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Having heard the Central Hall, Westminster organ on "The Organist entertains" can anyone advise me of the history and specification of this organ, whether regular recitals are held, and which respected organ builder maintains the organ ?

Thanks

Colin Richell,

 

Here is the spec. though recently I read somewhere that things were going on necessitating an electronic and temporary move to a smaller room for services etc. I heard the organ years ago when Dr William Lloyd Webber was still organist - all I can remember is the slightly odd Choir organ layout with a single unenclosed Stopped 8' that he liked to fade the rest (enclosed) up and down behind to obtain all kinds of subtle effects. I seem to remember that the R & D scheme was very much to his personal taste and for his style of playing. The Solo organ was also capable of some exotic sounds though it seems that the 1-1/7 has been changed to a 1-1/3 since those days.

 

AJJ

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Guest Patrick Coleman
Having heard the Central Hall, Westminster organ on "The Organist entertains" can anyone advise me of the history and specification of this organ, whether regular recitals are held, and which respected organ builder maintains the organ ?

Thanks

Colin Richell,

 

This question also appears - verbatim - in the 'and we're back' thread!

 

I asked there about the difference between the Quint and Minor Quint that both appear in the NPOR spec. Any suggestions? Large and small? Some more musical difference?

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This question also appears - verbatim - in the 'and we're back' thread!

 

I asked there about the difference between the Quint and Minor Quint that both appear in the NPOR spec. Any suggestions? Large and small? Some more musical difference?

 

I thought I'd read this before - 'thought it was my brain - maybe one derived from an open and the other from a stopped. The organ in Christ Church , City, Bristol (I seem to remember) has an Acoustic 32 (actually called SuB Bass 32') that works like that. Whatever 16' stop is drawn with it is the source of the 10-2/3' Quint. Maybe of some use for large and small 32' effects.

 

AJJ

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Getting back to part of Colin's original question. Does anybody know who looks after the instument these days.

 

J.S.

Harrison & Harrison look after it. There was an interesting write-up of this instrument in "The Organ", probably by Gilbert Benham in the late 1930's. There's a good photo of the then Hill console with a small keyboard below the bass stop-jamb for the carillon. I believe it was a fairly modest four-decker to begin with, despite the the CCCC 32-ft front. There was a subsequent write-up in "The Organ" after the R&D work.

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Having heard the Central Hall, Westminster organ on "The Organist entertains" can anyone advise me of the history and specification of this organ, whether regular recitals are held, and which respected organ builder maintains the organ ?

Thanks

Colin Richell,

 

Colin, you may find the following of interest. I managed to find an old booklet entitled "The organs of the Methodist Central Hall Westminster" by Martin Ellis and William Lloyd Webber. It outlines the history of the organ, up to and including the rebuilding of 1970, and was printed soon afterwards. The following potted history is taken from this booklet.

 

The Westminster Central Hall was built on the site of the Westminster Royal Aquarium and Imperial Theatre. Building work started in 1905, and the building was opened on October 3rd 1912.

 

In 1911, a contract was awarded to William Hill & Sons for the construction of a new organ on the tubular pneumatic system at a cost of £2,367 - http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N17962. The casework, with its two massive towers of 32' Violone pipes, was designed by Lanchester and Rickards, the architects of the building.

 

At this time the hall possessed a reverberation period of around 7 seconds, although this was reduced to 3 or 4 seconds in 1956, when the walls and ceilings were fitted with acoustic panels. Arthur Meale, the first Director of Music, was appointed in June 1912. He found the Great upperwork to be so mild that he had to immediately requisition a larger octave, fifteenth and mixture.

 

In 1918 a peal of bells was purchased from Westminster Abbey for £50 and made playable from a small keyboard placed below the key-bench under the bass drawstop jamb. A cymbal attachment was added later, and placed under the treble drawstop jamb in a similar position.

 

In 1921 an estimate for cleaning the organ was received from William Hill, Norman & Beard & Sons for £197. This was accepted on condition that the work was completed during the following August, with no disturbances to the Sunday services. In February 1931 a report was received from Hill, Norman & Beard & Sons with an estimate for cleaning and complete reconditioning at a cost of £497. This was accepted, along with the supply of additional stops and tonal revisions: 1. Great octave and fifteenth were replaced by ranks of larger scale. 2. Great fifteenth (a harmonic stop) was rescaled and transferred to the choir organ as a 2ft flute, together with three additional synthetic stops, nazard, tierce and septieme. 3. The choir organ was enclosed. 4. The basses of the 16' swell stops were transmitted for use in the pedal department. 5. The pitch was raised to C 523.3

 

In 1945 Hill, Norman & Beard put forward a two part estimate for cleaning and modernization; part one for general repairs and reconstruction, and part two covering tonal improvements to the cost of approximately £1,700. The final scheme of tonal alterations was drastically revised following a letter from the BBC to Herbert Norman, in which they emphasized the difficulties experienced by their broadcasting engineers due to the imbalance of the organ and the lack of definition, and asked him to urge the Trustees of the hall for help in this direction. A further £830 was sanctioned for the organ, work was started in late 1946 and completed in 1948. The following tonal alterations were carried out: 1. A second principal, twelfth and a trumpet unit of 16-8-4 pitches were added to the great organ, although the top octave of the rank was never inserted. A "choir to great" coupler was added. 2. The choir organ received a new solo trumpet on 7 1/4" of wind. A 16' Dolce was added together with sub and super octave couplers working only on stops of 16', 8' and 4' pitches. The 8' Harmonic Flute was removed entirely. 3. To the pedal organ was added an extension of the Open Wood stop to 8' pitch, an independent metal Gedackt at 4' pitch, and a 5 rank mixture extended from the violone unit.

 

The small keyboard operating the bells was removed, since the bells and the cymbal unit found their way into the melting pot in the drive for metal during the war. A set of chimes was placed behind the swell organ box in 1952, at a cost of £47.

 

From the mid-50's onwards the organ became a source of endless worry to the Trustees and builders. Financial restrictions prevented a complete rebuild, although in 1956 the front was improved by the raising of the off-centre towers of violone pipes, and the closing of the oval apertures with wooden grilles. The frontal pipes were silvered, and the pedal upperwork soundboards were repositioned to improve the egress of sound. This work cost £1,518. A new blowing plant was installed in February 1966 and a humidifier was added in 1968 at a cost of £489.

 

Action on the mechanical state of the organ was precipitated by a letter from Hill's to the Trustees in September 1968, predicting the complete breakdown of the organ in a short while. The subsequent rebuilding of the organ was made possible by Lord Rank, who financed the project. Dr Lloyd Webber drew up the scheme, tenders were invited in November 1968 and the contract was awarded to Rushworth & Dreaper Ltd in February 1969. The organ was used for the last time at the Sunday evening service of 1st June 1969, and the contractors commenced work the next day.

 

The rebuilt instrument is shown at http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N07728, although the NPOR specification differs from that in the booklet, which shows only one pedal Quint 10 2/3'.

 

I don't know what state the organ is currently in, although as another contributor has mentioned, decorating work in the Great Hall a few years ago necessitated the use of a Copeman Hart in another part of the building.

 

Graham

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I don't know what state the organ is currently in, although as another contributor has mentioned, decorating work in the Great Hall a few years ago necessitated the use of a Copeman Hart in another part of the building.

 

Graham

The building work was to reconfigure the front stage etc - nothing to do with the organ.

 

The organ is showing its age and Andrew Scott is struggling to keep all of it in good working order. I'm playing it Mon-Thurs next week so will report back on exact condition. From memory the pedal is heavily extended and one 10 2/3 is from the open wood and the other from the bourdon.

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At risk of diverting the subject, does anyone know of the current status of the organ at The City Temple?

 

This is another large London instrument of which one hears very little.

 

MM

I played it a coupke fo years ago and it seemed fine - if rather powerful.

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The building work was to reconfigure the front stage etc - nothing to do with the organ.

 

The organ is showing its age and Andrew Scott is struggling to keep all of it in good working order. I'm playing it Mon-Thurs next week so will report back on exact condition. From memory the pedal is heavily extended and one 10 2/3 is from the open wood and the other from the bourdon.

Firstly there are two 10 2/3 on the pedal, one (quint) is from the bourdon and the other (minor quint) is from the solo gedeckt. Both were pretty well inaudible at the console due to the large amount of air escaping from various parts of the organ as is any combination below mp.

 

Secondly it is not in the best of health. H&H warned some time ago that it could all fail at any time. Today CCC, EE and GG on the Sw 16' reed unit were dead, as are a considerable number of notes on the upperwork and the Solo Orch Oboe is disconnected (a sticking slider and a shame as it was a nice sound). These are recurring faults and Andrew Scott and Laura Venning both report in the tuners book that some action parts are virtually inaccessible and there is little they can realistically do until major work is done.

 

The main Gt, Sw and Pedal choruses all function (which is what I needed) but with many slow or virtually inaudible notes in individual ranks (the 32 reed is particularly uneven ranging from fff to p in the bottom octave). There seem to have been quite a few faults in the Pedal and Solo caused by low humidity but that wasn't a problem today. It was in good tune and the French Horn was a delight!

 

A quick play round the mp-mf combinations found lots of colour but more issues with speech/uneveness of regulation due to wind differences.

 

In all pretty much what you'd expect after 37 years heavy usage in Central London.

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