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Henry Willis

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Everything posted by Henry Willis

  1. Gentlemen - please forgive me: Given these extraordinary statements (which follow many others of late) I feel that if we are to take them even vaguely seriously (certainly I) need to know who ,where and what you are. "Bazuin". It seems to me that this vexed question of 'best' is propelled by a certain "only old-fashioned is good" attitude which is destructive, demoralising to those of us who have worked for a long time to bring standards up in the UK and so opinionated as to make one shudder. Fact: there are firms which, due to the paucity of funding to pay for their labours, have constantly to source materials and labour to achieve a result which defies its cost. We have four men in the firm who can make pipes: 1. Our pipe-maker (who came to us from Paul Fritts); 2. Our senior voicer, who spends most of his time voicing and organising our second voicer; our Foreman, who spends all of his time otherwise engaged and 4. me. We make some of our own reeds and, when the new (ex Fritts) man has fully acclimatized and dragged himself out of the distant past in terms of hammered lead, we will make some of our own flue pipes. However, Terry Shires, who makes pipes for most, if not all, UK builders (whether they care to admit it or not!) makes pipes for us to our scales, using, in many cases, our tools (such as the langward punches for dubbed lower lips) and often under our close scrutiny. The truth is that, as his staff are making pipes all day, every day, they are quicker at it than are we - note: QUICKER (and therefore LESS EXPENSIVE) than are we. And, though this is often something completely missed by the armchair fanatic, time is money. Now, as to opinions as to the 'best' organbuilders (and that is all that it is - OPINION) I'm sorry, but we really do need to know who you are if you express such opinion in such a way. End of rant and further apologies. DW ps. To return this (now rather sordid) discussion to its original topic - The Grove organ is stupendous. The Milton organ isn't. If it comes to a showdown, I know which one should go.
  2. No they don't! The situation there is exactly the same as here: the larger Houses will make some, possibly the larger part, of their own pipes and buy other stuff in; many of the others will have their own metalhand who is capable of making an occasional stop and doing excellent repairs. There are more independent pipemakers in each of those countries than there are in the UK. DW
  3. But it's been got at since then I'm afraid - Kimber-Allen plastic draw knobs! DW
  4. There has been, for some time, a rather horrid tendency started among 'upper' string players, to want to play at A=444. they say, invariably, that it makes their sound brighter: it doesn't - merely sharper. It also puts many old instruments (violins that is, not organs) under a great deal of physical stress. The arguments I've heard to justify are variously funny and pathetic and not one of them accounts for temperature! At what temperature do they require their 444? DW
  5. Not Hereford: it is (or rather was, as it DOES appear to have been changed recently) St. Michael's, Dumfries and the picture was taken of the console immediately after we'd restored the blacked finish and all of the nice red felts! DW
  6. The first notable organ by HW1 was Gloucester (1847) and this had a Vox Angelica in the Swell. DW
  7. Ha! Well that's a better story anyway! Badly behaved Oerganists? Surely Not! Oh, then there was Thomas Mudd sacked from Lincoln for drunkenness and turning up at Peterborough within a week. DW
  8. While not having seen this, it sounds very much like "The Duchess" - Odean Liecester Square. DW
  9. Murdering the Dean: and then didn't they have trouble with another O & M of the C's - Michael Wyse who, when refused entry to the Close by a nightwatchman, struck him over the head and killed him! Those were the days DW
  10. Colin Walsh has asked me to put up the following on his behalf: "I have played this magnificent instrument every day for 21 years: I never tire of the quality of the workmanship that is found in one of Father Willis's most noble works of art. That opinion is shared by Organists from all over the world who come here to play Concerts. Reviews of many CDs which I have made on this instrument never fail to mention the quality of the tone. True, the organ does not have a great impact in the western regions of the Nave, but the building is huge. My dream would be to build an additional instrument near to the West end but at present there is little money and, in any case, I suspect that Architects and Heritage people may have a view on that!".
  11. I hadn't realised that there were two Lincoln Cathedral's - the other one must be terrible!
  12. Apologies - you're quite right and therefore proof that we shouldn't rely on others' records of such things I've been sleuthing (actually, a conversation with the archivist at the RCM did the trick!): The first AND second performances in the UK were by indeed given by Rachmaninov himself - the first in Liverpool in October 1911 under the baton of one Simon Speilman; the second on the 7th of November 1911 at the Queens Hall, London under Mengelberg. The Thalben performance was, as James G says, the first by an Englishman, at the RCM on the 13th December 1915. This doesn't of course dilute the matter of GTB's abilities in that direction. DW
  13. I'm afraid not - GTB did give the first UK performance, at The Royal College of Music. DW
  14. I remember it still........... "Piano: it's the way you put your fingers ON the keys; Organ: it's way you take them OFF." DW
  15. I've put my numbers in above Patrick: (1) The costs of electrification would have been, far and away, greater than addressing the state of the original action - which was essentially purely mechanical, with the Barker machine operating from the Great keys. (2) Another letter in the file is from HW4 writing to the "Organ Retention Committee" - sorry, I'll go into this one in a minute! - saying: "...the replacement of a few parts by new ones will give a further 100 years of life." He did his best to convince them that it could simply be overhauled and left as it should be. In my opinion, from the tone of all of the stuff in this file, letters to and from the Council and other 'interested parties' this was being driven from the point-of-view that this was an old-fashioned instrument which, being French, was alien to the interests and convenience of English players - specifically one, the Consultant. Answering the latter part of this question - HW4 was certainly not averse to the idea of electrification in almost all cases but in this particular case he did offer them alternatives. (3) In all respects WORSE. There is no advantage whatever as regards the costs of maintenance or regarding the facility to players. Now to the "Organ Retention Committee" (details from the job file again): Attempts to Dispose of the Parr Hall organ are nothing new and the reason for the sudden flurry of activity in 1970 was that in 1968 the Council announced that the organ would be disposed of - they had also done this in 1945, after the end of the War. Understandably, there was (as there has recently been) an uproar and various local musical bodies started a fighting fund which raised over £9,000 and it was this money which, having been given to the Council, was used partially to cover the costs of this work. DW
  16. The Town Clerk of Warrington sent the following out as a Tender Specification on the 10th February 1970 (I have copied this down exactly as writ - all spelling, capitalization, punctuation etc.) : 1. The existing Cavaille-Coll console to be removed - refurnished and closed off at Pedal Board level, and to incorporate the Pedal Board, as a complete mobile unit, for preservation and exhibition. 2. The existing action to be dismantled and removed together with all unnecessary ancillary and auxiliary mechanisms. 3. A new console to be provided to accommodate the departments and sounding stops as at present existing. 4. All parts of the organ to be thoroughly cleaned and examined. repair and make good, as necessary, the soundboards, bellows, and chests, trunking, reservoirs and conveyances. 5. The pipe work to be thoroughly cleaned, repaired where necessary and all pipes adjusted to speak correctly. 6. Wind pressures to be maintained as at present set for the various departments and sets of speaking pipes. The wind generating apparatus to be checked and adjusted to ensure adequate correct supply for the various requirements, with silent operation. 7. New action throughout to be provided of the latest electro-pneumatic principal with screened and self-cleaning action contacts. 8. The necessary static transformer apparatus to be incorporated of adequate capacity for instantaneous response. 9. The new console to be recessed into the lower part of the panelling of the frontal screen, and blended into the casing - at the fourth tier level of the platform- the keyboards to be exhibited to the auditorium. The music desk to be set in relation to the upper keyboard, to facilitate ease of "Conductor and Hall contact" through a mirror placed immediately above the Music Desk. The Desk to be of maximim width and to accommodate large scores. The Console to be provided with suitable closing protection doors and to be equipped with a full width stool, adjustable for height. The three keyboards, together with Radiating and Concave Pedal Boards to be of a type familiar to modern and British Organists and generally to recognised R.C.O. recommendations and requirements. The compass of the manuals to remain as at present, viz: CC-G 56 notes The compass of the pedals to remain as at present, viz: CCC-F 30 notes The Drawstops to be of positive on-off action and incorporated in drawstop jambs set at 45 degrees. The left-hand jamb to contain the stops for the Swell organ in two vertical rows together with the stops for the Pedal organ, similarly set in two vertical rows. The right-hand jamb to contain the stops for the Choir organ set in two vertical rows together with the stops for the Great organ set in two vertical rows. Couplers to be incorporated with the departments they augment. Drawstop faces to be lettered in black for sounding Stops - Reeds to have an additional Red spot or other mark. Coupler and non-sounding drawstops to be lettered in red. Selection Pistons to be all fully adjustable through a complete Setter switchboard placed conveniently to the player and available for operating during playing. Balanced Swell pedal to be fitted to Swell organ - with indicator. Balanced Swell pedal to be fitted to the Choir organ - with indicator. Balanced General crescendo pedal to be fitted with Indicator. Coupling of manuals to pedals and manuals to manuals to be through the Electro-pneumatic action and not by mechanical connection to pull down the respectively coupled keys. Four rocking tablets to be incorporated in the left-hand keycheeks to operate the Ventil switches controlling the Reeds of the four departments. To accommodate both British and French practice a tilting tablet (or other suitable type switch) to be incorporated to reverse the middle and bottom keyboards from Great and Choir to Choir and Great. 10. All passageboards and flooring inside the organ chamber and adjacent thereto to be made good. 11. Tuning : On completion of the work, the Instrument to be tuned to pitch as at present - A-440. 12. All work to be carried out to the satisfaction of the Corporation's Organ Consultants and the structural and auxiliary work to the satisfaction of the Borough Engineer and Surveyor. 13. All materials and workmanship o be guaranteed for a period of ten years. 14. Optional additions (to be shown separately) a. Great Organ - additional 2ft Stop (Fifteenth) derived from No.9 Plein Jeu b. Choir Organ - additional 1 1/3ft Stop (Larigot) derived from Nos.7, Echo Mixture c. Swell Organ - additional 2 2/3ft Stop (Nazard) derived from No.8 Mixture. **************** I would welcome the views of others, but I think that this was drawn up by an organist, not anyone with any organ building knowledge of any importance. I do have my own ideas as to who this person is. Henry 4 persuaded them to keep the Cav.-Coll console but unfortunately he also did what they demanded, action-wise, and has since been kicked for it. Hardly fair I think.
  17. Sorry Gents - I'd missed that one. Files out on my desk - most enlightening. As you probably all already know, HW&S put the organ into the Parr Hall in 1926. Letter from the Council (sent as a tender invitation to several builders) but which included a specification to which all were invited to tender - there is no indication given as to who drew up this specification. I'll type this up and put it in my next post- shortly, together with any other stuff I can rake out. DW
  18. Making a Barker machine, a Willis/Barker(there are several variants) or the Floating lever is not of itself a difficult thing to do (though much is made of it by some of those who have!) for example, some exhaust pneumatic machines are far more difficult to do. In the case of the Floating Lever for Florence: We have a single note of an original machine which we've preserved as if it were a Science Museum exhibit - i.e. placed on a board with a key to operate it: it is a fully-working example. We completely dismantled this and drew up every piece and then used CAD essentially to rescale it and to make it somewhat more sleek as we would be using different materials - we thought! In the event, we discovered that it was actually better to stick to the original materials (mainly timber) instead of making the valve blocks and rails from modern materials and so we drew another version still. The CAD drawings for the fully fitted up machine are required to decide on the scale and this is necessary also to decide on the motor sizes and the 'pitch' i.e. the spacing between motors which determine the number of heights required in the stack to keep to the key scale etc.. One of the biggest difficulties (from contemporary reports) with the operation and the setting up of these machines was working tolerance and alignment of valves and therefore we decided that we must have all of the machining of the various parts done by computer-controlled machines - this was done by P&S at Brandon, from our designs. We made all of the large, ribbed motors here, cutting all of the ribs on a specially-made guillotine which is designed to ensure that all of the angles are exactly the same, and all of the leatherwork was carried out in-house before the machine was built up. The difficult part of this action isn't the manufacturing of it, it took several hundred hours to set it all up to work correctly - after all, it is over 100 years since the last one was done! We've given P&S permission to make the parts for anyone who wants to try it! DW
  19. It wouldn't have been Brewer - born: 21 June 1865. died: 1 March 1928 Possibly someone like EJ Hopkins who was a bit partial to transcriptions and a chap called Bach too! He'd have been 40 in 1858 (Hopkins, not Bach ) The Parr Hall situation has become something of a local cause celebre with those trying to get it out fighting those who want it to stay - neither side, it seems to me, has been very successful in fighting their corner. I do know that the Sheffield suggestion has been stated as being "that's what's happening" but I'm also told that there is another, local, venue which is also extremely keen , AND may already have access to the required amount of money. DW
  20. The fact is Colin - and you allude to this in the latter part of your post above - some 'consultants' do interfere: Usually those least equipped. "I was sorry to read about your experience and opinions - it really cannot be doing you or your company any good at all." On the contrary! I am fascinated to read all of this stuff about how choruses SHOULD be built, voiced, used etc.. You will be most welcome to come to see us whenever you like. DW
  21. Oh dear Colin, I wonder where THAT experience lies - not with any situation I'VE ever come across I'm afraid. A voicing 'System' is useful: i.e. what you know to work. The accumulated knowledge acquired by several generations doing what you do, before you, is a great help - sadly lacking in most situations these days. "Voicing" specified by a consultant - who doesn't know how to do it, has little knowledge of the historical basis on which such decisions might reasonably be made, may happen in the way you describe and, when it's a failure, who walks away from it TEFLON coated. We deal in ever decreasing circles: the (basically) ignorant appointing those whom they think will gain them the greatest plaudits to build organs in place of the local firm - suddenly the local firm has gone - no work - and then what? "ooo, that's nice"? You are speaking of a situation in the UK which is really pretty unsatisfactory and little to do with organbuilders - rather, Consultants. David Wyld
  22. Any Aubertin is worth a visit, in my opinion. DW
  23. Not on ours they don't! To answer Innate's earlier question as to whether there has been a recent technological breakthrough.... No, we've used an old technology, but one that works and which doesn't interrupt the direct mechanical link between key and pallet. http://www.willis-organs.com/floating_lever.html DW
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