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Grloious Excess Or Indigestion?


Guest Cremona

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I have recently discovered an organ on my (official) patch in a village church which defies description. All I can say is that the pedal division on a 2m (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) goes down to a 32' flute (polyphone) and a 32' reed (Contra Trombone). This turn of the century Walker would appear to have been butchered at the whim of the advisor - or the person bank-rolling the instrument. All of this in a village church seating less than 240 good Christian souls. Where were the authorities, and what controls did the organ builder excercise - or did the builder just see pound notes! Do you have any horror (pipe organs) on your doorstep???

 

 

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Some organs were born to die young.

 

Never altered in any way was a local chapel organ which beggared belief.

 

As a 15 year old, it was this organ which I was first allowed to tune throughout, once the regular chap had layed the bearings on the Great 4ft Principal.

 

I was over the moon, until I crawled inside the bowels instrument. What greeted me was a total nightmare.

 

The chapel was a strange barn of a place, but for some obscure reason, the organ chamber was a sort of lean-to privvy, into which a quite substantial organ had been shoe-horned. The console was in a sort of dusty pit, and only the head of the organist was visible as he played. Due to the lack of height in the privvy, the organ was disposed horizontally, with the Swell and Great side by side and the Choir and Pedals buried behind them. Add to this mile upon mile of lead-tubing, bellows everwhere, great big wooden wind-trunks and a very substantial Open Wood (mitred), and there wasn't a lot of space left for any intrepid human-being who ventured inside..

 

Unfortunately, one of the Choir Organ pneumatics had come adrift from the windchest, and required a bit of TLC....but how to get to it?

 

I tried to up and around the Swell Box approach, but there was no way down to the Choir Organ. I then tried the "squeeze between the Bourdon and Great windchest" approach, but that didn't work. I then considered the "over the Swell Box idea," but that didn't seem too logical.

 

Fortunately, at age 15, I had already managed to circumnavigate the full length of "Thin man pot," in the Yorkshire Dales; known as a "Super Severe" pothole and a very hazardous and claustraphobic undertaking.

 

Armed with glue and a torch, I therefore went head-first underneath the Swell chest and on top of the main reservoir (the wind switched off). I had to turn my head sideways to get through, but get through I did; on the way passing various dead birds and crawling among the collected industrial grime of 70 years. With the torch held in my teeth, I worked on my back and re-glued the pneumatic motor, but just as I was about to evacuate the area, I got liquid glue in my right eye and screamed a fair bit before the pain finally eased.

 

Now partially blind, I dropped the torch, and had to hunt for the exit in complete darkness.

 

Now resembling Al Jolson, I rested for awhile before going back inside the beast and tuning it.

 

Not only did the instrument wheeze and gasp, it sounded absolutely dreadful, and when the chapel was finally turned into an Asian electrical warehouse, I grinned with enthusiasm when I saw most of the organ piled up as a heap of scrap outside. I really wanted to drive the JCB that finally placed it in several skips, before it went to the landfill or furnace.

 

Of course, it was only after getting inside the instrument, that I realised why I had been invited to have a go at tuning it!

 

MM

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So much for so-called Diocesan Organ Advisors. How on earth did a faculty for such an organ get by the vetting panel (if it ever did).

 

Hi

 

We haven't yet been told what denomination the church is! And apart from that, Anglican DOA's have been known to give somewhat suspect advice in the opinion of others! Certain other denominations have no controls whatsoever - particulalry those that have COngregational church government, because there is no heirarchy with any authority to intervene.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Guest Cynic

 

 

One wonders!

 

Amongst other things, could the Contra Trombone (above) be electronic? I only ask because F.H.Brownes added a 32' Trombone to the organ at Godalming Parish Church and that one's definitely electronic.

 

Thinking on: where there is plenty of money, it is often difficult to dissuade people from their (often inappropriate) flights of fancy. In such a context, I always think of Peter Palumbo and the vandalism that he wrought in the City of London, just around the corner from St.Stephen's Walbrook [where he was a churchwarden and donor of the Henry Moore ('Camenbert') altar which now has pride of place in the centre of quite possibly the most beautiful interior that Sir Christopher Wren ever designed]. All the planners fought him, the press fought him, Private Eye droned on and on (which I where I followed the saga) but he had unlimited funds which were put to the doubtful purpose of pulling down a large and happy variety of historic buildings in favour of the architectural equivalent of a prawn cocktail.

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One wonders!

 

Thinking on: where there is plenty of money, it is often difficult to dissuade people from their (often inappropriate) flights of fancy. In such a context, I always think of Peter Palumbo and the vandalism that he wrought in the City of London, just around the corner from St.Stephen's Walbrook [where he was a churchwarden and donor of the Henry Moore ('Camenbert') altar which now has pride of place in the centre of quite possibly the most beautiful interior that Sir Christopher Wren ever designed]. All the planners fought him, the press fought him, Private Eye droned on and on (which I where I followed the saga) but he had unlimited funds which were put to the doubtful purpose of pulling down a large and happy variety of historic buildings in favour of the architectural equivalent of a prawn cocktail.

 

 

Money can be more of a hinderance than an asset - one can think of a few organs where too much of it resulted in some odd excesses.

AJJ

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If so, what do you peeps make of this comment about the polyhonic bass: "The lowest four notes all take EEEE (most hearers are unable to detect true pitch below this note)"? I'm damned sure my hearing isn't that bad.

 

That's the usual thing with polyphones, I think - the others I've seen have all been the same. The notes are so indistinct (a barely perceptible rumble) that it's fine. I've often wonderd whether pneumatic motors positioned to shake the choir stalls might be more effective.

 

I played quite a good quinted one the other day - St Stephen's Bournemouth, Hill rb Rushworth, Percy Whitlock's old gaff - that worked really well with the Open Wood.

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If so, what do you peeps make of this comment about the polyhonic bass: "The lowest four notes all take EEEE (most hearers are unable to detect true pitch below this note)"? I'm damned sure my hearing isn't that bad.

 

This is certainly the way that they originated in the Compton 'cube bass'. I don't know if any other builder has created one which speaks down to the true CCCC, but if they have I suspect that most people wouldn't be able to tell the difference, although I'll happily acknowledge, Vox, that you may well be able to.

 

Neither extremity of my hearing is particularly good these days, although it's probably better at the bottom end than the top. My extreme upper frequencies have been rather dulled by years of tuning high pressure theatre organ reeds!

 

Incidentally, I was rather surprised to find anyone building a Polyphone-type pipe as recently as this one. I assumed that this particular piece of John Compton/Jimmy Taylor ingenuity was a purely historical artifact.

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Incidentally, I was rather surprised to find anyone building a Polyphone-type pipe as recently as this one. I assumed that this particular piece of John Compton/Jimmy Taylor ingenuity was a purely historical artifact.

 

I think Kenneth Jones made one for an organ in Australia not so long ago.

 

AJJ

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I suspect that most people wouldn't be able to tell the difference, although I'll happily acknowledge, Vox, that you may well be able to.
I reckon I'd be able to tell down to DDDD; below that I'm not so sure. And I think that the harmonic component of the sound must affect perception too, so that it would be harder to tell with a flat flute tone than with a reed.
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I played quite a good quinted one the other day - St Stephen's Bournemouth, Hill rb Rushworth, Percy Whitlock's old gaff - that worked really well with the Open Wood.

 

This is a matter of opinion and personal taste, David. The regular honorary assistant hates it. When I have played this instrument, I avoid it (along with the Pedal Open Wood, the GO Open Diapason I and the Choir Tuba....)

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This is certainly the way that they originated in the Compton 'cube bass'. I don't know if any other builder has created one which speaks down to the true CCCC, but if they have I suspect that most people wouldn't be able to tell the difference, although I'll happily acknowledge, Vox, that you may well be able to.

 

Neither extremity of my hearing is particularly good these days, although it's probably better at the bottom end than the top. My extreme upper frequencies have been rather dulled by years of tuning high pressure theatre organ reeds!

 

Incidentally, I was rather surprised to find anyone building a Polyphone-type pipe as recently as this one. I assumed that this particular piece of John Compton/Jimmy Taylor ingenuity was a purely historical artifact.

 

 

=================================

 

 

Wasn't a Compton "cube bass" different from a "polyphone?"

 

I may be getting two of the same mixed up, but I seem to recall two different types of Compton devices.

 

Polyphones are made in the US, but I can't readily think of examples.

 

MM

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This is a matter of opinion and personal taste, David. The regular honorary assistant hates it. When I have played this instrument, I avoid it (along with the Pedal Open Wood, the GO Open Diapason I and the Choir Tuba....)

 

Shame on you!!!

 

I must admit I was only accompanying a Brahms Req with less than 3 minutes practice time so didn't really make that much detailed study of it. I certainly wasn't offended by the Gt Open I or the Tuba, the Pedal Open Wood made a splendid double bass for the opening movt of the Brahms (if played 3/4 of a beat ahead), or the 32 (only used for odd notes).

 

The only things which did offend me were the obvious brightening of some of the upperwork (Choir 2') and the 1950's Rushworth flutes on the Gt - 8' not too bad but the Spitz Flute not pleasant at all. Oh, and the Vox Angelica is tuned sharp, which is an anachronism on a Hill of that vintage, as it should of course be flat.

 

Anyway...

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=================================

Wasn't a Compton "cube bass" different from a "polyphone?"

 

I may be getting two of the same mixed up, but I seem to recall two different types of Compton devices.

 

Polyphones are made in the US, but I can't readily think of examples.

 

MM

To quote from Ian Bell in JBIOS 23 p 61/2 'The cubes ... are not to be confused with the later polyphones - often described quite wrongly as Compton 32' cubes. The real cube worked on the ocarina principle. A sealed plywood or blockboard box was made...which produced the lowest note required. A sucession of holes , spaced out on the oopposite side [to the mouth] were opened one after the other to raise thepitch a semitone at a time. Each cube would produce five or six notes..32' E was usually the lowest note attempted, needing a cube just over 4' square.'

 

According to the article there were 16' versions colloquially known as 'tea-chest Bourdons' and the cube was abandoned once the polyphone was perfected circa 1932.

 

Theres a photo of a stack of cubes on page 62

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Shame on you!!!

 

No - I have absolutely no shame.... :blink:

 

 

I must admit I was only accompanying a Brahms Req with less than 3 minutes practice time so didn't really make that much detailed study of it. I certainly wasn't offended by the Gt Open I or the Tuba, the Pedal Open Wood made a splendid double bass for the opening movt of the Brahms (if played 3/4 of a beat ahead), or the 32 (only used for odd notes).

 

The only things which did offend me were the obvious brightening of some of the upperwork (Choir 2') and the 1950's Rushworth flutes on the Gt - 8' not too bad but the Spitz Flute not pleasant at all. Oh, and the Vox Angelica is tuned sharp, which is an anachronism on a Hill of that vintage, as it should of course be flat.

 

Anyway...

 

The GO 4p Spitz Flute was inserted in place of the former Harmonic Flute. The 8p register was not touched, as far as I know. The Choir Harmonic Gemshorn was present in 1915. I do not think that it had been altered in 1951 - I will ask on Saturday. However, the one really irritating change was to the GO Mixture. Formerly of four ranks and comprising only quints and unisons, it was re-cast as a 17-19-22 Mixture in 1951 and consequently sits uneasily on the chorus. It is also not particularly successful when used to bridge the gap between the flue-work and the reeds.

 

I had the Vox Angelica tuned sharp at the Minster several years ago - it just did not have that magical effect which one associates with this stop. Now it is etherial and restful - and very beautiful.

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=================================

Wasn't a Compton "cube bass" different from a "polyphone?"

 

I may be getting two of the same mixed up, but I seem to recall two different types of Compton devices.

 

Polyphones are made in the US, but I can't readily think of examples.

 

MM

 

Yes and no! The 32' cube bass was produced first, and although generally known in the trade as a cube, it's designation within the factory was Polyphone.

 

A slightly later adaptation of the same principle was the 16' bass in which there were six pipes, each providing two notes a semitone apart. These were used on almost all of Compton's theatre organ output after they were introduced, and also in many church jobs, because they essentially halved the space required for the 16' pedal octave (Bourdon or Tibia depending on application and scale) although they are notoriously difficult to set up and subject to the same strange acoustic quirks as the cube, according to where they're installed. This device - the one providing just two notes per pipe was styled PolyTONE in the factory. However, I suppose there must have been much confusion between the two names, and eventually it seemed to have become universal to refer to the original Polyphone as a Cube Bass because of its shape, while the six-pipe bass octave became known as a PolyPHONE.

 

Whatever you think now of the style of their instruments, there can be little doubt that the Compton factory came up with some of the mose ingenious inventions ever applied to pipe organs, and a huge amount of them are still working well today. I'm lucky enough to know Doug Litchfield who was apprenticed as a voicer at Chase Road from 1944 onwards. He still speaks very highly not only of the company - who were model employers in those years - but also of Mr. Compton himself, who was apparently a quiet, kindly man who took a great personal interest in each of his employees. He would from time to time turn up in the voicing rooms early in the morning to try out various ideas, as I understand he was a gifted voicer himself.

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Yes and no! The 32' cube bass was produced first, and although generally known in the trade as a cube, it's designation within the factory was Polyphone.

 

A slightly later adaptation of the same principle was the 16' bass in which there were six pipes, each providing two notes a semitone apart. These were used on almost all of Compton's theatre organ output after they were introduced, and also in many church jobs, because they essentially halved the space required for the 16' pedal octave (Bourdon or Tibia depending on application and scale) although they are notoriously difficult to set up and subject to the same strange acoustic quirks as the cube, according to where they're installed. This device - the one providing just two notes per pipe was styled PolyTONE in the factory. However, I suppose there must have been much confusion between the two names, and eventually it seemed to have become universal to refer to the original Polyphone as a Cube Bass because of its shape, while the six-pipe bass octave became known as a PolyPHONE.

When I talked about these with Saxon Aldred (Compton apprentice c 1955) he always referred to the PolpPHONE as a PENTatone - I gather that originally they were made to provide 5 notes each - not sure of the logic of this or when it changed

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