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biggestelk

St Pauls' 'refurbishment'.

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At the risk of asking a daft question, who is refurbishing St Pauls? I only ask as having bought the fantastic new CD of the RAH (go get your copy NOW!) and then gone to Dame Weir's website I saw this statement:

"This will be a celebrity recital, the only event of its kind at St Paul's this season, just before the organ goes into wraps for a period of refurbishment, so it is the last chance to hear it in recital for some time."

 

Any thoughts?

Regards,

Oliver Horn

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We are currently in discussion with St. Paul's Cathedral with a view to carrying out a thorough cleaning and overhaul of the with very little modification. It is currently anticipated that the work will be started in 2006, although this is not yet finalised. At the moment it is not entirely clear whether the necessary funding will be available.

 

John Pike Mander

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Interesting. Am I correct in believing that there have been some subtle changes to the stop-list since 1972, though? (i.e., at St. Paul's). I have seen one or two versions on leaflets and CD booklets and there are one or two apparent changes, for example, to the G.O. and, in addition, to the Choir Organ.

 

Presumably any further projected changes to the specification are still under negotiation?

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Some minor modifications were undertaken in the 1980s which are detailed in the St. Paul's Cathedral page in the Portfolio page of this site. There are some other very minor alterations being considered, mainly to the Dome section, but nothing is decided yet.

 

John Pike Mander

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Guest Roffensis
Thank you for the information!

 

Oh dear, theres me started a new thread, and its already been covered. Sorry Mr Mander!!! Glad to learn that nothing is being done to further alter the Willis, the last big difference I noted was the alteration of two (new in 1977) mixtures, one of which was actually replaced. A wise move. What is there now blends perfectly. I wish all organ builders had such vision. Pity about some of the removed carvings from the cases though, it would be good to see them used. I well remember the hankerings with the 77 rebuild, and complaints that it is not what it was etc etc, I think it was just about the most logical and sympathetic rebuild ever I have seen, and it lost nothing, other than carbuncles and second hand pipework, so hats off to Manders for again soon to act judiciously.

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Pity about some of the removed carvings from the cases though, it would be good to see them used.

 

Which carvings do you mean? I am not aware of any being removed in the 70s rebuild.

 

John Pike Mander

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Guest Roffensis
Which carvings do you mean? I am not aware of any being removed in the 70s rebuild.

 

John Pike Mander

Hello John

No none were removed by Manders, but they were previously, and they appear on pages 34 and 35 of the Plumley/Niland book "A History Of The Organs In......" pub by Positif press. and the sashes are on page 29. The sashes are particularly interesting form a historic point of view, and appear in various early prints. Cherub carvings had been removed when Willis sawed the casr in two. They wewre on pediments between the now two cases.

All best,

Richard

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With you now. The sashes were the sash "windows" on at least the Choir side of the organ. I don't think we would want to replace them as they must have detracted from the effectiveness of the organ.

 

My father, Noel Mander very much wanted to put the organ back on a screen as it had originally been and it was seriously considered. It would have been problematic as the case would have been much deeper than the sum of the two halves which remain. It is certainly not going to happen as part of the cleaning and overhaul we will probably be doing next year. But it is an interesting concept. Wren certainly desired that the Choir (Chancel) was a separate entity from the body of the Cathedral. The Victorians wanted to "open up the vista" to the East end of the cathedral. They had no qualms about history, preservation or respect for Sir Christopher Wren. They just did it. They also added what (in my opinion) are inappropriate mosaics to the Chancel and Quarter Domes. If I understand it correctly, Wren's original design called for painting in the style of that in the dome.

 

There has been a lot of discussion on this board about what one should and should not do with organs which already exist. It is a subject fraught with pitfalls and problems. The St. Paul's Cathedral organ has had many stages in its life (and continues to have a few much modified Father Smith pipes in it). Each builder (as in most instances) sought to put his own unmistakable stamp on the result of his rebuild, not least Father Willis. Good thing? Bad thing? The trouble is, one has no means of knowing until the work is finished. I was not greatly involved in the work the firm carried out in the 1970s. But viewing it from a certain distance, it was clear that Christopher Dearnley had a mission to balance the needs with the history. He was a quiet and unassuming man, easily underestimated. One of the first things that was done was the sliding of the mixture in the Swell because the pipes were so battered that they could no longer be tuned. Part of it had a Tierce in it, but Ian Bell who was in charge of the project decided that the Tierce should go and cut it down appropriately. It was assumed that Christopher Dearnley did not notice as he made no comment, but when that section was done, he mentioned that perhaps the Tierce should be reinstated. It was.

 

Similarly, the North Choir section (which was new) was originally called Positive. But Christopher Dearnley's idea of how this should be developed was not one of making the organ neoclassical. Far from it. He made it clear this was to be an extension of the Willis Great and was to be called North Choir. He was so right about that.

 

The big loss at St. Paul's was the original Father Willis front pipes, the only remaining 16ft Father Smith pipes. They were brought back to the works and piled up in an alleyway behind the so called Lodge. True they were much altered, but there was still information to be gleaned from them. I found this totally wrong and said so, but I was overruled by Ian Bell and my father. I should have taken the opportunity to look at them properly myself or to invite others to do so, but I was the greenhorn at the time. One day they were transported away to be melted down and I rushed out and took two polaroid pictures (there was no more film in the camera) before they were taken away. It was not enough of course and I regret that I did not do more at the time.

 

All of which has little to do with the original post or others about what one does with existing organs. Except that in spite of all that was done with which one might quibble on a historical or preservationist level, I think the result was rather good. It did preserve the essentially Fr. Willis concept, but developed it sympathetically. The Chancel section retained its integrity despite the addition of a Positive (sorry, North Choir) section. The new Dome Chorus transformed the singing of the congregation. The West Chorus enabled unified congregational singing for the first time in the history of the Cathedral. The Royal Trumpets (another idea of my father's and unlike the reinstitution of the organ on a screen a realised one) was a departure from the Fr. Willis framework of course and inspired from the Sate Trumpets at St. John the Divine in New York.

 

The fascinating thing about all this development of the organ is that it was all driven by the liturgical needs. If you go to a recital there, you would never know. You would be forgiven (at least by me) for thinking it was the recital needs which were driving the thought processes.

 

John Pike Mander

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Guest Roffensis

I think the most remarkable thing about the 70s rebuild was the way the organ was put into a very logical order. The chancel became basically a self supporting organ, and the Dome Diapaosn chorus far outstrips the old Lewis pipework that was in the SE gallery. I well recall hearing the organ before the 70s rebuild, and also during. I also recall the old pipes in the cases, they were duller than the new, and I guess it was a pity they went, but I feel sure there would have been some reasoning there. At least one friend was so severely anti Mander after this rebuild, but even he said one day that he realised it had been a good rebuild....finally!

I often ponder what a chancel central case would be like, but of course it would then have to speak two ways, so I guess the soundboards would go East-West, and I certainly think the Victorians did us no favours with the tunnel effect the building has now, and the fact that both cases shout accross at each other to some degree. The history of this organ makes great reading, and I recommend anyone to purchase the book I mentioned earlier, such is its great detail. I think Dearnley had a real vision, and think he and the builders sorted out something of a organ builders nightmare. As to the mixtures, well Tierce mixtures are of course typical of Willis, even if in later jobs he made the 17th more polite, but the mentioned mixtures are as I say, a Willis hallmark, and the resulting sheer spiciness of St Pauls is something quite unique, no other has it to the degree it has, save perhaps St Georges Hall in liverpool, and even there it's a different sort of spiciness!

I am really chuffed the organ is being refurbished soon, it looks like it is at least one cathedral sound that will be around for me and others to simply relish! I love it to pieces, its a gem. Still!!!!

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To be honest, the logicality was always there. The Chancel organ always was self sufficient, at least by the standards of the time. Yes, the new Dome Chorus outstripped the old Lewis Chorus (with its compensating amplifying slides, each stamped with its patent number!). But all the new one did was recognise an established need and do it a bit better the second time round. Nothing essentially wrong with that either.

 

Mechanically the St. Paul's Cathedral organ was a mess. But there was a kernel of material there which warranted both understanding and development. It got it, but it might not have. The synergy worked because the various parties were prepared to listen to each other and respect both the material at hand and the requirements. And yet (I would suggest) the result is a little better than the usual committee organ.

 

John Pike Mander

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Guest Roffensis
To be honest, the logicality was always there. The Chancel organ always was self sufficient, at least by the standards of the time. Yes, the new Dome Chorus outstripped the old Lewis Chorus (with its compensating amplifying slides, each stamped with its patent number!). But all the new one did was recognise an established need and do it a bit better the second time round. Nothing essentially wrong with that either.

 

Mechanically the St. Paul's Cathedral organ was a mess. But there was a kernel of material there which warranted both understanding and development. It got it, but it might not have. The synergy worked because the various parties were prepared to listen to each other and respect both the material at hand and the requirements. And yet (I would suggest) the result is a little better than the usual committee organ.

 

John Pike Mander

 

Well its a shining example of what can be achieved, exactly as at Rochester. I wish other places could follow suit.

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How is it going to be possibe to refurbished St Paul's instrument in stages? I learn of this from the Organist Mr Archer. Surely the whole instrument will have to be dismantled in order to do this work. Or is is each section been done in stages. that is Chancel, Dome, and West division. I can't imagine this instrument being silent for a long period as no other appliance could fill St Paul's in the way the Willis sound does.

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The exact programme is not yet decided, but since the organ is in defined sections, it might be possible to have it playing for almost all the time, assuming that they decide to have a second console. If they decide against that, it would have to be out of operation whilst the console itself is refurbished and that could mean silence for a few months.

 

John Pike Mander

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I sang with a visiting choir during the 1970s rebuild while I seem to remember that none of the main organ was in use. The powers that be had parked the 'Willis on wheels' on the north side, choir end of the Dome area and we used that instead. It worked surprisingly well and at times one could almost think that the main organ was playing.

AJJ

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The was probably when either the Great or the Swell and Choir was out of use and the cathedral organists had a fear that a visiting organist may not have been able to cope with that. In fact parts of the organ worked all the time. We blocked out a week to allow for the change over from the old console to the new console, but in fact we managed to do that in a day and one evensong was accompanied by the old console and the next day the new console was used.

 

John Pike Mander

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My experience of work being done on the organ at St Paul's was that each subsection of the chancel organ is quite independent (i.e. North and South cases and the north side section behind the sub stalls). When the organ was last cleaned each section was done separately so at any one time only a manual division or two was out of use. I think that the rebuilding of the organ in the 70s was done in a similar manner.

 

In the 90s we used the Willis on Wheels organ for several weeks (whilst the organ's electrical system was replaced and updated to incorporate electronic transmission systems and piston memories). The small organ is remarkably good at producing a full sound for the Dome area and subtle enough to accompany full Sunday services without any worries.

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Now St Paul's has announced that Manders are to get the contract for the work. And, that a second mobile console is to be ordered. Can John now tell us what is planned?

 

Any chance of putting back the quire open wood John?

 

Alan

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Guest Roffensis
Now St Paul's has announced that Manders are to get the contract for the work. And, that a second mobile console is to be ordered. Can John now tell us what is planned?

 

Any chance of putting back the quire open wood John?

 

Alan

 

Oh that sounds such a essential stop! From what I hear they are leaving it pretty well alone, and really how can one improve on perfection!

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Guest Leathered-Lips
Oh that sounds such a essential stop! From what I hear they are leaving it pretty well alone, and really how can one improve on perfection!

 

It needs more tone.

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Yes, it is perfect, and needs no alteration.

 

However, if the money is available, expansion?...

 

Now that the Dome Diapason Chorus is in the NE quarter dome, the SE quarter dome is simply begging for a resident.

 

How about an enclosed Echo department? Yes, I know they went out of favour some time ago, but what goes around comes around!

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Yes, it is perfect, and needs no alteration.

 

However, if the money is available, expansion?...

 

Now that the Dome Diapason Chorus is in the NE quarter dome, the SE quarter dome is simply begging for a resident.

 

How about an enclosed Echo department?  Yes, I know they went out of favour some time ago, but what goes around comes around!

 

An interesting suggestion but would that particular location be first choice for an Echo divison ? How easy would it be to make such a division located there softer than the South Choir but nonetheless readily audible the other side of the dome ? (This is a genuine and not a rhetorical question - I am not familiar enough with the organ live to know the answer.)

 

Brian Childs

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Guest Roffensis
An interesting suggestion but would that particular location be first choice for an Echo divison ? How easy would it be to make such a division located there softer than the South Choir but nonetheless readily audible the other side of the dome ? (This is a genuine and not a rhetorical question - I am not familiar enough with the organ live to know the answer.)

 

Brian Childs

 

A bit gimmicky methinks....musically it would be totally useless, an added expense for maintenance, and the organ anyway has every single sound anyone could possibly wish for. To go down that road would just give us more sound effects :angry: from another corner!!

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk

Now please don't let anyone take this posting as an implied criticism of the present St.Paul's organ, merely a response to recent comments above:

 

Re: Improvements to St.Pauls - another section in the dome?

 

It was a really pleasant surprise when, the last time I gave a recital at St.Paul's, the space under the dome had been thoroughly filled with scaffolding etc. which meant that the audience/congregation had to sit in the Quire. This meant that the recital they got was effectively only on the Chancel Section. One might think this would be a draw-back, but in practice it meant that I had the resources and full flexibility of four manuals.

 

IMHO, when an audience/congregation sits in the Nave or under the dome, the Father Willis 4-decker is de facto relegated to a subsidiary role - the whole instrument becomes virtually a glorified one-manual or, (at best) a three-decker comprising echo organ (the Willis) a big Great (the dome) and some serious fanfare trumpets (the West End).

 

I would support the (maybe in fun) suggestion that there is both musical and physical room for another division of the Dome organ - providing two manuals-worth of dome material. I would endorse this as an improvement.

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