Jump to content
Mander Organs
hackej

Opinions Of Coventry Cathedral's Organ

Recommended Posts

I'd be interested to know what the community on this forum thinks about the Harrison & Harrison 4 manual organ at Coventry Cathedral.

 

I have heard it played live on several occasions and it strikes me as being very fiery in tone - quite clear and strident. It was much louder on the whole than I found Liverpool Cathedral to be at a recent concert.

 

What are people's opinions of it? I would be really interested to see some discussion of this instrument.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It was much louder on the whole than I found Liverpool Cathedral to be at a recent concert.

 

 

Which Cathedral - RC or Anglican?

 

For me, the reason why this instrument sounds so big and bold in the nave is due to it's position; flat against the East end walls on North and South and all speaking West with a soundboard (for want of a better word) behind it which also helps direct the tone. I can't think of another British Cathedral where this is the case?? There are also no transepts and aisles for the sound to get lost in. I love the sound this organ makes - it is quite thrilling and sounds good both live and on recordings. I have never heard it in an accompanimental role though and imagine it is not so easy as the pipework is relatively remote from the stalls and further still from the congregation (this is where the more traditional positioning of organs above the stalls work well).

Richard

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It is a fine instrument. As has been remarked here before, the specification is very similar in many respects to St George's, Windsor - not surprisingly since Sidney Campbell was involved with both - and, like Windsor, it was designed to be an eclectic organ. As David Lepine wrote of it, "This is not a Baroque organ nor is it a Romantic organ; it is, quite simply, a musical instrument. It stands or falls by its ability to reproduce the sonorities demanded by composers of this and earlier times".

 

Much of the fieriness must come from the French shallots used for the Pedal Ophicleide, Posaune and Schalmei, the Choir Cromorne and the Swell Contra Fagotto, Trumpet and Clarion.

 

The Solo Trumpet and Clarion were built with English shallots (unlike Windsor which has French ones for the Clarion) and were designed to be usable with full organ. However, these two stops were revoiced in 2000 and I do not know how they now sound.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Barry Williams
It is a fine instrument. As has been remarked here before, the specification is very similar in many respects to St George's, Windsor - not surprisingly since Sidney Campbell was involved with both - and, like Windsor, it was designed to be an eclectic organ. As David Lepine wrote of it, "This is not a Baroque organ nor is it a Romantic organ; it is, quite simply, a musical instrument. It stands or falls by its ability to reproduce the sonorities demanded by composers of this and earlier times".

 

Much of the fieriness must come from the French shallots used for the Pedal Ophicleide, Posaune and Schalmei, the Choir Cromorne and the Swell Contra Fagotto, Trumpet and Clarion.

 

The Solo Trumpet and Clarion were built with English shallots (unlike Windsor which has French ones for the Clarion) and were designed to be usable with full organ. However, these two stops were revoiced in 2000 and I do not know how they now sound.

 

 

I agree. It is an exceptionally fine musical instrument capable of accompanying divine worship perfectly. It can also give an excellent account of itself in recital work. (But what about the Tuba?) It records very well indeed.

 

I understand that the organ builders were left to get on with the voicing and scaling themselves, unimpeded by non-organ builder 'consultants' and 'advisers' as happened, regrettably, at other places when Harrison and Harrison were the chosen organ builders.

 

The design seems to take into account classical principles, yet be timeless. There is no irritating 'chiff'; the instrument sounds as a complete piece, thoroughly musical, with integrity. Oh that we had more like it!

 

Barry Williams

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Cynic
It is a fine instrument. As has been remarked here before, the specification is very similar in many respects to St George's, Windsor - not surprisingly since Sidney Campbell was involved with both - and, like Windsor, it was designed to be an eclectic organ. As David Lepine wrote of it, "This is not a Baroque organ nor is it a Romantic organ; it is, quite simply, a musical instrument. It stands or falls by its ability to reproduce the sonorities demanded by composers of this and earlier times".

 

Much of the fieriness must come from the French shallots used for the Pedal Ophicleide, Posaune and Schalmei, the Choir Cromorne and the Swell Contra Fagotto, Trumpet and Clarion.

 

The Solo Trumpet and Clarion were built with English shallots (unlike Windsor which has French ones for the Clarion) and were designed to be usable with full organ. However, these two stops were revoiced in 2000 and I do not know how they now sound.

 

 

I concur with BW's and VH's views above. I have taken choirs to sing at Coventry and also had the opportunity to get to know this instrument from giving a solo recital and hearing others present them. I am particularly pleased with the sounds that we got when I made a CD on it for Amphion in 2002. My verdict: apart from a Tuba it has everything, and in toto I believe it to be the finest (all-purpose) completely new organ by an UK builder in the fifty years following WW2.

 

The acoustic is strange, and how this organ appears to a listener depends quite a bit on where you sit. A position about 8-10 rows back from the front of the nave seemed the best place to me. If you're in the right place, the acoustic too is magnificent. The bar rest that comes four or so bars from the end of Reger's 'Straf mich nicht!' that we got on CD is the most exciting bar rest that I have ever heard......all modesty aside, of course........

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am not suprised by the responses here - it is without a doubt one of my favourite organs. I find its strident and fiery tone to be unique. Furthermore, the sheer clarity of every nuance and timbre of the instrument is startling, both on CD and live. I would assume this is the result of the caseless design?

 

I remember speaking to Rupert Jeffcoat after a Monday lunchtime recital a couple of years ago and he commented that the stereo split effect of the layout could occasionally be troublesome when certain registrations were used.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
What exactly was done to the Solo trumpets in 2000?

 

Further revoicing, by David Wells. In fact, the 8p Orchestral Trumpet had been revoiced (possibly with thicker tongues) years ago. When David Lepine died, it was desired to purchase a suitable memorial to him. The donor wished to add a Tuba, but it was felt (quite rightly) that such a stop would not blend with the character of the rest of the instrument, so the 8p rank was revoiced instead, thus creating a dominant, yet brilliant solo voice.

 

I have had the privilege of playing this superb instrument on a number of occasions (both for service and recital work). Personally I think that the Solo reeds were better before the recent revoicing. They are now slightly too fat - and not nearly fiery enough. Prior to this, to draw these stops as a climax to the tutti was simply the most exciting sound. Without wishing to resort to the type of fanciful descriptions for which E.W. Gallagher was censured in The Organ nearly fifty years ago, this effect was like the scorching of liquid fire - if such a thing exists.

 

However, I agree with comments made by Vox and Cynic. This is probably the best all-round cathedral organ in the country (even if it cannot be drunk).

 

The best stop? Without doubt, the Harmonic Flute 8p on the Choir Organ. Pure unadulterated sex - if this is not a contradiction in terms.

 

I agree. It is an exceptionally fine musical instrument capable of accompanying divine worship perfectly. It can also give an excellent account of itself in recital work. (But what about the Tuba?) It records very well indeed.

 

I understand that the organ builders were left to get on with the voicing and scaling themselves, unimpeded by non-organ builder 'consultants' and 'advisers' as happened, regrettably, at other places when Harrison and Harrison were the chosen organ builders.

 

The design seems to take into account classical principles, yet be timeless. There is no irritating 'chiff'; the instrument sounds as a complete piece, thoroughly musical, with integrity. Oh that we had more like it!

 

Barry Williams

 

I heartily endorse your comments, Barry - oh, except for that regarding the Tuba - um.... what Tuba?

 

B)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Coventry Cathedral organ is probably one of the most exciting Harrison organ's I've ever come across. I sang in the choir there in 2001 and I always loved the various tones it made both load and soft. I've certainly not come across any Harrison organ like it. As far as I know some work was done on the big trumpets after the smoke damage in 2001. Lets hope the organ is kept in proper maintenance under it's currents organ tuners!

 

JT

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Coventry Cathedral organ is probably one of the most exciting Harrison organ's I've ever come across. I sang in the choir there in 2001 and I always loved the various tones it made both load and soft. I've certainly not come across any Harrison organ like it. As far as I know some work was done on the big trumpets after the smoke damage in 2001. Lets hope the organ is kept in proper maintenance under it's currents organ tuners!

 

JT

 

For the record, the lack of proper maintenance prior to this was not the fault of H&H - rather that the cathedral was (and, as far as I know, still is) in a state of financial fragility - for want of a better term.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
In fact, the 8p Orchestral Trumpet had been revoiced (possibly with thicker tongues) years ago. When David Lepine died, it was desired to purchase a suitable memorial to him. The donor wished to add a Tuba, but it was felt (quite rightly) that such a stop would not blend with the character of the rest of the instrument, so the 8p rank was revoiced instead, thus creating a dominant, yet brilliant solo voice.

 

... Personally I think that the Solo reeds were better before the recent revoicing. They are now slightly too fat - and not nearly fiery enough. Prior to this, to draw these stops as a climax to the tutti was simply the most exciting sound. Without wishing to resort to the type of fanciful descriptions for which E.W. Gallagher was censured in The Organ nearly fifty years ago, this effect was like the scorching of liquid fire - if such a thing exists.

I played the organ once - in the year that David Lepine died, so probably before any revoicing took place. The Solo trumpets then struck me as essentially similar in effect to those at Windsor and I would agree that le mot juste is "fire". I am sorry to hear that they have been fattened. Windsor's Solo Trumpet - and surely Coventry's too - was perfectly capable of acquitting itself honourably in any passage requiring a Tuba, plus the two reeds could do superlative fanfares to boot - and what Tuba can really do that?

 

Tubas? Pah! Who needs 'em? B)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I played the organ once - in the year that David Lepine died, so probably before any revoicing took place. The Solo trumpets then struck me as essentially similar in effect to those at Windsor and I would agree that le mot juste is "fire". I am sorry to hear that they have been fattened. Windsor's Solo Trumpet - and surely Coventry's too - was perfectly capable of acquitting itself honourably in any passage requiring a Tuba, plus the two reeds could do superlative fanfares to boot - and what Tuba can really do that?

 

Tubas? Pah! Who needs 'em? :D

 

Ah, Vox - I could almost buy you a pint for that....

 

B)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have only ever heard the organ in the recorded form, that being Graham Barbers premier recording of the Whitlock C minor Sonata, very well it came across too, even though tubas are required.

Peter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Nigel ALLCOAT

As I have said before - this is a great instrument and I was more than happy that the Organ Club agreed that I could record it for their 75th Anniversary disc. As they wanted the work that I had written for John S. at St Paul's to be recorded, I found the reeds in splendid form. They were newly cleaned after the smoke damage. The 4ft on the Solo I think is the strongest voice of all and is sensational for using coupled to the pedal against the rest of the instrument. You can hear the zaz in the 1st movement as well as towards the end of the Toccata (4th movement). It actually is more wonderful sounding than St Paul's. And for once the player (because of the console situation) has a real connection with the instrument - albeit through a non-mechanical action. There is only a small problem with the acoustic. The building grows taller the further away from the East End and thus the acoustical sound seems to drop in pitch at the West End. But, who cares. This is a glorious instrument and one of the UK's finest. Celebrate.

 

Happy is the man ...........

 

Best wishes,

Nigel

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Barry Oakley

I'm not surprised that there is unanimous acclamation for this exceedingly fine example of H&H's work. I know that the best way to appreciate an organ is live and in the flesh and this I readily subscribe to. But I also have a copy of David Patrick's wonderful CD (Durrufle and Vierne) recorded on the Coventry organ which never ceases to give me a buzz every time I play it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
... The building grows taller the further away from the East End and thus the acoustical sound seems to drop in pitch at the West End. But, who cares. This is a glorious instrument and one of the UK's finest.

 

Nigel

 

This is not quite correct. The building is of a uniform height - the floor levels change towards the east end, where there are a number of steps up, firstly to the choir stalls and then again to the high altar.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
This is not quite correct. The building is of a uniform height - the floor levels change towards the east end, where there are a number of steps up, firstly to the choir stalls and then again to the high altar.

 

My memory is playing tricks, then. I was so convinced that the roof got lower and lower as I was walking towards the tapestry along the ceiling. Then I was left looking directly at the face of Christ. An extraordinary experience which obviously tainted my other recollections of building size and dimensions.

 

Best wishes,

Nigel

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Barry Williams

Noel Rawsthorne did a fine recording of lighter music at Coventry. He showed the remarkable versatility of the instrument in Schubert's Marche Militaire, a delicious arrangment of Londonderry Air, Trumpet Voluntary and similar things - very 'unpurist' but great fun. It is a pity that this CD is now deleted.

 

Barry Williams

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Noel Rawsthorne did a fine recording of lighter music at Coventry. He showed the remarkable versatility of the instrument in Schubert's Marche Militaire, a delicious arrangment of Londonderry Air, Trumpet Voluntary and similar things - very 'unpurist' but great fun. It is a pity that this CD is now deleted.

 

Barry Williams

 

 

I think it might be still available on the HMV Classics series where it is coupled with recordings by Wayne Marshall.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Noel Rawsthorne did a fine recording of lighter music at Coventry ...

Don't forget Graham Barber's splendid Priory recording (GEO vol.25) of the Karg-Elert symphony, Francis Jackson's third Sonata and Sowerby's "Pageant of Autumn" -- wonderful from beginning to end.

 

Best,

Friedrich

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Cynic
Tubas? Pah! Who needs 'em? :)

Quite!....

R

 

 

Not being argumentative, merely answering your question:

Me!

 

If I am playing a good percentage of mainstream solo repertoire, I reckon a decent Tuba is a sine qua non. An ff chamade is a substitute of a kind, and rather better than a Tuba in maybe 30% of the cases where a dominating reed is required...... but for a complete 'English' organ, a Tuba is not an option, it's a necessity.

 

P.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Noel Rawsthorne did a fine recording of lighter music at Coventry. He showed the remarkable versatility of the instrument in Schubert's Marche Militaire, a delicious arrangment of Londonderry Air, Trumpet Voluntary and similar things - very 'unpurist' but great fun. It is a pity that this CD is now deleted.

 

Barry Williams

Noel Rawsthorne: "Hallelujah" Great Organ Arrangements

 

 

 

Amount of these items currently in your Basket: None

Code: RRC1241

 

Postage Weight: 1.00 units (1 CD/DVD = 1.00 unit)

 

ORGAN1st Price: £6.95

 

 

I think you will find that it has, as is appropriate for this season, just been resurrected. Front cover however seems to feature a cavalry charge, presumably an allusion to one of the pieces included.

 

BAC

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have read this thread with great interest. I am giving a recital there next month. Any wise words of advice from those who have played it?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I have read this thread with great interest. I am giving a recital there next month. Any wise words of advice from those who have played it?

 

Enjoy!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...