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Has anyone played his instrument in St Peter's, Oxford?

I did, and now it has gone. One reason for its 'difficulty' was that it was positioned in the wrong place in the church/chapel.

N

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Guest Cynic
I did, and now it has gone. One reason for its 'difficulty' was that it was positioned in the wrong place in the church/chapel.

N

 

Another might well be the design. I can't remember in which magazine this instrument was covered in detail but there was a deal of attention given to it when it was new. There was a quote from Mr.Richerby; I cannot repeat it verbatim not remembering where the article was published but (from memory) I believe it was along the lines of

'my work is so exactly made that I don't have to allow for any subsequent adjustment.'

At the time this claim struck me as remarkable, and I still think is was unwise for this assertion to be stated publicly - setting this design up as a hostage to fortune. A parallel is the case where I remember clearly that we were all told in some detail how no UK firm was considered sufficiently good to be given the contract for the new organ for The Bridgewater Hall and how that organ would be the finest instrument ever brought to these shores.

 

Maybe someone can turn up the article and prove me either right or wrong. If it helps, the account was almost certainly by Professor Harper himself.

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Guest Stanley Monkhouse

I think the article by J Harper is that in 'The Organbuilder.' Can't tell you which - all my organ journals went years ago.

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Apparently, the action had the unusual capacity to vary alarmingly from one time of day to another. Sometimes the depth of touch was so shallow that pipes didn't seem to get sufficient air. After only a few years of use, the decision was taken to refurbish the (one unfashionable) small Father Willis that stood in a corner behind the Lammermuir, Nicholsons carried out this work. Since then I gather a faculty has been issued by the diocese for the Prof John Harper-designed, Richerby-built organ to be removed. According to a separate account from someone who should know, I believe that permission was granted for this organ to be sold on, but on the condition that it did not end up anywhere else in the Oxford Diocese!!

 

These sound similar to the problems with his 'magnus opus' organ. Where added to the inconsistencies in the action, the electrics (particularly those that operates the pistons) are very problematic. Like the Oxford organ, it does suffer from position in the church (no fault of Lamm, the church decreed it go there after the fire), but the organ is only just 10 years old and has had action/electric problems from a very early age.

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"These sound similar to the problems with his 'magnus opus' organ. Where added to the inconsistencies in the action, the electrics (particularly those that operates the pistons) are very problematic. Like the Oxford organ, it does suffer from position in the church (no fault of Lamm, the church decreed it go there after the fire), but the organ is only just 10 years old and has had action/electric problems from a very early age."

 

Mr Richerby has designed some beautiful cases. Unfortunately their contents have often been catastrophic. The magnum opus instrument in question has to be one of the worst 'serious' organ building projects in Europe in the last 2 dozen years. It simply never worked. His smaller organs suffer other problems, even the continuo organs are notorious for not staying in tune and for being badly designed in terms of access to tune them in the first place.

 

Does anyone know what happened when he became MD of Walker? It was, in any case, a very brief relationship but while it was ongoing, Walkers were happy to list Lammermuir's organs on their own website as previous projects.

 

Bazuin

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Mr Richerby has designed some beautiful cases. Unfortunately their contents have often been catastrophic. The magnum opus instrument in question has to be one of the worst 'serious' organ building projects in Europe in the last 2 dozen years. It simply never worked. His smaller organs suffer other problems, even the continuo organs are notorious for not staying in tune and for being badly designed in terms of access to tune them in the first place.

 

Well, I was trying to be kind about the magnum opus having played it regularly over the last 10 years, but to be honest, perhaps your description is better. However, I know a few who have played (and purchased) the smaller instruments who have been very pleased with what they got. The trouble with the Glasgow organ was that it was just too big a project, hence why it has never been satisfactory.

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Guest Cynic
Well, I was trying to be kind about the magnum opus having played it regularly over the last 10 years, but to be honest, perhaps your description is better. However, I know a few who have played (and purchased) the smaller instruments who have been very pleased with what they got. The trouble with the Glasgow organ was that it was just too big a project, hence why it has never been satisfactory.

 

 

And there was me attempting to follow these rather unspecific hints and guessing it was Petersfield you were talking about.

Then there's the University of Hull of course.

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And there was me attempting to follow these rather unspecific hints and guessing it was Petersfield you were talking about.

Then there's the University of Hull of course.

Oops, hadn't meant to be misleading, that's actually the term they use on their website to describe the Glasgow organ.

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Guest Hector5
I have taken due regard and shall remain silent henceforth.

N

 

Apologies - I should have said ANOTHER. Having seen the photos of Nigel's house organ, and had experience hearing other Aubertin instruments, all I can do is seeth with jealousy!!!!

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Funny to read so much about the 'old' 'new' St Peter's organ. I was organ scholar there in its first 3 years. Its"difficulty" had little do do with positioning in the building (with due respect). It was simply a poor instrument, badly finished (less charitable visiting builders would say unfinished). The flutes were pretty, but that was about all. The action was

poor; the Great Principal sagged when one drew the same stop transmitted to the Pedals; the chorus was crude and unrefined.

 

As a crude, unrefined Northerner myself when I went up to Oxford, I was angered by the 'emperor's new clothes' attitude that prevailed at the time. No one seemed to have the guts to admit that the College's expensive purchase was not fit for purpose and to call the builder and consultant to account.

 

Another gripe for the daily users of the chapel, was that the consultant had recommended the specification and builder because the college didn't have a choral tradition...apparently. That came as quite a surprise to generations of organ scholars, choral scholars and other singers who had to live with the thing. I immediately fired up the poor old Willis (back in 1987) and used that to accompany the choir - but only for Monday night Compline services, when the Chaplain wasn't around! It was better for practice too, with a more even action and comfortable console :mellow:

 

I was once asked to record some music on the Lammermuir by a committee considering a larger instrument from the same hand for a church on the south coast (to include strings, a Swell, pistons etc). Thankfully I was able to avoid embarrassment by explaining that the designs were so different that any recording from SPC would not give a fair impression of the instrument they had on the drawing board ~phew~

 

It is particularly gratifying to see the old Willis lovingly and superbly restored by Nicholsons and back in daily use (along with the proper choir stalls - no longer has the choir to clutter the front of the Nave on padded chairs). Incredible how the little Willis fills the place too. Another bonus is that all can now appreciate the fine Bishop Chavasse memorial on the north aisle wall (previously covered by the Lammermuir). It is a wooden replica of the stone original in Liverpool Cathedral.

 

Where did the SPC Lammermuir end up? Anyone out there know?

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Funny to read so much about the 'old' 'new' St Peter's organ. I was organ scholar there in its first 3 years. Its"difficulty" had little do do with positioning in the building (with due respect). It was simply a poor instrument, badly finished (less charitable visiting builders would say unfinished). The flutes were pretty, but that was about all. The action was

poor; the Great Principal sagged when one drew the same stop transmitted to the Pedals; the chorus was crude and unrefined.

 

I was being hugely charitable when saying its position was bad for it (because of the direct sun-light, I was told last September). When I first knew it, I thought it a Lamentable organ and to the utter despair of the Organ Scholar also used the Willis whenever possible.

How splendid now to see the glorious memorial returned to sight, just as you say. Also good to have heard the restored Willis - albeit still in a rather tucked-away position.

 

Best wishes,

Nigel

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It is reported on Facebook that the former St Peter's Lammermuir has been acquired by All Saints' Sudborough as their new organ. Given the comments above I wonder if this may be a false economy. No word as far as I can see as to who is to do the installation. 

 

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A really lovely Lammermuir organ is at St. Mary's, Haddington, Lothian.  It looks fantastic, sounds beautiful and is a delight to play (despite having to turn round to change the stops on the Chair Organ), including acquitting itself well in some schools of music for which  one would imagine it would be unsuitable.

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Thank you David Surtees for publicising  the acquisition of the Lammermuir Organ for installation in our church.  I am the organist at Sudborough and have only just become aware of your post though I did read with interest the comments above before we made the acquisition.  We discussed these comments with the people who originally acquired the organ from St Peter's College and erected it for some ten years and they said that none of the issues raised caused problems during that time so we are confident that we have got an instrument which will enhance the worship in the church and provide opportunities for recitals and teaching.  At present we are in discussion with the Diocese about the formal faculty to install the organ and are obtaining quotes from various builders with a view to installation in the later part of this year.  I will update the forum with more information when it is available.

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