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About handsoff

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    Playing the organ, listening to organ music both live and recorded, railways, photography, walking, swimming, cooking and eating, driving (1969 Morris Minor amongst others) and keeping my wife in the manner to which she has become accustomed. That means that I took very early retirement and she still works!

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  1. handsoff

    Appointments 2

    There's a chance to hear Christopher play the PPO organ in the Guild Chapel, Stratford-upon-Avon on 5 May at 5pm.. Very much looking forward to it! P
  2. handsoff

    Easy Organ Pieces & leading a congregation?

    As organist at a few tiny village churches with single manual organs in the main I can't add anything to the expertise above but would mention that Kevin Mayhew sells a book of hymn tunes transposed down, sometimes a semitone and for some tunes, more. It's very handy until your transposition skills are up to speed.
  3. handsoff

    Organs on Google Street-view

    I just wish that I'd been at Beverley when the Google van with its revolving camera was driving around the Minster...
  4. handsoff

    Hewins Organ Builder, Stratford-upon-Avon

    I thought 4/- was too much and didn't go again. I later heard a whisper that the organist may have used the fees to supplement her gin and tobacco budget
  5. handsoff

    Hewins Organ Builder, Stratford-upon-Avon

    Thanks to those who responded to my note about the booklet. There are a couple of cheques yet to arrive and when they have I'll pass everything on to the author who will send the booklets out. I first played the URC organ about 45 (or+) years ago and can't remember a thing about it about apart from a request to put 4/- (20p in today's money) for the electricity! It seemed quite a lot at the time... I think I would have remembered something such as the stop tabs which would have been quite alien to me at that time as the only stops I had encountered were "proper" ones on the sides of the console. This makes me think that the Nicholson console was perhaps a secondhand unit installed in 1993. I will try to find out more details both at the church and in our excellent local records office. It's a great shame that Nicholsons didn't retain the Hewins company records when they bought it. All these and many other questions would easily have been answered...
  6. handsoff

    Hewins Organ Builder, Stratford-upon-Avon

    David, you're quite right; the organ's builders plate proclaims it to be the work of Nicholson & C0. The URC organ does sound a lot better than the stop list would have one believe and bam, there is a Swell Octave to Great coupler called "Swell Super" grouped with the Great Organ couplers as well as a Great Super in its own right. I have just checked these from the hi-res photo from which I took the shots on the NPOR... Full organ is a bright clean sound with a good 2' tone from the 4' stops and octave couplers. The annual season of Friday lunchtime recitals on the church starts this Friday.
  7. Some members will be familiar with the instruments built by the Hewins company quite a number of which are extant, particularly in Warwickshire although examples can be found around the country. I have played several Hewins' organs over the years and found them to be well built and musical. Some of the original instruments did have a lot of 8' tone and have sometimes had later additions to bring some brightness and to counter the imposition of upholsered chairs and carpets in the churches in which they were installed. This is a typical small organ from the company and is unaltered except for the 2' stop on the Great Organ which was added when the church was enlarged and carpeted. I was in the choir at this church when a young boy and remember that the electric blower failed now and again. There was sometimes an unholy rush from the choir stalls to the vestry in order to used the pumping handle as it meant an extra shilling in the quarterly choir pay for the winner! It was also the first organ I played for a service on a Good Friday when the regular organist was unavailable; I think I was 11 at the time. Richard Mallison, the great great grandson of Thomas Hewins the founder of the company has produced and published a most interesting booklet about the history of both the company and his family and if anyone would like a copy at cost price, £2.00, please contact me by pm to arrange for copies to be provided.
  8. handsoff


    I have seen village church organs in which a bucket of water is left to evaporate to provide humidity. In my church any music left on the organ for more than a day or two becomes damp and musty and such a bucket would gradually fill rather than empty...
  9. handsoff

    St. Peter's, Rome

    Cavaillé-Coll created a scheme for a monster pipe organ for the venue. Would that it had happened; it might have drowned out the most insistent racket of tourists (and nuns...).
  10. handsoff

    (Not) blowing into organ pipes

    I was told by Geoffrey Coffin when on a visit to his works to see progress on the new organ for Stratford-upon-Avon's Guild Chapel that it was especially important not to blow into reed pipes because of the likelihood of causing corrosion to the reed itself, our breath being hot and mildly acidic.
  11. handsoff

    St Mary Magdalene, South Molton

    I have just returned from a holiday in North Devon and had a look at the Vowles organ in the parish church at South Molton. The instrument, http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=N07915, is a 3 manual tracker with very attractively painted display pipes but appears to be in a desperately poor state of repair. There is a "Note for Visiting Organists" on the music desk which says, inter alia, that the choir organ is not to be used as it is beyond hope, the organ may lose all wind without notice at any time and that several pedal notes do not work and organists may need to transpose hymns if they wish to use the pedals after exploring which notes work. The church is currently in the throes of major roofing work which may explain why no money is available for the organ. I wonder if any forum members have played the organ in the past and have a memory of how it sounded? There are [hopefully] 2 pictures of the organ below. We were staying in the nearby North Molton and I contacted the church before going and was made most welcome by the vicar and churchwarden who showed me where the key was kept and said to please play whenever I wished. Mrs H. may have regretted their generosity! The organ http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=N12353 here is a Walker and although the blower is a little noisy it makes some lovely sounds. There has clearly been some work since the latest report to the NPOR (whom I shall notify shortly along with photos) and the missing stops on the Swell organ have been added. Do other forum members contact churches via ACNY before a holiday - I always do so...
  12. I wonder if any members of the Birmingham OA are on here still? Paul Carr and Contrebordun were members and may know or be able to find out more details. I think that an organ in such a location would be a splendid idea; Sunday afternoon recitals could be quite a draw - a comfortable environment with no hard pews and a pot of tea with cakes. The cost of restoration to full working order would be a drop in the ocean for the developers although the ongoing problem of tuning and maintenance in a warm hotel might be daunting.
  13. handsoff


    Saturday October 7th at 5pm. The 3rd Anniversary Recital marking the installation of the PPO organ in the Guild Chapel, Stratford-upon-Avon is being given by Roy Massey, Organist Emeritus, Hereford Cathedral. I don't know the programme at the moment but can imagine that it will be very, very good! Note the early start time - very welcome to me at least as 7pm or later on a Saturday just doesn't work...
  14. handsoff

    Unusual audience member

    I'm not so sure. The pose being struck by the cat in the photograph looks worryingly similar to one that visits our garden and.... well, you know.
  15. This subject was mentioned on BBC R3 Breakfast this morning with some gentle(ish) sarcasm about the church's alleged actions from the presenter.