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Bruce Buchanan

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  1. I regret to report that Noël Rawsthorne died in the early hours of this morning. He was 89. Bruce Buchanan
  2. It was Andrew Pennells. His death was a tragedy for his family, but a disaster for British organ building.
  3. After 11 pages on this subject I rather fear I now need to see definitions of: 'Beautiful' 'English', and, referring to the Blind Listening thread, 'Organ'
  4. I have not written an obituary of HW4 for The Times. I have submitted one to the IBO Newsletter and another (by request) to the Journal of the AIO. Bruce Buchanan
  5. After a short illness, Henry Willis 4 died this morning at 8.00 am our time at his home in the Nilgris district of Tamil Nadu; he was 91. Bruce Buchanan
  6. By sad coincidence, David Graebe died two years ago today
  7. In fact, you have misread the return. The address given is Fitzroy Row, adjacent to Gray & Davison's in Quickset Row, where the young Henry Willis lodged with Henry Miller and his family; their son James was an apprentice with G&D. Also lodging there was Thomas Mathews (possibly Matthews), an organ builder, I think with G&D. Richardson lived at a different address in Fitzroy Row. Henry Willis & Sons Ltd declare that they were established in 1845, by which I think they mean when the Willis 'shop opened at 2 1/2 Foundling Terrace. From 1841 or thereabouts until his return to London, Willis was in and about Cheltenham working for or perhaps with Wardle Evans, described in 1841 as a Teacher of Music. If anyone has the slightest knowledge of Willis' movements between 1841 and 1845, I shall be very glad to hear of it. Vincent Willis was another matter altogether. I have no doubt he told the enumerator in 1891 was he was single. He was that night at least at 9 Rochester Terrace, but his family where elsewhere. At least he described himself on that occasion as an organ builder. On the birth certs. of most of his children he is described as an electrician. After he left the Willis partnership in 1894, he eventually set up on his own in a small way as an organ builder and inventor in Brentford, employing from time to time his brother in law, James Arthur who lived with Vincent's family in Ealing. After Vincent was replaced in Liverpool by his younger brother Henry in 1882 and before his marriage in 1887, he was probably in London, but thereafter he seems to have been centred on Rhyl and Liverpool, but doing what?
  8. The origin of the work was a recitation of Paul Claudel's "Chemin de la Croix" at the Brussels Conservatory in February 1931, Dupré improvising between each of Claudel's fourteen prose poems. Dupré told me (in late 1958) that though the music was improvised he had prepared the registrations beforehand. I believe the power of the piece comes from the musical meditations on Claudel's verses rather than any association one might make with the more familiar liturgy of the Stations of the Cross. Protestant and generally monoglot Britain might not fully appreciate this work as much as it does Dupré's other works. Bruce Buchanan
  9. Thanks you for this one. I should have remembered it from my youth when I went tuning at Hawkhurst. BB
  10. Thanks for this suggestion, but the Swell soundboard here is full compass 54 notes and two of the ranks run to CC. The keys do overhang. BB
  11. Sutton, St Nicholas. Yes, thank you for this, an interesting case. The job was evidently somewhat altered when moved to its present site, but the keys seem original Willis. The cheeks are the Willis pattern for non-stretto keys, similar to Hill's, but the Hill cheeks have a more complicated front. BB
  12. Currently, I know of only one extant Willis, now in St Tanwg’s, Harlech, with non-stretto keys. St David’s, Newtown, Montgomeryshire had them before being rebuilt by Bishop. Gloucester Cathedral had them when pictured after the Willis work of 1844, but we do not know if they are Willis or earlier keys. About thirty years ago I examined an old Willis 2-manual organ in Hampshire not far off the road from London to Southampton. Maddeningly, I cannot remember where it was. If anyone knows of existing or reliably reported early Willis instruments with non-stretto keys I shall be glad to know of them. Likewise, I shall be glad to know of any extant Father Willis instrument with short compass Swell divisions or of reliable reports of such instruments. St Matthias, Stoke Newington (Dr Monk’s church) 1853, a 3-manual was surprisingly one such.
  13. Speaking only of Willis reeds, which I know best, Father Willis took his 8ft chorus reeds to A58, or G56 depending on the manual compass, the Clarions usually breaking to flue pipes at F#43. I do not recall a Father Willis chorus reed (on 3” or 3.5”wg) carried to C61. Willis Tubas were and are harmonic from F#19, with reeds carried to the top note, even C61, the pressure of at least 12.5”, usually 15” sometimes 20”wg and more being necessary to generate sufficient power from the tongue. From the time that Willis stopped making their own shallots after the Great War, the sets were 61 note for 8ft reeds and 49 notes for Clarions. The sets were used complete for pressures above, I think, 6”. For lower pressures the upper shallots discarded in favour of flues, usually from G#57, G#45 for Clarions. In April 1941, the Willis works were destroyed by enemy action and the firm’s considerable stock of shallots of all kinds were lost. In 1947, a large number of new sets were ordered from W P Williams & Co with pre-war configuration to replace the lost stock. Five years later the majority of the sets from the order were still outstanding, but the market (for Willis) had become clearer. The outstanding order was cancelled and a reduced order was substituted, with the range of the 8ft chorus sets reduced to F54, F42 for Clarion sets. The reduction of the shallot compass of chorus reeds was, I believe, because the soft brass with which Father Willis worked, some stock of which remained when the factory was destroyed, was no longer available in acceptable quality. It was difficult to get the power from half-hard brass tongues in the higher reaches with pressures under 4.5”, particularly on pitman chests when the curve has to be reduced to make the speech quick. Some many years ago I saw in a church in Antwerp a 2-manual Merklin organ with a Clairon 4ft on the enclosed division that broke at C25 to an 8ft pitched Cornet, I think of three ranks, but may be more. The idea appealed to me (as a non-player), but I was never able to persuade any organist to endorse my enthusiasm. I have seen (but not recently) organists strike out Clarions from proposals on the grounds that: 1. they are the first to go out of tune 2. they can be simulated with the Swell octave coupler 3. a Swell Flute 4ft or 2nd Mixture is more useful. On the question of the audible quality of treble pipes, the frailties of our hearing do not prevent the upper partials being generated from properly constructed and well-voiced pipes in accordance with Nature. The participation of these partials in the resulting difference and summation tones adds to the richness of the treble effect for those who can hear it. No organ builder with his heart in the business can bear to see some “it’ll do” rubbish pipe flopping in a large rack board hole where a recalcitrant reed treble has been removed. If I have retained anyone’s attention to this point I should like to seek assistance on the unrelated matter of Father Willis non-stretto (no overhang) Keys and Willis short compass Swells in a separate thread.
  14. The family and executors of the late David Graebe ask me to say that his ashes will be received in the Lady Chapel of Chichester Cathedral on Monday, 17 October next at 3.30 pm. All are welcome to attend. Music, chosen by Graebe, will be performed by the Cathedral Choir. Bruce Buchanan
  15. Graebe's obituary is published in today's Sunday Telegraph and online at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/obituaries/2016/07/10/david-graebe-organ-case-designer-who-was-informed-by-his-musical/ BB
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