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German Romantic Organ-consoles


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You'd think I would know this, but as I've never actually sat at one, I think I would be completely at-sea on a German-romantic organ-console, judging by what I have seen.

 

I'm think of the typical rocking-tablet type of console, with all those strange buttons above the rocking-tablets, which I understand to be "free combinations."

 

I can fully understand what "free combinations" are, to which our own equivalent would be the settable General Pistons, but what I do not know is how they are selected during performance, and whether they affect everything, including couplers, as our own General Pistons would.

 

Also, when the "free combinations" are switched on by whatever means, is it possible to add other registers which combine with them?

 

The rollschweller I understand; being virtually limitless in the number of registers which can be added at each stage of the drum (unlike our much less useful General Crescendo), but how are they set-up, and are they fixed when the organ is built?

 

I'm sure it's all perfectly logical, but they do seem rather complicated at first glance.

 

Details of other national quirks would also be appreciated, (if such exist), and which differentiate them from those here in the UK.

 

MM

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This might be a good console to use for discussion.

 

I think I understand how they work, but I'll be sensible and leave it to the Germans to explain!

 

 

I'm sure detailed explanations are best left to someone like Barry Jordan, but I would point out that consoles such as Doesburg - with their little buttons or lollipop sticks above the stop tablets - are as much a thing of the past as the glass-fronted piston setter cabinets made by H&H in the 50s and 60s. That said, the specific registration technique associated with them which was a lot more flexible that might at first appear and was closely determined by the repertoire they were designed to play.

 

I think I'm right in saying the Germans use the term 'Walze' (from walzen - to roll, from which also comes the name of the dance) in preference to 'Rollschweller', though I notice Reger seems to use the two interchangeably in his music.

 

I'd also be interested in learning a little more about present-day piston arrangements in Germany, as typified maybe by what Schuke have provided at Magdeburg. My understanding is that such systems are subtly different from what we know over here - for example divisional pistons between the key-slips seem to be a relative rarity - all dictated, once again, by repertoire and, presumably, by liturgical use.

 

JS

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This might be a good console to use for discussion.

 

I think I understand how they work, but I'll be sensible and leave it to the Germans to explain!

 

 

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

 

 

Ha!

 

This is the console I had in mind.....you psychic or what?

 

I've gazed in awe at this console as one would a pre-war Mercedes SSK.

 

I think I can work out the logic of it, but I don't actually know how the free-combinations are set, or once selected, if stops can be added on the hoof.

 

Doesburg is a wonderful sounding instrument, but what massive basses this organ has! It fairly rattles the pews....or in this case...the chairs.

 

Note the photograph of the Flentrop, which is a lovely instrument. Not many stops, but it absolutely fills the building and has real punch. I heard a wonderful perofrmnace of a Hindemith Sonata on the Flentrop, as a sort of break from the big organ in the rear gallery.

 

For anyone who wishes to trek across to Eastern Holland, Doesburg is one of the most beautiful towns in the Netherlands, with some fantastic antique shops. I loved it so much, I wanted to live there!

 

MM

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Should I really? Well, here goes.

 

In the pictures you can see the setters for the combinations very well. In this case they are little drawstops.

 

You can set up up to 5 registrations. These are then activated by pressing the appropriate combination pistons or pedals - you see these very well in picture no. 5. Normally they would be cancelled again by a button labelled "HR" (Handregister) or "Auslöser", which strangely enough I do not see. There is unfortunately no close-up of the row of pistons under the first manual, which is probably where it is lurking.

Sometimes the "Auslöser" is a sort of general cancel, whereas you have to press "HR" in order to get going... you have to watch out for this.

 

If you are playing, for example, on combination 3, you can add stops to the registration by drawing the appropriate stop on that level - that is, not using the rocker tablet, but the green drawstop "3" above the stop you want. (You can do this with the "glass box system too, of course, if you have someone standing by to do it).

 

The row of pistons directly above the 4th manual can be used in order to remove couplers from the crescendo - a Gt to Ped which comes on too soon can be a real nuisance when playing Reger, for example. This piston can then be released when the coupler is needed.

 

I can't see what is behind the music desk, but these are likely to be "Zungenabsteller", by means of which reed stops can be turned off so that they do not sound in the Walze either - a real boon if you've been sloppy about tuning your reeds.

 

The crescendo pedal was usually set by the builder. Modern combination systems usually allow for programming at least 4 different crescendos. But I've never actually played an organ on which more than one had actually been set up. Theoretically it could be useful, I suppose.

 

I think "Walze" is more of a slang term, incidentally. "Walzen" means to roll something out flat, a steam roller is a "Dampfwalze", for example. Builders tend not to use the term.

 

Divisional combinations are indeed a rarity. Our new organ will have them, but that is because I grew up with them and like them, because I find that they are useful in service playing, and also in playing Reger, for example. Germans tend to use up lots of Generals instead. It's a question of what you're used to. Now that English organs are all the rage amongst younger Germans, I imagine that they will become more common here. The combination systems used here nowadays are pretty universally made by Laukhuff or Heuss. Probably the front runner is Heuss's MP 92, which can be delivered to provide either 4000 or 10 000 generals. They work exactly like the equivalents by SSOS or anyone else - set up your combination, push the setter button, go away, come back later, all gone.....

 

Just remains to be said that the "free combinations" were of course pneumatic - quite a luxury, to have adjustable combinations on a pneumatic instrument. That made them very bulky, of course, so that even a fairly modest console tends to be look pretty complicatd from behind:

 

http://www.gewalcker.de/SpieltischeWeb/images/1757o2.jpg

 

Cheers

Barry

 

 

 

 

and whether they affect everything, including couplers, as our own General Pistons would.

 

 

MM

 

In picture No 4 you can see that the three couplers (bottom row on the right) are also equipped with setter draw knobs (four for each rocker tab)

 

Cheers

B

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Should I really? Well, here goes.

 

In the pictures you can see the setters for the combinations very well. In this case they are little drawstops.

 

You can set up up to 5 registrations.

 

(snip)

 

Just remains to be said that the "free combinations" were of course pneumatic - quite a luxury, to have adjustable combinations on a pneumatic instrument. That made them very bulky, of course, so that even a fairly modest console tends to be look pretty complicatd from behind:

 

 

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

 

 

Thank-you for that Barry. It will take a while to digest all that.

 

However, just as a point of interest, I always liked (and once played an organ with) the Binns patent pneumatic adjustable stop-combinations, which worked on a system of inflating motors and toggles. It was such an elegant and simple system; the registrtation being "set" once an extra stop knob with a number on it was pulled, which then corresponded to the combination pedals. There is, I believe, a diagram of it in "The Organ" by William L Sumner.

 

Wurlitzer organs also had pneumatic stop-key combination-actions, which make quite a noise every time a piston is pushed. In fact, when used, they are probably as loud as pressing a piston on an organ with slider-chests!

 

MM

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Now that English organs are all the rage amongst younger Germans ...

 

Really? Do tell us more about this. What is it they like about the English organ? Are they taking up English repertoire as well?

 

Interestingly, when David Wylde gave a talk at Halifax last autumn, he brought over a couple of Swiss lads who were working for Willis's. They took some getting off the stool afterwards, and it has to be said, there was a fair amount of "Oh wow, listen to that!" going on, especially in connection with such things as the tuba, the trombas and the No. 1 Open Diapason. So I suppose I shouldn't be surprised at Barry's remark.

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Hi - it's late, but I want to answer briefly:

 

Yes, Barry (Jordan), I'm sure, that divisional combinations well become more and more popular in Germany - and when it comes to rebuild Rostock St. Marien, I will include them there (!!!).

 

To MM and Barry: As mentioned elsewhere previously, there is one fine advantage of those little drawknobs (maybe the only one...): You can change prepared combinations while already playing (on another one or the "Handregistrierung") - great for improvisation, though you would not use it very often. But do discover, that a prepared combination would be, now in the momen, somewhat better with a little modification, you can still add it (if you are able to control it while playing :rolleyes: )

 

In restoration projects, where they try to retain those consoles, they make these one, two, three or (like Rostock) four free combinations, AND to have a modern "Setzer". Sometimes they even motorize the rocker tablets so that they show the current registration... A nice feature (though expensive), and combines demands of modern players and the heritage authorities...

 

Rage about English music in Germany? True, somehow... They are discovering all those anthems with organ accompaniment - cheaper than an romantic orchestra mass, often easier to learn, but with the same effect to the audience/congregation...

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Really? Do tell us more about this. What is it they like about the English organ? Are they taking up English repertoire as well?

 

Interestingly, when David Wylde gave a talk at Halifax last autumn, he brought over a couple of Swiss lads who were working for Willis's. They took some getting off the stool afterwards, and it has to be said, there was a fair amount of "Oh wow, listen to that!" going on, especially in connection with such things as the tuba, the trombas and the No. 1 Open Diapason. So I suppose I shouldn't be surprised at Barry's remark.

 

 

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

 

It seems amazing to me that anyone from Europe might want to imitate what we have largely discarded, and yet, there is obvious interest in Holland, and now it seems, Germany also. They also have something a penchant for Tubas in Poland, of all places.

 

With all respect to what an Arthur Harrison organ stands for....build quality, meticulous voicing and longevity....could anyone seriously wish to export the concept?

 

The reason I ask this, is largely due to the fact that the repertoire most suited for this style of instrument covers a miniscule period of time; very specifically between about 1910 and 1950....a mere 40 years. In addition, I would suggest that the bulk of the English organ-repertoire, if not quite bargain basement, is not really top-drawer material as compared to the works written on the European continent.

 

I would suggest, that at least tonally, there were finer instrument built before 1910, and there have been a number of more intergrated instruments since 1955; some of them by the Harrison company of course.

 

I've said this before, but I could well imagine the organ of St.Bavo with an additional Swell division and a nice Solo division with strings and orchestral reeds: perhaps too a good set of H,N & B big trumpets....they would all blend perfectly well, and yet the underlying instrument would be a superb vehicle for a vast cross-section of serious repertoire.

 

There are romantic organs in Belgium, Holland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and elsewhere, and I just cannot see anything is to be gained from importing a very narrow musical concept such as that represented by the Col George Dixon/Arthur Harrison brainchild.

 

Is there really anything to admire about an overloud Great organ, unblending reeds and opaque Open Woods which have nothing to offer musically?

 

Now, if they made pilgrimages to Windsor, I could perhaps understand it.

 

MM

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

 

It seems amazing to me that anyone from Europe might want to imitate what we have largely discarded, and yet, there is obvious interest in Holland, and now it seems, Germany also. They also have something a penchant for Tubas in Poland, of all places.

 

With all respect to what an Arthur Harrison organ stands for....build quality, meticulous voicing and longevity....could anyone seriously wish to export the concept?

 

English Tubas... I'll tell you a story:

When I was young I did not like black (= rye) bread, at least not the way I knew it. When I came to Germany and Scandinavia later and discovered very nice and tasty variations of black or "grey" bread, I nearly became angry for my home country asking: If it always was possible to make BETTER bread, why didn't they make it???

 

When I was pulling reed stops an organs of my youth and even during studies in Viennna, in 19 of 20 cases I was immediately sorry that I did. Try the stop, listen to it and then discard it. Then there they were:

Historical (north German) reeds restored by Ahrend and similar masters, or the Hautbois stops of Cavaillé-Coll, french trumpets - still to loud for most occasions, but at least a loudness of quality and taste!

Later I learned to discover, that here and there in Austria or Germany you could find some "forgotten" free reeds, a Walcker Clarinet maybe, and there were still some jewels available.

But for most of the stops I was asking again:

If it always was possible to make BETTER stops, why didn't they make them???

 

And then, meeting the Tubas, on recordings first, then live in Westminster Abbey, coronated by the fine voices of those trebles, gently filled up by enclosed divisions, and the melody in Tenor, played on the Tuba -

finally (!) a stop with body, some brightness, yes, but not ONLY harmonics! And again the question: If it always....

 

(Yes, later I learned, that also in Germany there were "Horn" stops, but where could you find them?)

 

For a Tuba, I would consider having it on the list on an organ of approx. 43+ stops (3m), not earlier, but for larger instruments, I would never want to have an instrument without a (fine, of course) tuba! (Except it is NOT used for liturgy, but for concerts only)

 

Next topic:

The 32 foot stops! For most of them - flues and sometimes reeds, too - I found the finer ones not on the continent, as the old ones are often gone, and the new ones are much to powerful, making windows and pews rattle etc.

But then I heard the 32', accompaning Voix celeste or some other foundations, and it fit just perfectly...

 

These details, and the principle of having an organ which is extremely well designed for accompaniment, that is what I would call attractive in British organ building. Not more, I think, but that's already quite much.

 

I've said this before, but I could well imagine the organ of St.Bavo with an additional Swell division and a nice Solo division with strings and orchestral reeds: perhaps too a good set of H,N & B big trumpets....they would all blend perfectly well, and yet the underlying instrument would be a superb vehicle for a vast cross-section of serious repertoire.

 

This happens occasionally, though mostly in smaller scale: Organs or stops from dismantled English instruments find there way to the continent, and even if it is not a Hill or a Willis, parishes proudly say that they have XXX stop from an old organ from GB...

Sometimes a complete division may be integrated in a continental instrument...

 

Is there really anything to admire about an overloud Great organ, unblending reeds and opaque Open Woods which have nothing to offer musically?

 

Nothing! But these words do not fit to the fine examples, and people who import french or whatsoever principles of organ building, do only dream about the state of the art instruments...

 

 

Now, if they made pilgrimages to Windsor, I could perhaps understand it.

 

MM

 

If I got you right talking about monarchy in general, have a look into a German newspaper stand and its yellow press: It is all about queens and princesses... :o

 

So be a little proud of this concept which flourished for, as you say, 40 years only...!

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Guest Cynic
====================

 

It seems amazing to me that anyone from Europe might want to imitate what we have largely discarded, and yet, there is obvious interest in Holland, and now it seems, Germany also. They also have something a penchant for Tubas in Poland, of all places.

 

With all respect to what an Arthur Harrison organ stands for....build quality, meticulous voicing and longevity....could anyone seriously wish to export the concept?

 

The reason I ask this, is largely due to the fact that the repertoire most suited for this style of instrument covers a miniscule period of time; very specifically between about 1910 and 1950....a mere 40 years. In addition, I would suggest that the bulk of the English organ-repertoire, if not quite bargain basement, is not really top-drawer material as compared to the works written on the European continent.

 

I would suggest, that at least tonally, there were finer instrument built before 1910, and there have been a number of more intergrated instruments since 1955; some of them by the Harrison company of course.

 

I've said this before, but I could well imagine the organ of St.Bavo with an additional Swell division and a nice Solo division with strings and orchestral reeds: perhaps too a good set of H,N & B big trumpets*....they would all blend perfectly well, and yet the underlying instrument would be a superb vehicle for a vast cross-section of serious repertoire.

 

There are romantic organs in Belgium, Holland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and elsewhere, and I just cannot see anything is to be gained from importing a very narrow musical concept such as that represented by the Col George Dixon/Arthur Harrison brainchild.

 

Is there really anything to admire about an overloud Great organ, unblending reeds and opaque Open Woods which have nothing to offer musically?

 

Now, if they made pilgrimages to Windsor, I could perhaps understand it.

 

MM

 

 

* These sound exciting. However, I can't remember ever having met any. Pray tell which organ(s) such stops can be found upon.

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* These sound exciting. However, I can't remember ever having met any. Pray tell which organ(s) such stops can be found upon.

 

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

 

 

I feel sure that there are many, but one in particular springs to mind; the Trumpet Major (with Clarion) at Bradford Cathedral, even if it has been tamed slightly since it was first installed. It has just enough body to be useful as a tenor solo reed, and enough elan to really make a climax to the full organ, whilst blending perfectly, unlike most Tubas.

 

Apparently, the Dome Pavilion at Brighton has similar types of reeds, but they may be just a little snappier; like rows of bad tempered Highland Terriers.

 

Another fine example of the breed is to be found at St.Margaret's, Ilkley.

 

MM

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English Tubas... I'll tell you a story:

When I was young I did not like black (= rye) bread, at least not the way I knew it. When I came to Germany and Scandinavia later and discovered very nice and tasty variations of black or "grey" bread, I nearly became angry for my home country asking: If it always was possible to make BETTER bread, why didn't they make it???

 

When I was pulling reed stops an organs of my youth and even during studies in Viennna, in 19 of 20 cases I was immediately sorry that I did. Try the stop, listen to it and then discard it. Then there they were:

Historical (north German) reeds restored by Ahrend and similar masters, or the Hautbois stops of Cavaillé-Coll, french trumpets - still to loud for most occasions, but at least a loudness of quality and taste!

Later I learned to discover, that here and there in Austria or Germany you could find some "forgotten" free reeds, a Walcker Clarinet maybe, and there were still some jewels available.

But for most of the stops I was asking again:

If it always was possible to make BETTER stops, why didn't they make them???

 

And then, meeting the Tubas, on recordings first, then live in Westminster Abbey, coronated by the fine voices of those trebles, gently filled up by enclosed divisions, and the melody in Tenor, played on the Tuba -

finally (!) a stop with body, some brightness, yes, but not ONLY harmonics! And again the question: If it always....

 

(Yes, later I learned, that also in Germany there were "Horn" stops, but where could you find them?)

 

For a Tuba, I would consider having it on the list on an organ of approx. 43+ stops (3m), not earlier, but for larger instruments, I would never want to have an instrument without a (fine, of course) tuba! (Except it is NOT used for liturgy, but for concerts only)

 

Next topic:

The 32 foot stops! For most of them - flues and sometimes reeds, too - I found the finer ones not on the continent, as the old ones are often gone, and the new ones are much to powerful, making windows and pews rattle etc.

But then I heard the 32', accompaning Voix celeste or some other foundations, and it fit just perfectly...

 

These details, and the principle of having an organ which is extremely well designed for accompaniment, that is what I would call attractive in British organ building. Not more, I think, but that's already quite much.

This happens occasionally, though mostly in smaller scale: Organs or stops from dismantled English instruments find there way to the continent, and even if it is not a Hill or a Willis, parishes proudly say that they have XXX stop from an old organ from GB...

Sometimes a complete division may be integrated in a continental instrument...

Nothing! But these words do not fit to the fine examples, and people who import french or whatsoever principles of organ building, do only dream about the state of the art instruments...

If I got you right talking about monarchy in general, have a look into a German newspaper stand and its yellow press: It is all about queens and princesses... :o

 

So be a little proud of this concept which flourished for, as you say, 40 years only...!

 

 

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

 

 

I have to sympathise with Herr Kropf to a large extent, and I know exactly what he means. I think some of the worst reeds I have heard have been on post-war German organs.

 

On the other hand, some of the best reeds I have heard, have been some of the wonderfully imitative reeds to be heard on some of the old baroque organs in the Netherlands, which are so close to the original sounds of the period instruments.

 

I'm sure Herr Kropf will appreciate the manificent (leathered shallot) Schnitger reeds and the manner in which the pedal reed-stops so closely resemble the trombones of the period.

 

Walcker were very special of course, and yes, I love some of those free-reed Clarinets, and the Physharmonicas. One of the most beautiful Clarinets I ever heard was made by the Begian company, Anneesens; another example of a free reed.

 

We have often mentioned the wonderful reeds at St.Bavo, and it was interesting to read the reaction to them by our member "pcnd," who suggested that they reminded him of William Hill chorus reeds. That is a good description of them.

 

I would just urge people who think that Tubas are a good idea, to do a little homework, and discover how very different an Arthur Harrison (voiced by W C Jones) Tuba sounds to one voiced by Father Willis (the master of quite fiery Tubas).

 

The point I make, is that your typical neo-classical choruswork will never blend with a full-blown Harrison Tuba, which killed the natural harmonics to a large extent, and simply became a big noise which stands alone and blends with nothing.

 

As I stated, there were better-sounding organs prior to Arthur Harrison, and I would recommend a little research in the direction of "Father" Willis, Taylor of Leicester and some of the superb reeds found on both Hill and Hill, Norman & Beard instruments: the latter covering a similar period to the Arthur Harrison era.

 

As for 32ft flues under Celestes.....well, that is a llittle bit special, isn't it?

 

MM

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Well, who mentioned Harrison? I know I didn't.....

 

But there was Hill, too, and also Lewis.

 

B

 

Why would one want to imitate the English organ? Because if you are looking for an instrument on which you can play Reger AND Franck, you really can't do better, even if neither are "authentic", that terrible word, which is in danger of reducing the possible repertoire of any instrument at all to almost nothing. What can you really play authentically on a modern Steinway? Even Rachmaninov wouldn't recognise the beast. And Brahms wouldn't have recognised Rachmaninov's piano either.

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I'm sure someone has thought of this already, but what a shame a lovely console such as this has what looks like a vehicle wing mirror, rather than something more in keeping. However, this really is a handsome console, it makes one feel deprived looking at what I have! I have never played one, but I cannot see an issue getting to grips with it, especially considering the variety of consoles we have had in this country.

 

Best wishes,

 

Jonathan :o

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Guest Cynic
Well, who mentioned Harrison? I know I didn't.....

 

But there was Hill, too, and also Lewis.

 

B

 

Why would one want to imitate the English organ? Because if you are looking for an instrument on which you can play Reger AND Franck, you really can't do better, even if neither are "authentic", that terrible word, which is in danger of reducing the possible repertoire of any instrument at all to almost nothing. What can you really play authentically on a modern Steinway? Even Rachmaninov wouldn't recognise the beast. And Brahms wouldn't have recognised Rachmaninov's piano either.

 

 

Along with Barry's excellent point about solo repertoire (above) IMHO the great advantage of romantic English reeds - whether Walker, Hill, Willis or H&H (it matters not) - is that they blend with voices. The reason for this is that the natural harmonics present in most continental reed tones have been tamed either by weighting the tongues or by using partially filled-in shallots - often both methods are used in tandem.

 

To have a 'smoother' reed is a most useful thing - I remember hearing a tale of how Mander's specialist reed-voicer had to re-regulate the Father Willis Swell Oboe at St.Paul's over and over again in order to satisfy Christopher Dearnley, whose target was that it should blend seamlessly with the Swell Open Diapason.

 

I personally believe that H&H went too far during Arthur Harrison's time in reducing the harmonics of the fluework too (with the exception of special stops such as Violes and the notorious and often useless Harmonics V). However, a typical H&H is the accompanimental organ par excellence. There are no nasty harmonics to obtrude and spoil the sound of a high-class choir!

 

Looking at many typical UK organs, this is what we have forgotten. When they were built, an organ did not lead the congregation, and did not have to play much solo repertoire except transcriptions. A typical 1880-1930 organ was there to support a good choir and the majority of churches of any size had one. Contrast that with now! These days an organ has to

1. keep a congregatnion going - even if that congregation is some indecent distance away and doesn't feel like singing

2. sound cheery to make up for everything else in a service (frequently) being pretty dismal

3. have enough variety of stops (particularly expensive ones) to keep an ambitious organist happy.

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Well, who mentioned Harrison? I know I didn't.....

 

But there was Hill, too, and also Lewis.

 

B

 

Why would one want to imitate the English organ? Because if you are looking for an instrument on which you can play Reger AND Franck, you really can't do better, even if neither are "authentic", that terrible word, which is in danger of reducing the possible repertoire of any instrument at all to almost nothing. What can you really play authentically on a modern Steinway? Even Rachmaninov wouldn't recognise the beast. And Brahms wouldn't have recognised Rachmaninov's piano either.

 

 

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

 

 

No Barry, it was a reference to what Nick Bennett wrote about the visiting Swiss who went to hear the Arthur Harrison (with bits of Swiss Snetzler) organ at Halifax Parish Church, here in England.

 

As for eclectic organs (which I happen to like if they're good), this is why I mentioned Windsor, because they don't come much better. Coventry cathedral is another quite exciting instrument.

 

The organ-builder Eule did a fairly exciting job in Warsaw of course, and there are other rather good attempts at eclectic organs in Prague, Olomouc, Szeged in Hungary (originally built by Josef Angster, a pupil of Cavaille-Coll) and even in the Netherlands with the Adema organ at the RC basilica, Haarlem.

 

Personally, if I were in charge of obtaining a good eclectic organ to-day, I wouldn't mess around. I would just get Mander Organs to do it, who have such a wide experience of so many different instruments.

 

MM

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Along with Barry's excellent point about solo repertoire (above) IMHO the great advantage of romantic English reeds - whether Walker, Hill, Willis or H&H (it matters not) - is that they blend with voices. The reason for this is that the natural harmonics present in most continental reed tones have been tamed either by weighting the tongues or by using partially filled-in shallots - often both methods are used in tandem.

 

To have a 'smoother' reed is a most useful thing - I remember hearing a tale of how Mander's specialist reed-voicer had to re-regulate the Father Willis Swell Oboe at St.Paul's over and over again in order to satisfy Christopher Dearnley, whose target was that it should blend seamlessly with the Swell Open Diapason.

 

I personally believe that H&H went too far during Arthur Harrison's time in reducing the harmonics of the fluework too (with the exception of special stops such as Violes and the notorious and often useless Harmonics V). However, a typical H&H is the accompanimental organ par excellence. There are no nasty harmonics to obtrude and spoil the sound of a high-class choir!

 

Looking at many typical UK organs, this is what we have forgotten. When they were built, an organ did not lead the congregation, and did not have to play much solo repertoire except transcriptions. A typical 1880-1930 organ was there to support a good choir and the majority of churches of any size had one. Contrast that with now! These days an organ has to

1. keep a congregatnion going - even if that congregation is some indecent distance away and doesn't feel like singing

2. sound cheery to make up for everything else in a service (frequently) being pretty dismal

3. have enough variety of stops (particularly expensive ones) to keep an ambitious organist happy.

 

 

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

 

 

I can't help but perceive this as selective history. I can think of many, many old English organs with awful reeds; one of the most prolific being Brindley & Foster. Early Harrison reeds were also fairly dire also; around 1880 or so, the very much softer Swell organs containing thin-sounding reeds of no distinction whatsoever.

 

Wadsworth, another prolific builder, also made awful reeds by and large, or at least bought in awful reeds from one of the major suppliers such as Palmer or Courcelle.

 

I would suggest that "proper" English reed-tone developed with "Father" Willis, and is not a Harrison full-swell a copy of just that, but not quite so good apart from the brighter Mixture registers used by Harrison?

 

The key to the whole thing is increased wind-pressure, which enabled power to be maintained or even increased, but at same time controlling the tone by means of tapered, filled shallots, tongue weighting and even leathering of the shallot face. I hesitate to use the word "crude," but by comparison, the chorus reeds of Cavaille-Coll were just this: though one may prefer the terms "raw" and "free" toned.

 

I cannot recall the sources, but I read with very great interest tha amount of detailed research and experimentation which Norman & Beard undertook, when musical fashion favoured ever smoother reeds such as Trombas, Ophicleides and Tubas. They also collaborated with Hope-Jones at the same time.

 

It demonstrates, I think, that organ-builders were worried enough about excessive reed smoothness to justify what must have been expensive research into the problem of blending flue and reed tone successfully.

 

I may be wrong, but there are only certain ways in which this can be achieved, and one of them is to cut the harmonic development of the flues; often to such an extent that any chorus flue-pipe from around middle C upwards more often resembled flutes than diapasons.

 

The end game is the typical sound of, say, an old 1930's Rushworth & Dreaper, where power derived from reed tone rather than from brilliance.

 

Far from being useless, the V rks Harmonics were the Arthur Harrison way of getting smooth reed-tone to blend with the fluework: a path also adopted by Willis 3 eventually, and also pursued in America. In fact, I would suggest that the origins of this particular style of Cornet were possibly American rather the English, but I am not so sufficiently interested that I keep this at the forefront of my thinking.

 

As for curtailing the brightness of the Great chorus, that is not something which is really very apparent until one reaches that most decadent phase of organ-building around 1930, where the fashion for orchestral-tone had reached almost epedemic proportions, and which made cinema organs and church organs almost interchangeable. Indeed, what is a Compton theatre-organ but a Compton church-organ with Tibias and Tremulants?

 

The thing which most strikes me about Arthur Harrison organ prior to this, is not the smoothness of tone, but the sheer power and hardness of tone, and when it came to choral accompaniment, one very rarely went above Open 2 and Principal with full-swell coupled: Open 1 being reserved for those big congregational hymns, or perhaps that huge blast of a chord in S S Wesley's "Blessed be the God and Father," just before the choir enter unaccompanied.

 

Please don't misunderstand me, because I admire what Arthur Harrison did, but on balance, I just do not regard this style of organ as one which is relevant for the majority of repertoire, and which isn't significantly better at choral accompaniment than the older Hill, Willis and Lewis organs, as to justify holding on to the concept.

 

However, I would be the first to recommend high-grade English Trumpets as the ideal chorus reeds for almost any organ, and when I say how much I admire the reeds at St.Bavo, I am really saying that they are very ENGLISH sounding reeds, and possibly unique in the whole of the Netherlands.

 

Editing this later, I realised that there is an astounding example of a reed which is thoroughly English, and yet tops a very "German" type of Great chorus, which can be heard at Keighley Parish Church; my home town. Rebuilt by H,N & B, and originally by Brindley & Foster (1870's and their best period, when Karl Schulze was their head-voicer....no relative to his former employers), the trumpet was new in 1955. Probably on no more than 4" of wind, it is one of the very best reeds I have ever encountered: of no great weight, but beautifully regulated and with superb blend quality.

 

MM

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The thing which most strikes me about Arthur Harrison organ prior to this, is not the smoothness of tone, but the sheer power and hardness of tone, and when it came to choral accompaniment, one very rarely went above Open 2 and Principal with full-swell coupled
But in my experience this is true of virtually any organ where the Great has more than one Open Diap (not least Windsor which we both admire). The only exception I know is Exeter, which is restrained and barely able to fill the building (hence the new, strident Gt 4' Octave which unbalances the chorus). This restraint is what makes it such a superb accompanimental instrument - that and the fact that it was a Willis before it was an H&H.
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I'm sure detailed explanations are best left to someone like Barry Jordan, but I would point out that consoles such as Doesburg - with their little buttons or lollipop sticks above the stop tablets - are as much a thing of the past as the glass-fronted piston setter cabinets made by H&H in the 50s and 60s.

JS

 

Although Exeter had theirs until 2001 - mind you, the doors had stained wood fronts, not glass - does this still count?

B)

 

To MM and Barry: As mentioned elsewhere previously, there is one fine advantage of those little drawknobs (maybe the only one...): You can change prepared combinations while already playing (on another one or the "Handregistrierung") - great for improvisation, though you would not use it very often.

 

I am not certain that I would use it at all. It is rarely that one or other of my hands is free to mess around with re-setting pistons, be it the system you describe or a conventional English capture device (this, however, requires two hands to be free simultaneously). It would actually be easier to pull or push stops directly by hand. Any changes requiring considerable alteration in dynamic levels can often be achieved by pre-set general pistons.

 

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

We have often mentioned the wonderful reeds at St.Bavo, and it was interesting to read the reaction to them by our member "pcnd," who suggested that they reminded him of William Hill chorus reeds. That is a good description of them.

 

MM

 

I am glad that one of my comments meets with your approval, MM; but why, pray, is my pseudonym still encased in speech marks?

:blink:

 

I'm sure someone has thought of this already, but what a shame a lovely console such as this has what looks like a vehicle wing mirror, rather than something more in keeping. However, this really is a handsome console, it makes one feel deprived looking at what I have! I have never played one, but I cannot see an issue getting to grips with it, especially considering the variety of consoles we have had in this country.

 

Best wishes,

 

Jonathan :o

 

I am sorry but I beg to differ! I think that it is an ugly console, strewn with clutter. I just do not like stop-key (or rocking-tablet) consoles. Give me a beautiful, ergonomic H&H draw-stop console any day....

B)

 

But in my experience this is true of virtually any organ where the Great has more than one Open Diap (not least Windsor which we both admire). The only exception I know is Exeter, which is restrained and barely able to fill the building (hence the new, strident Gt 4' Octave which unbalances the chorus). This restraint is what makes it such a superb accompanimental instrument - that and the fact that it was a Willis before it was an H&H.

I must disagree regarding the new 4p Octave* on the GO at Exeter, Vox. Aside from the fact that I suggested it to Paul Morgan years ago (along with the Solo Viole Céleste), I think that it actually strengthens the chorus - through acoustic coupling. It was added to assist in projecting the sound of the instrument down the Nave, rather than in choral accompaniment. Together with the 32p reed and the new 'Minstrel' chorus, the organ does now (possibly for the first time since 1965) fill the building. I grant that it is not an overwhelming sound, but it is now exciting - and quite adequate. However, I agree that it is a superb accomanimental instrument - and with an unique and instantly recognisable tutti, too, if one is familiar with the sound of this organ.

 

 

 

* In any case, this restores a rank to the GO which was lost at the 1965-66 rebuild, along with the original Open Diapason I (the current nos. I and II being formerly nos. II and III).

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Together with the 32p reed and the new 'Minstrel' chorus, the organ does now (possibly for the first time since 1965) fill the building.
Sorry, M'sieur, but I don't think much of the 32' either. Its flatulence is ill-matched to the smooth nobility of the rest of the instrument - and the bottom of the 16' Trombone has had to suffer too to accommodate the 32' octave. Now that there is the new Minstrel Organ fluework - which is indeed a fine addition - I do not see why the additions on the screen were essential.
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Sorry, M'sieur, but I don't think much of the 32' either. Its flatulence is ill-matched to the smooth nobility of the rest of the instrument - and the bottom of the 16' Trombone has had to suffer too to accommodate the 32' octave. Now that there is the new Minstrel Organ fluework - which is indeed a fine addition - I do not see why the additions on the screen were essential.

 

Again, I disagree, Vox!

 

The 32p reed is a fine and much-needed addition to the instrument. The Trombone has actually been improved. At the 1965 rebuild it, along with the Swell Contra Fagotto both suffered the indignity of being revoiced with French shallots - quite out of keeping with the rest of the organ (apart from, perhaps, the Trompette Militaire). As a result, the Trombone did not blend particularly well. If one listens to an old LP of Paul Morgan playing the Buxtehude Toccata, in F, this will readily be apparent. It sounds quite similar to a French Bombarde. At the 2001 restoration, the wind pressure was again raised to fifteen inches (it had been lowered to around thirteen in 1965) and the rank was revoiced to be more similar in style to the other superb chorus reeds. As far as I know, the Swell Fagotto was left with French Shallots, since Paul Morgan finds its thinner tonality quite useful - particularly when playing French symphonic music.

 

The 32p reed was greatly needed. Previously, this instrument lacked gravitas - even with the superb 32p Contra Violone and the Open Diapason (W). In any case, the 32p flue speaks on around one-and-a-half inches w.g., so its presence is not felt that well in the Nave. Now, with the Contra Trombone (and its octave extension, the Tromba) the organ has a depth of grandeur which it never had before.

 

The other additions to the screen organ were also necessary, in my view; particularly since the 'Minstrel' chorus is often unusable, due to temperature (and therefore, tuning) variations with the main organ. Furthermore, indiscriminate use of this section actually has the aural effect of attenuating the power of the screen organ, rather than enhancing it. The Nave divisions at Romsey and Chichester have the same problem and care needs to be exercised in their use for anything other than hymn accompaniments.

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The Trombone has actually been improved. At the 1965 rebuild it, along with the Swell Contra Fagotto both suffered the indignity of being revoiced with French shallots - quite out of keeping with the rest of the organ (apart from, perhaps, the Trompette Militaire). As a result, the Trombone did not blend particularly well.
Really? Well, well, that does surprise me. I can't say either had ever struck me as being particularly French, though I do recall thinking that the old Trombone was rather on the assertive side. The Contra Fagotto has never struck me as at all out of keeping with the rest of the instrument; I shall listen with new ears next time I get my mitts on it.

 

I fear we will have to disagree about the 32' lawnmower. Gravitas is not the word I would use to describe it. The bottom octave has no tone. Could it be that the half-length pipes are to blame, I wonder? (I realise there was no room for full-length ones.) However, whatever the reason, it blends with all the subtlety of a baboon's backside.

 

I exaggerate a little for effect, but you probably get my drift!

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Again, I disagree, Vox!

 

The 32p reed is a fine and much-needed addition to the instrument. The Trombone has actually been improved. At the 1965 rebuild it, along with the Swell Contra Fagotto both suffered the indignity of being revoiced with French shallots - quite out of keeping with the rest of the organ (apart from, perhaps, the Trompette Militaire). As a result, the Trombone did not blend particularly well. If one listens to an old LP of Paul Morgan playing the Buxtehude Toccata, in F, this will readily be apparent. It sounds quite similar to a French Bombarde. At the 2001 restoration, the wind pressure was again raised to fifteen inches (it had been lowered to around thirteen in 1965) and the rank was revoiced to be more similar in style to the other superb chorus reeds. As far as I know, the Swell Fagotto was left with French Shallots, since Paul Morgan finds its thinner tonality quite useful - particularly when playing French symphonic music.

 

The 32p reed was greatly needed. Previously, this instrument lacked gravitas - even with the superb 32p Contra Violone and the Open Diapason (W). In any case, the 32p flue speaks on around one-and-a-half inches w.g., so its presence is not felt that well in the Nave. Now, with the Contra Trombone (and its octave extension, the Tromba) the organ has a depth of grandeur which it never had before.

 

The other additions to the screen organ were also necessary, in my view; particularly since the 'Minstrel' chorus is often unusable, due to temperature (and therefore, tuning) variations with the main organ. Furthermore, indiscriminate use of this section actually has the aural effect of attenuating the power of the screen organ, rather than enhancing it. The Nave divisions at Romsey and Chichester have the same problem and care needs to be exercised in their use in anything other than hymn accompaniments.

I find it difficult to comment objectively about Exeter, having played it several times in the last few years. My overall impression would be of being underwhelmed. There are some lovely voices, from memory the choir Corno springs to mind, but its a difficult instrument to play as a rare visitor because, more than most cathedrals I can think of, you're very aware of having little idea whether the sound that you're hearing matches that heard in the quire (or nave). Even in the loft, the tutti is, to my ears, less than thrilling, and I personally could not place this organ close to the same league as say, Salisbury, Hereford or St. Micheal's Tenbury. I'd go further and suggest that if you compared it with other H&H cathedral organs in the region, such as Coventry, and (dare I say) Worcester (rip), its a damp squib.

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