember of it myself a rather long time ago.  I still recall it as a striking and somewhat unusual instrument in a beautiful village church setting, well worth visiting in that picturesque part of the world.

 

CEP



#16 firstrees

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Posted 28 August 2015 - 10:25 AM

It was no imposition, Colin: it just takes me a while to effect some things. I pass this church (less than ten miles from my abode) quite frequently, but am then usually on some errand, with little or no time for other matters.

 

The half-recital I attended was both a pleasure and an education.

 

But, it is a busy period of the year for me- and I am currently engaged in the composition of what I hope will become an important work.

 

I may well not be in a position to organise a visit until November.



#17 firstrees

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Posted 09 August 2016 - 06:14 PM

Last Sunday, David Bryson entertained a considerable audience in an ambitious programme - for he was then still not quite a teenager. He told us that his voice ‘broke’ in the last week of his career as a treble at St John’s and had to sit out some of their final concerts. Almost astonishingly, he has just taken his Grade VIII Piano.

 

He began “Von Himmel hoch” BWV 700 (and continued) cleanly - but it was not without a few ‘diversions’. He has obviously been taught articulation to a high degree: some of the ornamentation in Bach’s BWV 659 “Nun komm” was exquisitely controlled, in addition to possessing state-of-the-art ‘authenticity’.

 

Vierne’s “Berceuse” was the vehicle for some ultra-sensitivity in registration, way beyond his years - but, evidently, with the aid of his ears. With judicious use of couplers, the ethereal combination of Swell strings and Great Dulciana took me off to the banks of the Seine. Well done N&B, too.

 

In the “Carillon de Longpont” (I slightly quailed, when I saw this in the programme), he demonstrated just how far he has progressed since 2015.

 

The “Suite Gothique” was played in full. He has a new teacher, who ‘allows’ him to enjoy the last movement. Not bad, at all.

 

As I said last year, we will be hearing more from this (very) talented (very) young man, who is bound for Eton and its seven (?) pipe organs.






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