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Manchester Town Hall


DHM

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I think the sound of the organ at Selby (currently) is horrid.

I wouldn't want to play it or hear it played. Neither the choruses nor the reeds sound like any big Hill with which I am familiar.

I wish the remains of this instrument well, and like many others regret that it is now officially unplayable, but it is both extremely sad and highly regrettable that a true 'heritage instrument' like this was ever subjected to such ill-judged and inappropriate modifications. Where was the diocesan adviser at the time?!

 

IMHO pcnd is absolutely correct in his comment about the pedal mixture - even if (as you say) it can be effective in a limited and specific way, this is at a ridiculously high pitch. Not even the great Mr.Downes would have done it. Drawing such a stop - in effect a pedal Scharf-Cymbal - can only help confuse the sound of the organ - bass notes squeaking their way between the various manual pitches. I stand by my word: ridiculous.

 

In the genuine baroque organ, the purpose of high pitches is

1. to make the pedal completely independant at a time when pedal couplers were scarce

2. to hold high cantus firmus lines

To specify a Cymbal mixture without a proper chorus mixture in any division is plain misguided.

To return to the topic, by (fairly dramatic) comparison with Selby, the organ at Manchester Town Hall is not similarly spoiled. It may not be 100% genuine C-C, but when I played it, there was plenty to admire and appreciate.

 

Absolutely.

 

I would like to see this instrument and that at Chester Cathedral returned to something more closely resembling the 'Hill' stage of their lives.

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Mentioning the Germani recordings at Selby, brings me to remember the profoud effect of the 32' reed in the Widor. I first heard the sound as a nine year old on a relatively 'cheap' philips hi-fi which my dad had. The 32' nearly lifted the entire thing into orbit.

 

I knew nothing about organs, but I did know that this reed was an impressive noise!

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Absolutely.

 

I would like to see this instrument and that at Chester Cathedral returned to something more closely resembling the 'Hill' stage of their lives.

 

 

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

 

 

I have a recording of Chester from the pre Rushworth & Dreaper days, and it was a magnificent sound and still operating on the early electro-pneumatic action, whcih I believe ran from accumalator batteries!

 

However, it is STILL a magnificent sound; though I could never quite understand the removal of the Hill orchestral reeds and their replacement by a couple of "Schnawerk" registers!

 

The problem with Hill organs of the period, was the relative duplication of other registers on the choir-organs, which may have been very nice, but which served a very limited musical purpose. However, where accompaniment is the main aim, those Hill choir organs did enable a degree of subtlety in the midst of an otherwise fairly brutal sound. This I discovered at St.Margaret's, Ilkley; now a four manual instrument with almost 60 speaking stops. A lot more successful than Selby, and similarly re-built by John T Jackson, the organ has certainly gained as a recital instrument, but in the year that I was in charge of things there, I yearned for the quieter effects and a second enclosed accompaniment division.

 

Mercifully, the orchestral reeds and two Hill flutes survived the re-casting of the choir organ and the removal of the choir expression box BUT, the Solo is not enclosed, and this was, I think the biggest mistake of all, for it renders the Orchestral Oboe and Clarinet (both beautiful ranks) more or less useless in the conventional way, and makes expressive solo lines an impossibility.

 

With just a single box (hugely effective), most of the choral accompniment has to be done with nothing more than Swell to Oboe, and with nothing more than Great 8 & 4ft. Anything more, and the choir is swamped by the sheer power of what is there, and full organ is really incredibly loud at the (almost attached) detached console.

 

Chester has its problems as an accompaniment instrument, but not even that organ suffers quite like the one at Ilkley.

 

Ilkley has had a very fine choral tradition over the years; though I am not sure of the current situation, even though Dr Hope is now the Parish Priest. With that in mind, this was another organ which might usefully have been left alone, and if additional material was really considered necessary, it should have been quite seperate and quite reversible.

 

Almost as a foot-note, I believe that the Acoustic Bass at St Margaret's, Ilkley, is unique in the UK, and the only one I know other than Alkmaar, which uses metal-pipes and goes down to 21.1/3ft pitch; being at proper 32ft pitch on the pedals down to low G.

 

MM

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I have a recording of Chester from the pre Rushworth & Dreaper days, and it was a magnificent sound and still operating on the early electro-pneumatic action, whcih I believe ran from accumalator batteries!

 

You do?!! This is most interesting. It would be fascinating to hear this - do you have any facilities for making any of it available on-line, please - or would this contravene copyright law, even if the recording has long-since been deleted?

 

... Chester has its problems as an accompaniment instrument ... .

 

MM

 

This is an understatement!

 

Roger Fisher used to insist (in the strongest sense) that all his assistants wore headphones when accompanying the choir - he maintained that this was the only way that they could hear the singers clearly. However, it cannot have made the job any easier - the inescapable corollary being, surely, that it was more difficult to hear the organ. Whilst the sound of the instrument presumably was audible via the headphones, I doubt that it gave a really clear idea of balance.

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Almost as a foot-note, I believe that the Acoustic Bass at St Margaret's, Ilkley, is unique in the UK, and the only one I know other than Alkmaar, which uses metal-pipes and goes down to 21.1/3ft pitch; being at proper 32ft pitch on the pedals down to low G.

 

Which Alkmaar is not (again).

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You do?!! This is most interesting. It would be fascinating to hear this - do you have any facilities for making any of it available on-line, please - or would this contravene copyright law, even if the recording has long-since been deleted?

This is an understatement!

 

Roger Fisher used to insist (in the strongest sense) that all his assistants wore headphones when accompanying the choir - he maintained that this was the only way that they could hear the singers clearly. However, it cannot have made the job any easier - the inescapable corollary being, surely, that it was more difficult to hear the organ. Whilst the sound of the instrument presumably was audible via the headphones, I doubt that it gave a really clear idea of balance.

 

 

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

 

 

It was an EP vinyl recording issued, if I recall correctly, by Ryemuse back in the 1960's or very early 70's.

 

The organist (again if I recall correctly) was John Sanders.

 

I'm not sure if copyright still exists, but the company disappeared many years ago and the organist is deceased. What is the copyright term on recordings?

 

MM

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

It was an EP vinyl recording issued, if I recall correctly, by Ryemuse back in the 1960's or very early 70's.

 

The organist (again if I recall correctly) was John Sanders.

 

I'm not sure if copyright still exists, but the company disappeared many years ago and the organist is deceased. What is the copyright term on recordings?

 

MM

 

Hi

 

50 years on recordings IIRC - but don't forget that the copyright on the items recorded lasts much longer. I don't know about the Performing Rights of the organist (or his executors).

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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The Herbert Norman memoirs make fascinating reading, and highlight the problems organ-builders regularly had to face with such an abrupt change in musical fashion.

 

MM

 

 

Dear MM,

I hadn't spotted this little bit before, please forgive me.

Where are these memoirs published?

I would be most interested to read them.

 

P.

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Dear MM,

I hadn't spotted this little bit before, please forgive me.

Where are these memoirs published?

I would be most interested to read them.

 

P.

 

 

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

 

 

This article was read at a meeting of the British Institute of Organ

Studies on 15th September 1980, and was published with illustrations in

BIOS Journal 10 (1986)

 

Back issues of the BIOS Journal are available from the publisher: Positif

Press, 130 Southfield Road, Oxford OX4 1PA, GB (01865 243220)

 

___________________________________________

 

Herbert Norman

 

THE NORMANS 1860-1920

 

 

There are writers who like to imply that artistic endeavour in British

organ-building died in the 1880s, and that witless commercial production

largely replaced the art of organ-building; that musicians were deprived

and denied musical instruments. I deny that it was like that.

 

Low pressure, low cut up, unnicked voicing was not unknown and the merit

of thin rich metal was no mystery. As a student voicer in 1919 I was shown

a prized three octaves of Father Smith chimney flutes, just a nick in each

corner and a breath of pressure through an unconed foot. We vied with each

other to make and voice copy pipes. But nobody wanted it, it was not

'refined'. My father was tolerant of my admiration of 'country church

Cornopeans', dusty and irregular, but nobody wanted them, least of all the

players.

 

Artistic endeavour in any age is subject to pressures of fashion, conventions,

misconceptions and of advancing technologies. We can see ample evidence of this

in architecture, but it has advanced, however sceptical we may be.

 

Around the turn of the century British organ-building suffered all these

pressures concurrently with a surging demand for new instruments. The

larger

customers felt bound to consult a leading player or recitalist who thus

wielded great influence on design and choice of builder. Many did so gratis

to enhance esteem, but some demanded 5% of the contract price from the

selected builder, one of a panel of leading firms; and salved his

conscience by awarding in strict rotation! They also shielded behind the

fiction that the bribe must come 'out of profits'. This sad situation only

died out around 1930.

 

In such a commercial climate, the player was a professional, the

organ-builder a tradesman, with all that that meant in the society of those

days. Stepping out of line was risky; refinement, however dull, was the

demand. In some stop lists in Dr. Hill's orderbook of 1920 the Great Organ

Diapason was often specified as "of heavy metal and devotional tone"! The

voicing staff interpreted that as lead plus antimony (bought in the form of

old printer's type) and deliberately slow speech.

 

Robert Hope-Jones' irruption epitomised this misconception of musical

refinement; no mixtures, trebles scaled up so that the fattened sound

should not

intrude when octave-coupled, and even heavier pressure to excite heavier

materials.

 

Philip Selfe of Forster and Andrews told how the principals of the leading

firms, lead by Willis, sank their normal aloofness and met to discuss means of

stopping this disturbing mountebank who was upsetting normal design by leading

customers to demand unconventional or newly fashionable ideas. Nothing was

achieved; most firms became infected, fattening flute tones, even sharper toned

strings and near diaphonic reed basses, as can be noted in stop lists and

work about that time.

 

My recollections and organ-building education started in 1912 when I was

nine. Every Thursday afternoon, my weekly school half holiday, was spent in

Norman and Beard's St. Stephens Gate works in Norwich. This continued on to

1916 when the works closed on completing the large concert organ for

Johannesburg Town Hall. Thus I absorbed the busy atmosphere and the

objectivity of the birthplace of more than one thousand new organs in

seventeen years.

 

In those days the working week was 60 hours starting at 6 a.m. on Monday

and finishing at 2 p.m. on Saturday. The pace was easy and allowed time to

instruct apprentices and care for the good appearance of your work, even

when on piecework - and N. & B. were not - time enough to keep your bench

and benchway

swept and clear of woodchips so inimical to good pneumatic action making.

 

I remember with gratitude wood pipe maker foreman Stannard teaching me to

sharpen his plane irons, and foreman painter Moffat leading me onto the

delicate art of laying gold leaf onto front pipe mouths. I was not allowed

to touch pipes but instead accompanied my father on his afternoon round of

the voicing shops, for flue pipes, reeds and even diaphones.

 

The 1898 Norwich works were the most extensive and advanced organ workshops

of that time, eclipsing even Willis' excellent Rotunda at Chalk Farm. The

main workshop was one large open area, with deep galleries on three sides.

In this area every wooden part was made and assembled onto place in sight

of most of

the 300 craftsmen. Most often there would be three 'jobs' in various states

up to playing order.

 

In an adjoining annexe a large gas engine powered dimension saw mill

prepared timber roughly cut to size at the timber yard. A narrow guage

tramway carried timber and metal ingots through the shop and to the two

metal casting shops. In a similar annexe was the master painter; he

compounded paint and polishes from raw materials - no ready-made stuff.

Here was made in bulk that unique purple-brown paint that is such a sure

mark of identity of E.W. Norman's

work throughout his life.

 

The metal and zinc pipes were made on the two upper floors of a tall building

that is still a feature of the city sky-line. Here the brothers Lance and

Percy Bush lead a large team, mostly like themselves home trained, and

later to populate the metal shops of the 1920s and 30s.

 

On the ground floor was the extensive screw and parts stores in the charge of

Walter Hall and young assistants, who saw that no-one was kept waiting and

in any spare time recovered lost screws from floor-sweepings using a large

magnet. In a glassed-off section were some ten or more young women -

generally referred to as "H.J.N.'s harem" - selecting, cutting and forming

split lamb-skins into hundreds of pneumatic motors; assembling them into

prepared action chests in almost clinical dust-free conditions as insisted

upon by 'E.W.'

 

The front office administering all this was behind the neat contemporary

brick frontage, by Skipper, a local architect of some note, facing onto the

old Eastern Union Railway's Norwich Victoria station. Outside you might

hear the

sounds from the several voicing shops and of the only typewriter. There was one

telephone, in the office of Company Secretary Llewelyn Simon. On one side were

the high desks, high clerk's stools and heavy ledgers of cashier Borritt's

office. A junior assistant with a large letter-press made letter copies by

a damp messy process.

 

On the other hand was the large drawing office with four twenty-foot-long

setting-out benches, on which everything was planned and nothing left to chance,

under chief draughtsman Parker and action and console shop supervisor Ernest

Sayer. Parker and Simon were later to revamp the Rushworth and Dreaper organ

department in Liverpool.

 

Upstairs were the two small simple offices of the two brothers 'Mr. Herbert'

and 'Mr. Ernest'. No telephones, just a voice-pipe down to the drawing

office and Secretary Simons' below. Geo. Wales Beard ran a sales office in

Berners Street, London W.C.

 

Around and between the brothers were five voicing shops. There was Beech

who specialised in Gambas and was also the very precise scale draughtsman: he

introduced me to 4H pencils. Dawson did flutes and diapasons, and young Bob

Lamb did upperwork and mixtures. Walker was the senior reed voicer and Gunther

his assistant. Violes and keen strings were the speciality of Crosby. My father

welded these men into a team, visiting them twice a day, usually setting

the voice of each C for tone and power to meet his personal assessment of

each new instrument. These men also did the in-church finishing of the

large jobs and so broadened their specialised experience. Finishing of the

smaller jobs was usually done by area tuning representatives, widely

experienced men such as Blossom in Glasgow, Pritchard in Bristol, Berryman

in Swansea, Green in Belfast, and others in Leeds, Birkenhead, Nottingham,

Tonbridge, and elsewhere.

 

Each voicing room had a purpose-built tracker actioned one-manual that

could take a four or five-stop chorus, and had a pneumatically attached

tuning principal rank. Ebony naturals and boxwood sharps and foot treadle

blowing were

standard. All this was considered essential to good speech preparation. The reed

machines also had a six-note Roosevelt pneumatic sample test block to check reed

attack on potentially less favourable windways. Some of these machines are still

around. Apprentice voicer Robert Lamb joined R. Hope-Jones when briefly he set

up a workshop in Norwich, and in later years told of the bizarre experiments he

was called upon to do. A wooden stopped bass playing 8' C was cut in half,

put on speech, then halved again and made to speak; thus evolved the Tibia

Clausa which R.H.-J. was soon to take to N. Tonnawanda and Wurlitzer.

Similar experiments were tried on strings and reeds. It is not surprising

that in my first lessons in voicing Bob taught how to make Lieblich Flutes

of large scaled open pipes cleverly slotted to simulate stopped tone, and

stay in tune in difficult climates. He was an expert in the maths of tuning

lengths; the length of a quint harmonic stopped chimney flute held no

terror in its computation.

 

General works management was handled by young Jimmie Jones in his

glasshouse office on a gallery edge in sight of almost everyone. In later

life he returned to North Wales and became a Bank Manager.

 

A white shirt and white wrap-around bib apron was the traditional dress.

That made a fine sight at night in that dazzling wonder of Norwich, the

unique

high-pressure gas lighting. This also acted as a welcome heating system at

6 a.m.on a winter morning.

 

Ernest Norman directed mechanical design and layout and personally

supervised critical action regulation in church. For each instrument E.W.

prepared a 'technical scheme', setting out the minimum sizes of windchest,

bellows

reservoirs, wind trunks, building frame timbers and so on. These guided the

drawing office in drafting the layout and working drawings. Pipe scales for

soundboard planting were taken from a master scale guide book, the work of

H.J.N.; this set out the minimum scale sizes of every likely stop in a

graded series of acoustic conditions and building sizes. Favourable

acoustics and/or open location allowed scales up to three semitones smaller

than standard. This scheme avoided drawing office delays while H.J.N.

surveyed the church and was in a position to write the metal shop pipe

order. His final scale was recorded in red ink on his copy of the stop

list, giving bass and treble scales, metals, mouth-widths, tuning method

and departures from standard.

 

Job drawings were scaled at half-a in-inch to the foot, in ink on the best

really tough thick cartdridge paper, tinted in water colour and great pride

taken in their appearance. In later years E.W. impressed upon me the

importance of shop drawings looking positive and authoritative if they were

to be respected and worked to.

 

Old organs were not allowed to clutter up the workshops in the way you

could see in most shops in the 1920s. A ground-floor store received them.

Timber-yard manager 'Paddy' Benson remade many of them into perfectly

presentable instruments, under his own or combined with the company's name.

Anything that had remained for more than a year was burnt or melted down.

 

I have no recollection of casework being made, except for the integral case

structure of the one manual Norvic organs, built in considerable numbers,

mainly

for the Carnegie Foundation as gifts for Scottish churches.

 

There is no doubting the artistic standards that the Norman brothers caused

to prevail, despite the commercial pressures towards the cost-saving benefits of

large-scale production. It was well known in the trade that Norwich paid between

5 1/2 pence and 6 pence an hour, more than even the London firms.

 

The Normans trace descent from a Huguenot silk weaving family. In the

nineteenth century William Norman and his son William were established as

cabinet-makers in Marylebone. William II developed an interest in the organ

and built himself a one-manual instrument in an upright tall back piano

case (recently traced and now restored by Ralph Bootman). This instrument

led to employment by Walkers. Later he went to T.C. Lewis at Clapham,

until, stricken with consumption, he was forced to move to Diss in Norfolk.

 

His eldest son Ernest William became an indentured apprentice with Walker,

but served only three years. Impatient to be taught voicing, and being

refused, he sat on his bench for a week and was discharged as being in

breach of his

apprenticeship. He turned his back on Walkers and started up as 'E.W. Norman,

Organ Builder, Diss' in about 1868.

 

After a few years he was joined by his 12 year old brother Herbert and

premium apprentice Wales Beard. Together they built up a flourishing tuning

connection, the rounds being done with a pony and trap. George Wales

Beard's interest was in gathering clients, and on becoming a partner - now

Norman Bros. and Beard - he opened a sales and retail music shop in

Beccles.

 

Business developed rapidly in the 1880s, and the firm advertised from a

Norwich address as 'Tunists to the Cathedral'. They moved to a larger

premises, became in 1898 one of the first limited liability companies, and

as Norman and Beard Ltd. opened the new purpose-built works at St. Stephens

Gate.

 

My father Herbert John took up the pipes and voicing side of the business;

his early ideas were based on his own father's experience at Walker and

Lewis. A

rapid increase in scale in low octaves was a Walker characteristic and a

slower scale progression in upperwork giving warmer treble tones was a

Lewis feature. In later times some of these compound progressions were

dropped in favour of the

commoner 17th note halving. Close contact with Schulze's work at Doncaster

attracted him to that tonal school, so much so that at Haley Hill, Halifax,

he built a simulated Schulze. As the popularity of the Harrison style of

smooth reeds increased he often discussed with me the real problem of

scaling and voicing a principal chorus to mixtures that would have some

chance of making a singing blend with those reeds, as any development of

the fourth upper partial just resulted in a gritty noise.

 

Like most of his contemporaries he was to some extent attracted to Hope-

Jones' excesses, though it was mainly in the area of the leathered lip

treatment of overscaled dull metalled Diapasons, to satisfy equally dull

players' demands for 'refinement' - what Philip Selfe called "nice thick

gravy to smother the wrong notes". This leathering was often done under

subcontract for other firms.

 

One of his sayings to aspiring voicers: "anyone may learn the mechanical

process of voicing a stop of pipes, but it takes an artist to voice two to

sound in acceptable musical combination". When, in the early 1930s, we

built a tracker

organ with pipework by Hermann Eule for Lady Jeans he was baffled by the

irregular chiffing but delighted at the seeming infinite ways all stops could

combine.

 

The exhaust pneumatic action was almost unique to Norman and Beard work,

widely derided by competitors yet universally adopted through North America

because of its tolerance of climatic extremes. My father did not invent it,

but developed it from a crude form he found in Italian street organs. By

1888 the design was perfected. The last to be made was at Brighton Parish

Church in 1958.

 

When R. Hope-Jones cleared off to America, Norman and Beard acquired his

electric action patents, and their actions were exact copies. It was not

until 1924 that further development was attempted. By 1926 an adaptation of

the American Votey system replaced it, introducing self adjusting key and

switch contacts of silver with 10 volt power, later with spark suppression.

Electric action required a reliable source of power; several 1920s jobs had

adapted second hand London bus generators, from which we developed the

highly successful self-exciting generator.

 

When World War I came Norman and Beard's mostly young staff joined the

armed forces, and after the Johannesburg Town Hall organ in 1915 production

became impossible, so a joint working arrangement was made with Dr. Arthur Hill

and his network of rather older senior men to merge the two extensive tuning

connections, calling for more than ten thousand tuning visits a year, and the

Norwich works were closed.

 

By 1920 the two firms had amalgamated, and a considerable works staff was

busy, but curiously divided. Hill's assembly hall was the Doctor's domain.

Fifty feet wide, one hundred fleet long and fifty feet high, it was

acoustically too flattering (the classical double cube), so rarely were

clients allowed to hear their purchase in case it should sound less well

when installed in a north aisle chamber. Here no shavings or sawdust were

allowed, all cutting and dressing was done in an adjacent shop, having

twelve benches manned by senior fitters, white aproned, white bearded, and

white haired. Not for nothing was it known as "the Apostles' shop". Each

craftsman was allowed fo fit his part into the job under critical control.

 

Upstairs the console, action and soundboard shops were quite different. On

the north side, at a dozen or more benches on each floor were the Hill men,

supervised by Hill's manager Poyser, while on the south side were Norman

and

Beard's men led by George Luckin, making Norwich-style action, consoles etc.

Even in the timber yard and sawmill this division occurred. Norman and Beard

men prepared cutting sheets and the sawyers delivered prepared timber to their

benches, but Hill's men went out to the yard, selected the timber, and

helped with the machining. All this because there were in effect two order

books. Slowly this changed as the Hill orders dried up and Poyser retired.

The two voicing teams, relieved of Dr. Hill's restraint, soon blended under

my father's lead. The reed voicers (the family Rundle) were anxious to

abandon old ways. Until then all Hill reeds were tuned and cut to dead

length in church, the very opposite to Willis' practice, where a regulating

slot was for tuning (tuning by the spring carried risk of dismissal); also

they wanted more harmonic trebles, so essential for power in smooth toned

reeds. The flue voicers wanted thinner more resonant pipes; Hill's splendid

spotted metal was often much too thick, supposedly to resist the blows of

the tuning cone.

 

My father had an ardent supporter in Hill's head tuner E.S. Teulon - related

to the architect - and whose father was William Hill's reed voicer

assistant in Tuba Mirabilis days before the Rundles took over. Teulon cared

for the prestige jobs: Westminster Abbey, the Chapel Royal St. James, and

several in Buckingham

Palace; he was in effect in full charge of Hill work in Dr. Arthur's later days.

 

After about two years of general devilling in almost every department I was

put to the drawing board, and such was the size of the order book I soon

had two

apprentices as aides, both from organ building families, Reg Twyford and Jack

Andrews. In 1924 Philip Selfe from Bishop and then Forster and Andrews joined

us. By then it was one team and the beginning of Hill, Norman and Beard

standards and tradition for which I had the privilege to be responsible

over the next fifty years.

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Guest Cynic

Dear MM,

thanks for going to the trouble of posting all this. Actually, I have the article you've quoted.

I was hoping that his memoirs were more substantial.

 

I have the book that Herbert and John produced between them, but unfortunately I think most of that volume is down to John who is currently a bete noir round here. I'd better stop at this point rather than regurgitate my problems with his work both at HN&B and since.

 

P.

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Hello ;

 

I was happy to see that there is a topic about Manchester town hall organ here. But it seems the topics moved to subjects far from this and I had no time to read every answers. So, please excuse me if I repeat some already written things.

I spent 2006 in Manchester, and by this time I spent several after-noons playing the organ of the town hall.

I have to say I enjoyed it. Despite the pityfull condition, and most of all the awfull console and key action installed there.

I was lucky enough to visit the inside of the organ with the "organ builders" in charge fo it.

 

I have mixed feelings about this instrument. First, the general power is a bit deceiving, it has probably been tamed, I suppose, and added to the poor condition of the chests, the output is far from what you can expect from a concert ACC. But the voicing is very good. Nice regular and poetic, despite the condition. All french romantic and symphonic music sounds very good there.

I found the acoustic of the hall perfect, when empty. No doubt it may be "dry" when crowded. But I don't care, as I play for myself only ! :lol:

About the type of voicing, Lewis modified it, of course, but there is still a very french basis. And some of the stops added by Lewis blend very well with the french ones (I think particularly to the Gedackt and the Flûte Harmonique on the Solo).

With its string division (Echo), its tubas, and its nice pedal flues stops added, it is to me a very good hybrid of french and english romantic organ building.

I just regret the string division is so weak.

From an organ building point of view, every pipe, wind trunk and bellow from ACC is still there.

There is a few errors in the article published by Gerard Brooks about the ACC organs in the organist' review a few month ago. The only reeds passed on high pressure are the pedal ones (Trompette and Bombarde, plus the Contre Bombarde octave) and the "Chamades" turned into tubas. (Which despite what Best mention in his article have never been horizontal, but with an elbow. There is definitively no room for internal horizontal chamades inside !)

And the poor condition of the organ can be explained by the fact that the chests have never been restored, even the skin on the bellows is still the original one. Considering the central heating of the town hall from october to may, each years since its construction, it's not so bad !

A come back to the ACC state would really be tempting, but I think keeping some of the english additions would be a great improvement, with no arm to the ACC core. This would suppose to suppress some of the stops stuffed int he Récit swellbox by Lewis, and build a separate swellbox for the Echo. But the main point would be to keep the pedal stops added.

About the organ builder, that would be nice to set up a collaboration between one of your great english organ builders and a french voicer. (But not ANY french voicer !!!!) I think that would be far better than an all french or all english job... But this is probably a dream.

 

Here is my small view about this organ, which in my opinion could be one of the main historical organs in England. But the gerenal opinion of british organists about it is so bad that it remains mostly unknown.

It can be played when the hall is free, by taking appointment with Margaret Pierucci, at the town hall (I don't have the e-mail address here, but you can find it on the city council website).

MD

 

P.S. Here is the webpage of a friend of mine, with e very good article about one of the nicest french romantic organs, destroyed in the 70's.

 

http://dermogloste.viabloga.com/

 

i'm working on a translation of the article in english, but it's a very long and hard work.

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Guest Cynic
Oh, and about ventils, there is no more installed, but the device is still there, as the chests have never been taken out of the organ. Everything to rebuild a french-like console, with all the necessary triggers devices.

 

 

Dear French Amateur,

thankyou very much for your kind postings on this subject. It is very exciting to think that you consider that not very much of the orginal concept and workmanship has been lost. Let us hope that this information will be bourne in mind by those in authority!

 

C/P

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Indeed - your post is most interesting and informative. It would be a great joy to see this instrument sensitively restored - in the correct sense of the word - and used regularly, once more.

 

Thank you, too, for the link to the website. I shall enjoy looking at this in greater detail, when I return from work tonight.

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If I am not mistaken, "French Amateur" and myself have communicated before about this organ, during the time that he was in Manchester.

 

I suspect that the big problem at Manchester would be getting money spent on the organ. Other projects have floundered, and the Lancaster Theatre Organ Trust have not exactly been bombarded with offers of help from the council, with the result that two important and large Wurlitzer organs will probably leave the city.....one already has done.

 

MM

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Yes, I understood that the organ is not really the main interest of the city council. perhaps for the Town Hall organ, it's not so bad, as it may allow to wait for the suitable time and knowledge to provide a comprehensive and adapted restoration (no more modifications, but perhaps not a rought come back to the ACC only... Something more intelligent !)

About the two big wurlitzer, that's a shame.

It's something you can't find or hear in France. Most organist don't even imagine the theatre organ life in England.

It's a shame to see such a heritage spoiled or scatered.

Does anyone already mentioned here that Nigel Ogden recorded a CD in 1994 at MTH ? It's still available, the title is "In Classical Mood" at "organ1st". It's interesting, even if it's not as good as listening at the instrument directly.

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